When Amrit (name changed) visited Bengaluru from Delhi, he knew that Nandi Hills was the place to savour the beauty of a sunrise. Up at 4 a.m., Amrit made his way to the hills. Though he was in time for the sunrise, the authorities turned him away. The reason? He was a 'single' visitor.
In a city where he knew no one, Amrit did not know about this unusual rule and was left confused about how he could reach the hills. Taking the advice of locals, he managed to convince another group at the ticket counter to help him enter. As part of the larger group, the single Amrit managed to enjoy the sunrise from Nandi Hills' famous Tipu Peak.
Amrit almost wasted a trip to Nandi Hills, thanks to a rule from the Chikkaballapur District Administration that bans the entry of single people. It is meant to be a way to check the rising number of suicides. According to authorities, most of the suicide victims make a solo visit and then leap off the popular peak.
How do the authorities know, however, that only single people are prone to suicide and not a group? There is no way to answer that as it seems to be a blanket rule, which is vague and based on the assumption that alone equals lonely. Two is company and anything more is always a picnic.
While the solo-travelling trend rises across the globe, this latest Nandi Hills rule almost seems ridiculous. An initiative meant to improve safety is now preventing the inflow of tourists. Barricades have come up and according to an official, there are even guards at the peak. So why are single people still stopped from entering Nandi Hills?
Though the authorities think they have found a solution to curb suicides, what will prevent a couple from doing the same thing? Or a family, like the recent case of a businessman (who shot his wife and children), who might drive up and take an extreme step? How can the authorities possibly differentiate between suicidal visitors and those on a leisure visit?
The authorities seem to have adopted 'single-shaming' to tackle the problem. Single-shaming is simply an instance where a single man/woman is treated differently just because they are single. Without going into the details of a person's relationship status, he/she has the freedom to travel, eat or simply take a stroll alone in a mall. Just because a person is alone does not mean he/she is lonely or suicidal.
There have been detailed pieces written on dining alone. Those eating alone are seen as lonely or depressed and now, single visitors are being thought of as depressed and contemplating suicide. Single-shaming has been taken a notch higher by the authorities' assuming that every single visitor to Nandi Hills must be suicidal.
What about tackling visitors' complaints about couples' PDAs or instances of men eve-teasing women and harassing couples at the site? It is such a problem that families are now hesitant to visit Nandi Hills.
There are also many cases of accidents at the location. While some have accidentally fallen off the cliffs, others have been killed on the hairpin bends leading to the peak.
The issue of suicides is a serious one but this cannot be the solution. Mental health is definitely not the Nandi Hills administration's jurisdiction. Depression and suicidal tendencies are about a lot more than being alone or 'looking' depressed. After all, what would have happened if Amrit from Delhi was really suicidal? Would the ban have stopped him from leaping off the cliff? After all, he did eventually manage to visit Nandi Hills' Tipu Drop. It's time to take a long hard look at what we're trying to protect.