Excuse me! Ladies Seat Please!

One of the innumerable blessings Chennai has is the PTC bus service. Between, is’nt Chennai one of the best cities to have a wonderful local transport system, both by road and rail? I personally think so.

Coming to the bus transport, you are doubly blessed if you are a frequent user of this service. Am one. Besides being let into interesting conversations, you also get into interesting situations. Like the other day, which like every other day, was eventful. The seats on the left, reserved for ladies, was fully occupied and few were seen standing. Still, hopped into the bus because I’d already skipped two buses because of the crowd and was running late. The little one at home has a biological timer set and goes off as timed if he does not see his mom moving about inside the house at that hour.

The last seat was occupied by a few ‘gentlemen’. Good. I walked up to the seat and requested one of them to give me the seat. He gave me ‘that’ look and turned away. I then ‘gently’ reminded him that it was reserved for ladies. And showed him the text written in Tamil which was a little over his head (pun intended). He made a face and reluctantly got up and I caught him muttering, “vandhuruvalungalae ladies seat nnu sollikittu” (a sarcastic comment to the effect that these women come demanding as if.. I don’t know how exactly to translate this ). I simply glared at him for it was not in me to pick up an argument with him at that moment.

Just as I sat down, I heard a lady standing there sympathize with the men-folk in general, and a rant aimed at me in particular. ‘Kaalam kettupochi’, she said. Which loosely translates to ‘Its a bad world’. “Do you know that men also have a hard day at work? They are prone to sickness and sorrow. They also age like women”! Wow! I mean it was a revelation. I had a good mind to ask her if men had their bottoms pinched or their person groped as often happens (read everyday) with women, specially in a bus? I ignored her rant and call me selfish, was happy I got a place to sit. I have a feeling she was irked because she had till then not requested anyone to move and give her a seat. And as if this was not enough, the men next to me got up one by one and made way for the other ladies, the silent spectators, who for some reason thought that it was the right moment to demand the seat. And this woman, who was uttering blasphemy, was one of them to occupy a ‘vacated’ seat!

Touting for women’s rights is not on the agenda when I demand the seat which is actually reserved for ladies. I understand that an old man deserves the seat more than I do. Am not saying that every women gets ‘feeled-up’ in a crowd, or that all men are bad. Sexual abuse is common in a crowded bus and is very very annoying. Every other person appears decent and the culprits have a knack of becoming invisible. Given a chance, I’d even sit on the right-side which is ‘common’, if all the seats in the left and the last row are occupied that is. And it is not that I don’t travel standing. I do, but avoiding a crowded bus to the extent possible seems to be the sensible thing to do.

I often sulk and curse the buses and the routes like every women does. But there is a bus every few minutes and 9 out of 10 times, you’ll have a comfortable ride home. And that is the positive, wonderful side of public transport in Chennai. A blessing even if there is a price to pay.

What say you gals and guys?

PS: Edited a typo.

Is Chennai safe for Women?

I do not know really! You see crowd all around you, and yet there are times when you feel that you are alone on that stretch and there is a shadow or two lurking somewhere close! Am sure this must be true of other cities too. Here’s an experience I encountered a few days back.

It was around 7.30 PM (not very late by Chennai standards I guess. Or is it?) and I was returning home from work. Its barely a few minutes walk from the bus stop to my house. Rain in chennai is a rare treat and I dare not complain about the bad roads due to the rains. Its okay as long as it rains. It had rained during the day and naturally the road I had to take was messy. Thanks to the Chennai corporation folks who have dug that road for the 4th time in less that 2 yrs, which made it even more worse.

There were’nt many people on the road and I was trying to stick to the pavement as far as possible to avoid the slime and sludge on the road. Had barely walked a few yards when I had this creepy feeling of someone closely toeing. Was hesitant to turn around and look and so continued walking a little faster which was difficult given the road condition. Now I was sure that someone was walking right behind me and was trying to keep pace with me too! Without turning around I just looked ahead to see if there was any help within reach. A new eat-out is coming up on that road and I could spot 2 or 3 heads near that building, a little distance from where I was. I had to get a little more closer for any of those men to hear me if I yelled. I walked faster to get into a hearing distance of that group.

When I was confident that I could be heard, I turned around to see a man, very small-built and shady-looking, barely 2 feet behind me. I raised my voice and threateningly asked him why he was following me and what he wanted. I was sure the people outside the building heard me and I saw this man eyeing them. He hurriedly said ‘ille, onnum ille (no, nothing)’ and darted off to the other side of the road and disappeared. And  then realised that my knees were shaking!! I stepped into the middle of the road (to hell with the sludge!) and walked home. I couldn’t care less for any cars or bikes coming at me!!

Whether the intent was theft or physical abuse, I do not know. But it leaves that bitter taste and depresses you because even today women cannot walk home freely without having to worry about the physical safety. Free India my foot!

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