The Other Side of the Gender Debate

When people don’t offer seats to pregnant women on buses and trains, I really wish they would rot in hell.

Since 2007 I’ve been travelling in buses and trains practically everyday including on most Sundays. I often marvel at how women don’t offer seats to pregnant women, while they “book seats” as soon as they walk into the compartment.

The other day I offered my seat to a lady with toddler in tow. While she sat and thanked me, another one told me why did I get up. “If she’s has a young kid, then she should take an auto.”

I’ve read and participated in many debates and discussions regarding women in public spaces and what “etiquette” one applies in these situations. However nothing prepared me for a sixteen year old kid’s response yesterday.

If you’ve travelled by buses in Mumbai, you know that the “reserved” seats are quite prominent on the buses. Seats where women must be given preference to sit. These “reserved seats” are a bone of contention between many a lady and men who travel regularly. The two most extreme situations I’ve seen are that of a college girl asking a senior citizen to get up because it was a “ladies” seat and another when men stand in a relatively empty bus because the only available seats are “ladies” ones. I was quite taken aback at the first incident and mildly amused at the second.

Coming back to yesterday’s bus ride, I was comfortably standing in the bus after I sat for a solid hour in the train. I was probably the only woman standing and strangely enough, a boy got up to offer me his seat. On my repeated refusals, he just said “Baith jao. Gardi mein kisika dhakka lag gaya toh molestation ka charge daal doge”. (Sit down. If someone pushes in the crowd, you’ll file a molestation case.) And smiled.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. Are we really putting the fear of the public or “mob” in men of this country or is this how it’s going to be now? Every woman gets offered a seat (read as unwanted chivalry) so that a Dowry-esque accusation doesn’t get filed against the men?

I’m still pondering on what to make of it. Any ideas?

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