A freak of incidence and I ended up taking the PMT bus from Warje to Pune station via Swargate (just like most other buses this one too had a number plate illegible to the naked eye). Loaded with 3 bags (my laptop sack, a purse and an extra cloth bag – more on why i was carrying so much in next Blawghh post) I climbed into the bus which was more brown than the “laal dabba” (red box) all thanks to the continuous rains.I had got in at the very first stop and was much disheartened to see almost all the bus full. Also given the Sunday afternoon I was sure the frequency of buses was poor and it didnt make sense to wait for the next one.
I spotted a lone empty seat, was just making my way towards it when an atrocious man who had no shame whatsoever, jostled and made way to it before me!!!! Forget about chauvinism, the dude didn’t even to say Sorry or for that matter give me a second look. Little did I know it was actually a Run for the Seat. I didn’t want to spoil my taste for the day after the awesome lunch and kept mum.
I turned around and saw that there were 2 more seats “Reserved for Ladies” occupied by these dudes ( looks like Warje is a place filled up with “DUDES”). SO politely and as nicely as I could have asked i said to the 60 year old pair of dudes occupying the first seat.”Excuse me, this is a ladies seat” – yes of course I said this in Marathi, “ही लेडीस सीट आहे“, confused and out of sorts as if he had committed a sin, he apologized and said that he didn’t know, as he could not read and no one else bothered to tell him, he sat there with his partially hearing impaired friend. Now, this duo was carrying some huge parcels wrapped up in a cloth, we would usually call them “बोचकी“:colloquially. Considering the crowd in the bus already,these elderly and physically challenged folk standing in the aisle would have been a worse inconvenience to everyone than me with the 3 bags.
So I asked them to sit tight, and cursing my bad luck I looked at my 2 victims (i reveal that these guys suffered exact 2 minutes later), and said, “”ही पण लेडीस सीट आहे“” (this is also a reserved seat for the ladies and push off really, i mean really cant you read, that is what my brain was ranting) – I got an extremely unconcerned look back from one and the other pretended not to hear me at all. Just as i was about to repeat myself, another lady passenger came in and approached this same duo with same request as mine and received a similar response back. Now i was pissed, may be it was time to take off the Sunday attire and show these guys some real punch. You can almost imagine what followed for next 6 – 8 minutes was a verbal battle that was filled with language that was difficult to decipher for both dudes, with me and my partner in rhyme (lets call her lady in pink) lashing at them in English, cursing them down for having no Education and behaving like illiterates (come on they could not read ” for ladies ” – “महिलांसाठी”), having no decency to talk and behave with women and largely for citing examples of how they abuse/insult women everyday they travel in “शिटी” buses from their locality ( i.e they occupy such seats and apparently no “ladij pyassenger” has ever complained or raised a voice) and get away with it.
The tempo of this EPIC word fight reached its height, when for some reason, me dressed in jeans and a T-shirt was much an issue for this one goon, since he went to the extent of passing a lewd comment like “when you are dressed as a man, why are you asking for a ladies seat!!”
Now was the time for the Mumbaite in me to step out, and give this guy a piece of my mind. For those who know me well, and are well aware of my vocabulary skills in all three, English, Marathi and Mumbaiya, you can imagine the dialog; with me using up all of everything i know in the abuse department and creating some new ones during a very heated and one sided conversation. For those of you who don’t know me, tickle yourself,think what you would have done if in my shoes (especially if you have been there before). After about 3 minutes of verbal lashing (it would have been a physical one – with my right hand imprint on his cheek but thank god i was carrying the cloth bag with it) that included the mention of, brains, bones and teeth and lots of comparisons with poultry and farm animals, insects and birds, another slightly older man approached me and said , “बाई माणसान अस बोलू नाय!!” (it is not good for women folk to speak like this (loosely translated)), to which i politely asked him to Shut up, if he can’t help.
I yelled out at the other passengers for being by standers, and acting as though it was not their problem, how they like being extras in a movie, to the other women who sat in reserved seats(there are 5 such seats in every bus) for not supporting female passengers and informing other passengers to sit else where, to the conductor especially,as he kept printing tickets all this while at the far end of the bus – refusing to interfere and check out what the ruckus was. And mind you all this while the bus was halted. I demanded to see the conductor, and by now surprisingly a lot of other passengers (who suddenly found their lost b&||$ and sanity got up and asked the rioting goons to vacate the seat. The lady in pink, by now managed to drag the conductor forward and threatened to report him if those 2 goons were not thrown out immediately. There was a huge opposition from them but eventually the chaos and noise was alarming and the driver stepped in, he told the 2 goons to step out of the bus if they were not going to be quiet and as per the rules, only female passengers should occupy the seats in question, otherwise they can find themselves place in next bus for the same route which was right behind. I thanked god for sending in this driver because with all that high pitch screaming my larynx was about to burst. Much against their liking the duo stepped out, giving me the “LOOKS” and finally the bus moved.
This was about 5 hours ago and I am still not very proud of my actions, the aftershock of going through such a vociferous and stooping-down-zillion-levels-of-tolerance and conduct to duel with some random person is shuddering. The nerve on my forehead was ticking like a bomb and my heart was panting so loud that I could not hear the grinding sounds of the bus. Many questions came to my mind, as to why this situation came up, was I wrong anywhere? Was the guy who pushed me away to race for the seat correct? Was i incorrect at letting the elderly man take up the first seat, considering his age and baggage or was i wrong at taking on the second pair? Apart from learning a few new Marathi cuss words I realized what the mentality of some men folk is like, especially those who are “supposedly” illiterate (naturally they cant read) and devoid of any reason. A simple seat in the bus, common decency in addressing women and a basic civic sense was lacking in them. They had no fear of rules, of authority and if people (other passengers in the bus) would have remained oblivious to their actions they would have got away with their misbehavior. On top of this, there was this other DUDE, who was more concerned about my demeanor than that of the goons and expected that i should be quiet ??
I was not upset that I would have to stand with 3 bags to carry, their attitude towards Women in particular, the arrogance and the pride in being the way they were, ticked me off. In the end I did no wrong, I voiced against injustice, big or small, I made a point very clear that unlike many other “ladij” they encountered and oppressed, I refuse to be party to that. Whether by choice or force or by pressure LAW has to be enforced and RULES must be followed. I don’t know what lesson those goons took away from this, but out of some of the things i learnt, such parasites in society have to be outnumbered by the anti bodies like me: it is important to let people know you need their help, in my case the passengers heeded; may be in a small number but that is all I wanted!! That is all it took to scare off the goons. Sometimes people don’t have the courage to rebel for fear of being left alone, but once they know the numbers are growing and more people supporting, they will join in. Secondly the more you let someone get away with a miscreancy, the more you encourage it and increase the chances of them repeating it again So don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out.
A complaint was lodged by me against the conductor who did not step in and take necessary action, it is too shameful to quote here the reason for his abstinence.