Friday, May 15, 2009

Callousness, at it’s best!

This incident had occurred 3 or 4 years back. It is so clear in my mind that it seems that it was only yesterday when this occurred. I don’t know what reminded me of this today.

That day, I was on my way back home from Chembur in a bus. It was 8.00PM and the bus was pretty crowded. I had managed to get a seat and was thanking my stars profusely.

“Maitri Park!” The Bus Conductor shouted.

Some people alighted and among those who came aboard were these two young girls who were apparently returning home from college or from work. They marched straight towards the seats reserved for the ladies and were happy to have found two men seated there. They simply went to them and tapped on their shoulders. One was a young man who got up immediately and made way for the ladies. The other man chose to ignore them. He was a bit older maybe in his mid-fifties.

“Uncle, utho naa! Dikhta nahin hai kyaa ladies seat hai.” One said. Get up, can’t you see that it is a ladies’ seat?

“Haan, dekha!” He replied. “But I am not getting up. The bus was crowded when I boarded it and this was the only vacant seat. You simply can’t barge in like this and ask us to get up!”

“So what? This seat is reserved for the ladies and as per law, you have to vacate it when a Woman asks you to.” She replied.

The argument went on for quite sometime. I was sitting quite close to them and was wondering why was the old man trying to fight over a lost cause. The girls were right and he was needlessly arguing. Soon, the Bus Conductor would intervene and the Old Man would have to get up. Besides, it was a ladies’ seat anyway.

Then, the inevitable happened. One of the girls called out for the Bus Conductor and asked him to resolve the matter. People in Bombay are scared of offending women. The Conductor came promptly and asked the Old Man to get up from the seat. He refused and continued with the same rant that the bus was crowded when he boarded it. The Girls were breathing down the Conductor’s neck. The Conductor became increasingly rude towards the Old Man and called him names. But the Old Man was simply too stubborn.

Finally, the exasperated Conductor asked the Bus Driver to stop at the nearest Police station. A Cop entered the bus and asked what was the commotion all about. Upon learning the facts, the Cop simply asked the Old Man to get up. He refused. The Cop tried to pull him by the collar.

The Old Man tried reasoning with the Cop. He said that he was tired after a long day at work and sat on the Ladies’ seat only as a last resort. He said that he was not young anymore and that the Girls were young and could stand. As it is, one seat was vacant and none of the Girls bothered to sit. They seemed determined to get the old man off the other seat as well.

The Cop slapped the Old Man.The air was thick with anticipation.The Cop then dragged him out of the bus. The Old Man was shouting in indignation. Amidst tears, he shouted that he was an educated individual and was very unfairly treated at the behest of young girls. The Cop slapped him again and took him to the Police Station. There was pin drop silence in the bus. I had not moved an inch. In fact, everyone in the bus was transfixed to one spot. I hate this ugly curiosity with which we watch someone else’s misery. It nauseates me. Today I was a part of the mob as well.

I looked at the girls. It was very evident by now that they were college students. They were trying to look out of the window and see what had happened of the Old Man. One of them seemed to have spotted him. She pointed a finger at something, and both the girls started giggling uncontrollably.

It took all I had in me to control my impotent anger!

14 Grumblings:

Akash said...

I have had two similar instances (Major reasons why I never traveled by public transport in India):

a) I was 10 and was in Mumbai for vacations. I was going to board a local for the first time, and the whole place was very crowded. I was with my aunt. When the train stopped, she boarded the all-ladies compartment, and asked me to climb up too. Some women who hadn't seen that I was with my aunt, started shouting and pushing me down the running train. Believe me, I'd have fallen had it not been for my aunt who caught me at the last moment. This is one of the biggest reasons I've always been scared of Mumbai AND crowd after that.

b) I and Anchit were in Bangalore, and we climbed up the bus and saw that the bus was empty. We promptly sat in one of the front window seats without realizing that it was for women. The bus filled up completely, and suddenly two women came to us and said - "Can't you read? This is only for women". We of course, did not like the way we were talked to, but we got up as a courtesy. I hate the way they take it for granted and think it's their right if the law says so.

In your case, I think the matter was taken too far. The girls of course didn't have any shame, and the others in the bus should have tried to stop the cops or at least explain to the old man/given the old man his seat. I'd have done that, and solved the problem instead of explaining anything to the girls/cops/old man. I feel sorry for the old guy, and for the girls, for they didn't even know how to respect elders and not abuse their own rights. Disappointing, indeed.

meerasworld said...

u shouldnt have controlled your anger.you could have given them a piece of your mind. its true that the man was unbelievably stubborn.at the same time,he shouldnt have caused all this trouble,when there was an empty seat nearby. its the useless ego that sometimes we all play with and end up in trouble. but the police had no business to slap that man.
anybody could have talked some sense in to those girls or the man and made this less of a trouble.but then who can watch the drama,right?
once inside a flight,(from Dubai to tvm)a guy who was drinking from the time he got in,got angry that the airhostess didnt give him something right away,when he asked for it. he showed his anger by throwing the food on the aisle.we were sitting across from him and told him what we thought about him. he said,when we get down,i will show u. we said,sure we are all getting down in tvm. when we reached there that idiot,was there and just shook his head and left.
sorry,long response.but,i couldnt help.

ayyo.... said...

@Akash
a) This is something every person who has grown up in Bombay has experienced at least once. The same thing happened to me when I was 10 too..! :)
I was with my Mum and women wanted throw me out from an empty ladies' compartment.
Women in Bombay Locals are very aggressive and have more than once objected to even kids in the Ladies' compartment. And it is not surprising to hear of instances when they've pushed Men out of a running train just because he boarded the Ladies' compartment by mistake or in a hurry!
As a visitor and a kid, I can imagine how terrifying the experience must have been for you. Besides the crowded compartment must have looked so intimidating to you back then. Once inside, It was difficult to breathe. One had to stand looking up at the ceiling-fan all the time to breathe and if you even made eye contact with a Woman while looking up, she'd frown at you as if you're the most twisted pervert in all of Bombay! And the fact that you're hardly 10 doesn't help matters!
Akki, was that your first and last Bombay Local experience?
Sorry.. :(

b) Hehe!! I was thrown out of a Bangalore Bus once. I guess, I can write a post about it as well!!
I cannot read Tamil. So in Chennai, I used to leave seats empty if any word was written on or near the seat. It was a foolproof method, though I later realised that I've also left seats not knowing that the word simply meant 'Chennai'.
But, Chennai is a 100 times worse than Bombay. As a 15yr old, I once sat next to a Woman in a bus seat that was not reserved for anybody. Almost everybody was staring at me. My father later explained to me that no one sits next to a Woman in a bus in Chennai! It sounded disgusting back then, and today it makes me spiteful!
Though I cannot agree more when you say that Women abuse their rights. It is so taken for granted by Women to simply tap on shoulders and get seats vacated. Looking back, I think I should have done something back then. But when Cops arrive, not many can intervene..! :(

ayyo.... said...

@Meera
True. I should have intervened. However, you seem to have misunderstood a couple of things. There was no seat that was vacant. The only seat which was vacant in the bus was the one vacated by the young man who was sitting next to the Old Man. Still, the Girls were standing and waiting for the Old Man to get up so that bot the seats could be vacated and they could sit together.
Read it again!! :D

meerasworld said...

"As it is, one seat was vacant and none of the Girls bothered to sit. They seemed determined to get the old man off the other seat as well"

i thought the seat was empty from the begining:)sorryyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
i was wondering why u did spare the girls:)otherwise,intervening without support in this kind of situations could only put you alongside with that old man to the stattion!
but stubborn he was!

meerasworld said...

he should follow the law even if he is 100 yrs old. if a female asked him to move from the seat allocated to females,being a gentleman he should have moved.after all laws are made to obey.
the one thing i could say was uncalled for ,was the beating.also the unnecessary trouble casued to all passengers.
u have interesting things to say,iam looking forward to reading more.:)no no,iam not looking forward to see sufferings alone;)

meerasworld said...

i can see the talk about women misusing their rights.i agree and disagree.there should be stories from the other side too,i guess:).
never knew women are agressive in bombay! i wish it were the same in kerala,atleast half!the women there are still suffering from all kinds of abuses inside a bus.send some to kerala for a change! u know if the same thing would have happebed in kerala,ppl would have asked the girls to find other seats.i've heared stories about it.
but,no matter what,pushing a ten yr old kid from a running train,is outright cruelty.i cant imagine the horror,he must have felt.
hehe,try sharing a seat with a female in kerala,if you are lucky you can survive:).but things are changing slowly,you might survive afer all!
see what iam doing in the morning!

kunwar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kunwar said...

@Ayyo
1)Bro, I am sorry to say that I am very dissapointed. Believe me when I say this, but whenever I have felt that an elder is being unnecessarily insulted by any sex, I would not have just sit there. I can imagine the old man, still working in his mid fifties, tired from work and just wanting some peace of mind. And had I seen them girls laughing, I would have just exploded. It gave me goosebumps of anger, just reading it. :x

2)Now I do realise that women would be much more independent and confident in Mumbai than in Delhi. Although on the phone that day, I didnt bother to dwell on you remark much. A girl in Delhi wont do more than politely asking a person to get up. Normally a guy would get up, but if not, a girl wont dare do much about it.

3)I think you guyz are stereotyping the whole female community just because of a few incidents. That would not be right. Aunties have always been bossy :P, that is much the same all over India :P. In delhi though, I cant imagine aunties objecting to a kid sitting in women's compartment or on a reserved seat.(I followed my mother like a shadow till the age of 12). Delhi people take an instant liking to each other even if the reason is quite insignificant, that much I can say. :

Anand said...

Yes, it was callousness at best...but only the last part, where they giggled at the guy being beaten up..

But I think the girls were also right in a way to demand his getting up. Crowded buses are simply not fair on women.,be it anywhere..

As for Chennai, you cannot call it disgusting..Yes, here more seats are reserved for women than anywhere else (the whole one side of the bus plus the last row). And nobody minds if you are going to sit beside a women no way close to her..most times eyes are raised only if you are a kunwar(abhey not you Mrs. Ganguly) sitting beside a kunwari.. ;)

ayyo.... said...

@Meera
I said that Women in Bombay 'Locals' are very aggressive. And it's very true that much of the middle class are scared of offending a woman in Bombay. As I type this I can recall so many events when Women have abused their rights for petty reasons. I am not trying to discredit women or prove that men are better.
It was very disturbing. And perhaps, more.

ayyo.... said...

@Kunwar
I know I should have done something. But the fact that I sat there and did nothing will forever haunt me. I guess that is the reason I am writing about this even after so many years. Had I done something back then, I don't think I would have written this today!

That's different. In Bombay, if you sit on a seat reserved for the ladies, you HAVE to vacate it. And trust me, this was not the first time I saw this, but this was definitely the worst!

I disagree. I have experienced it and I am not exaggerating it if I say that every Man who has grown up in Bombay must've experienced this at least once. Again, I am not discrediting the Women, these are the same people who've made Bombay to what it is but in trains, a Man in a Ladies' compartment is a strict No-No!

ayyo.... said...

@Anand
Yeah, I guess I should have titled the post as "Humanity, at it's worst!"
My blood boils, even now.

I too, think that the Old Man should have given up the seat, but even the girls should have shown a little more sensitivity.
This reminds me of a poem I had in school that had to do with a Man sitting on a Ladies' seat in bus. The Poet glares at the Man until he gets up from the seat. Only then the poet realises that she was very wrong and that the Man was disabled.

And I was sitting next to an Aunty in Chennai!!

Sikander Fayyaz Khan said...

This is painful. But as Anand said girls were right to an ask for the man to get up, someone sitting in men's section, may be you Ayyo could have got up and offered the old man your seat. This could have avoided the uncomfortable situation.

I do not really have any experience of public transport, and now I don't think I'll be able to even get on a bus. I should have started using public transport buses earlier in my life.