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.

Person next to you…


It was a ten-days trip to Kolkatta (hope I got the spelling right) and Darjeeling. We were a team of thirty, going on a holiday. All of us were visiting this part of India for the first time.

Train travel is a mega-event in itself. We had decided to make the most of our two nights and one full day travel. There were plans for music, dance, card and chess games, snacks and what not!But for two seats, the remaining were continuous seats, in a single compartment. These two seats amidst our group was occupied by a father and a son. The man was aged around 40. It appeared that they were speaking in some other language and not Tamil. From what we heard, it sounded like Bangla, or so we presumed! We decided to request this friend to exchange our two seats with his. We were not asking him to compromise or settle for anything less. He was offered a Window seat and the one next to it. It was a cosy place. We were surprised to hear an uncompromising ‘no’ (not rude though!) from him. Obviously, we not not happy with this unfriendly person! We decided to show him that we were’nt pleased and that we considered him an hindrance.

The Howrah Mail started at around 10.30 pm or so. Originally, our plan was to start off on our fun programs the following morning after a good night’s sleep. But this man changed our minds. We started right away by playing our favourite cassette in full volume. Our claps and taps compounded to the already gruff sounding tape recorder. Our man did not flinch. We expected him to excuse himself atleast after one hour and accept our exchange offer. But here he was, reading a bound book. Never stirred for a second!! Our impatience was growing by degrees.

The war which was going without any dialog between our party and him, was now getting verbal, but only from our side and only in our local language, Tamil. One from our team was looking into our faces while calling our man all names. Another joined this game and lots of things were spoken. Blessed in the knowledge that our man did not understand what was being said of him, the game continued the whole of next day. All the while, the man was busy reading his book or was engaged in an animated conversation with his son in his language. We had no clue to learn if he was playing the same game which we were playing on him, calling us names and passing funny comments!

Next morning, the train was nearing Kolkatta, perhaps another two hours to go. Our friend got up from his seat and probably went for a wash. His book, that he was religiously holding on to, had fallen down and was open. And what did we see! It was in Tamil! I took the book and was looking at it, open mouthed when our friend returned. I’m not sure if he saw that ‘Oh No!’ look on my face. He took the book from me with a mere ‘Thanks’ and kept it aside. No expression what so ever on his face. A few minutes later, he called for our attention, in Tamil (?!) and pointed to some factory through the window. He announced (in Tamil again) that it was a liquor factory belonging to the famous Hindi actor, Danny Denzongpa!!!

He spoke a couple of sentences after that. None of us actually heard what he said, but only knew that he was talking in Tamil.

The train reached Kolkatta. We got off, and so did our friend. We parted ways. It was more than thirty minutes before we realised that none of us had uttered a word after we heard the man speak!!! What was on in his mind is still a mystery which we’ve never dared to unravel!

I’m sure he’ll never forget, but has surely forgiven.