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!