Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ladies Seat

There's a reservation of seats in BMTC buses, at least in the non AC types, which presume that men still have not received the education necessary for them to give up their seats and women still haven’t acquired the strength to be equal. The reservation is for women, and it has the prestigious location of being in the very front of the bus, starting from behind the driver and ending just short of the middle door.

This reservation is usually indicated by the presence of the word 'Ladies' (correctly spelt) in English and Kannada, or by the motif of a regular savithri, emblazoned on the steel above the seats, for those who for no fault of theirs did not have the privilege of learning to read.

The funny thing is, the number of seats reserved for women is far lesser than the non reserved seats, that are by right of way, occupied by the gentler folk in our society, the men. Funnier still, is that men are always sitting in these ladies-seats, even in the presence of standing women, who are usually clutching on for dear life to their various appendages, including hand bags, hair dos, groceries and children. Greedy little gents I say, which probably explains why they are often called 'pigs', accompanied by the expected presence of 'chauvinist'. The funniest thing for me, is that in our patriarchal society, men never consider women equal until it comes to bus-seats.

Strength and Equality Advocates send out the clarion call, for women to occupy the un-reserved seats. But this cannot happen. Even in the presence of their being an equal number of men and women in a certain bus at a given time, it means that if men have reached the un-reserved seat before a woman, they just sit there. Women are allowed to stand in the man’s very line of sight. If a man leaves at a certain stop, his place is replaced by another standing man. And women do not foray in to the un-reserved compartment such that they can slip into the seat of the departing man. They do so only in the designated front, because which woman wants to be rocking back and forth pressed up against men in a non AC bus?

If this is how our social system in BMTC buses is to work, then it would probably make sense for more seats to be reserved for women, because men can occupy them anyway, in the absence of women. Or there needs to be a section called “For Ladies and Gents”, because as much as we may pooh-pooh the idea of an unwritten rule, there certainly exists one if you don’t want your bottom pinched. While the male gaze still considers a man as another human being who paid for a ticket and wants a seat, a woman is looked at as just a woman and cannot occupy the un-reserved seats. So is the idea of a reservation of seats a regressive one in the progress of women in society? To the educated middle class gaze, it is. But to the practical Indian woman, who is still ogled at and treated badly, she pleas for protection and concession.

In today’s society of disparity, the one who is weak is asked for an un-reasonable amount of personal strength from the one who is strong, and in this demand, some will perish while others will compromise and definitely nobody will be equal.

Usually by the last stop, most people who were standing would have found seats. But if there is anybody who is still standing, it will be a woman. Even though she is in the front of the bus, plain for all to see, such that ignorance is not bliss for all the forward facing and backward thinking men, she receives no seat.

This phenomenon is seen in other areas of life as well. Little boys can accompany their mothers to the ladies's toilet until he can make susu on his own. Little girls cannot be caught dead in the gents' toilet. This could work brilliantly, if it was like the check-out counter at super markets, where those who have 3 or fewer items to bill can stand in the regular line but not vice versa.

Strength and Equality Advocates would like to tell you women today, to suck it up.

I am glad I know how to compromise today. I'm actually selfishly glad when I enter a bus and see men sitting in the seats reserved for women. Because I'm strong all right- "Ladies seat," I say with a no-nonsense scowl, to those pigs. And settle down with my breakfast and newspaper.


Cheesecake! said...

Well if it's any consolation, the women's section is less crowded than the mens section. I can't count the number of times I've been standing so close to someone that I feel myself beginning to get absorbed in him. Theres the added benefit of carrying around his odour for a few days as well.

Also I think sitting in a womens seat is emasculating somehow. (It only sounds sexist, it's not, really. God-promise)

Also, how do you eat your breakfast in the bus?

Anonymous said...

i've tried giving my seat to a lady. several times. they don't take it. so there!

ark of conwheals said...

You come across as incredibly persuasive for the womenfolk with your view points of men being "chauvinistic pigs". However, what amuses me is that your thinking that women and men are compared as equals only when it boils down to the seat in a bus(or train for that matter).

What I would like to ask u is if you would prefer if men and women were equals in all aspects of the world(which as we obviously know isn't possible). So where does this view of yours of men taking women-reserved seats stand? You demand a reservation and then protest at one. You beseech for equality and are then mortified when there's no preferential treatment meted out.

I'm not saying however, that men who treat women disrespectfully are ever justified. Just that piggybacking on words doesn't leave men with much of a chance to understand women(which anyway is remote).

Anonymous said...

In the Madras Transport Corporation buses, which caters to a whopping 79% of all commuters (including those who own a vehicle), women occupy seats reserved for males and refuse to budge. Oh, and men never sit in the women's section when there are standing women. Not once have I seen that, and I use the MTC frequently.

Ah, these delightful little ironies of life.

kicking.and.screaming said...

@ Cheesecake!

Sandwich and banana.. very possible to eat in bus. Sometimes I take cornflakes in plastic dabba.

@ Anon
Lol, try me some time.

@ Shogun
Sometime in a long while from now, I have every intention to journal the differences in public transport in the different parts of India. I have some matter but not enough as of now.

Parnika said...

There's supposed to be a 100 rupee fine levied on such 'pigs'. never seen it enforced. But I love getting onto a bus with a woman conductor! :D

Parnika said...

There's supposed to be a 100 rupee fine levied on such 'pigs'. never seen it enforced. But I love getting onto a bus with a woman conductor! :D

the official FEP blog said...

You spelt Kannada wrongly. :X

Anonymous said...

Please spell Kannada correctly!

Anonymous said...

Don't blame the poor men who know no better. Blame the conductor, he gets his pay for a reason, not just to push people in or out. And i've seen the conductors arse comfortably cushioned in these reserved seats as well, several times. It is him who should enforce these rules. And yes, i have seen men get up and give seats in many cases but women are soo scared/sh to take these seats. They look on and pretend to have ignored the existance of this seat, a convenient blind spot.

kicking.and.screaming said...

@ All,
Geez Im terrible, sorry about being so late in replying :(

@ Ark
Beats me why I passed your comment up.
Anyway, yeah I get. This is the feminist conundrum, or for that matter, the fix with all minority-equality issues.
What do you think about different but equal?

@ Parnika
Hello and welcome:).
Chi, some women conductors are really tough :-o

@ FEP Blog and Guru
Lol, I hope I corrected it. I think I did. Aiyo, will check!

@ Anon
True true. There's a lousy degenerate in all of us!

Bamboosong said...

Thanks for telling me about this post, Mickey. I invariably sit in the non-reserved category in BMTC & nobody seems to care. But in Madras, oh no, its really considered lethal to even try to edge towards the male side of the bus. So all sorts I guess. One interesting aspect of Bangalore is also the Lady-Conductor species- they are tough, efficient and never 'keep the change'.

kicking.and.screaming said...

Lol keeping the change, another issue of my ire!