I took a bus this evening, to get from the heart of the city to my home. I was thankful I got a seat- earlier today there were two men sitting in what seemed to be the ladies seat. I saw this woman get in and look at the men, and then look at the space above the windows where a sticker saying "Ladies seat" is usually put or painted, but there was none. And so she looked at the men again and resigned to standing. I had already done the same exercise before she got in. I even tried to see if there was a faded "Ladies seat" sign that I could perhaps trace with my finger and show the men, and tell them, "Please Sir, but I must sit."
As the bus began to fill up and people began to jostle me, my mind went to the last time I was doing the same trip- from the heart of the city to my home- and I wondered what I would do if the same thing happened again. Make a scene? I guess if it happened to me I would. If it happened to the person sitting close to me, like last time? Then I guess I probably won't. I mean.. its her issue. If she doesn’t want to make a scene, then I shouldn't do it for her.
A few weeks back I was sitting in the last seat on the left side of the bus, that is reserved for women. Its just before the middle door of the bus.
A whole bunch of men were foot-boarding. Their feet were on the door marked above, and a lot of their hands were grasping the window ledge of my seat. A Muslim lady was sitting next to me, by the window and I had the aisle seat. She wore a red jacket, complete with head scarf and full sleeves. One of the men who was foot boarding, had his face nearly in ours. I think he was a little drunk. He was talking loudly, shouting, obviously very excited at the prospect of breaking his skull. He addressed us and said, "Should I leave my hands?! Should I?" I looked at him and considered speaking to him, and then I did. "Aap gir saktha hai," I said. What an idiot, what a blooming idiot. Why would I say such a thing to him? Does he not know that? Doesn't everyone know that? Why would I give the impression that I really care?! Like "care" about him. But for that moment, I thought I had transgressed some class divide and broken some stereotype about grinning roadside-romeos and I sat happy. "Stupid idiots," said the lady sitting next to me. She was right- he began to ask me the same question over and over, "Should I leave my hands?" Then I ignored him.
A few stops down the road, he hopped off. He pinched her and disappeared. "Eyyy," she exclaimed and then said "Stupid idiot fool!" She shut the window. #WinningIdea.
She got off soon enough and another guy who was foot boarding slid the window open from the outside and then wedged his fingers in to open it further. I shut it definitively. For a moment I worried I had jammed his fingers.
Muslim Lady 2 then took the seat that Muslim Lady 1 had vacated. This lady was fully covered, no reds and lipsticks even, unlike #1. She wore a black burka and a full headscarf. I thought she looked familiar but she didn't seem to think the same about me. She opened the window. I wondered if I should tell her to close it.
But then I'd have to explain the whole story and I may not be able to. Besides, you and I both know that shutting windows is not really a "Winning Idea." So I let it be.
When she motioned for me to move so she could leave, I realised why she looked familiar. There is a lady I cross nearly every morning when I am rushing to catch the bus. She is a sweeper in my building and I think once someone told me she also cooks and I had considered trying her out. Our lines were crossed closer than she knew.
And then I was flooded with questions- Shouldn't I have told her to close the window? She is a sweeper in my building- I kind of know her… As if it changes anything.
So this evening, as I wondered what I would do if a repeat incident occurs, I suddenly stopped my thoughts and told myself, "Stop being silly, can’t think like this all the time."
Then I began to eat my packet of chips and concentrate on other more important things- This flavour used to be called "Caribbean sweet something" and now its called "West Indies sweet something." Why did they change the name? To identify with the cricket fans or what?
Someone was playing Kolaveri Di on his mobile phone (It was coming from the depths of the sweaty masses of men). I wondered what it would be like if I began to sing Kolaveri Di.. "Wouldn't everyone smile? What if everyone began to sing it.. Like a flash mob! What a Pepsi/ Coke-ad moment! "What a transgression of cultural divides." This Kolaveri Di is really such an social equaliser… Hmm.. Should I blog about this song?"
And then it happened. I noticed some rapid movement in the seat across from me.
It was the last seat on the left side of the bus, that is reserved for women.
A girl in a blue sweater was sitting in the aisle seat, where I had been sitting a few weeks back. She was speaking to the girl next to her and had her arm around her. I couldn't see the other girl's face but her head was bent down. Blue Sweater told the Conductor, "You should have closed the door. Why do you leave the door open?" I tried to figure out what was going on and then I tapped her on the shoulder. "Some guy touched her. He was holding on to the window," she said. "Is she crying?" I actioned. "Yea," she mouthed. "Same thing happened to me few weeks back," I told her.
"That's why I was telling Conductor he should keep the door shut," she told me.
Earlier this evening, I was at a book store. My friend stepped out for a minute and came back in to report, "This auto guy asked me if I want a chick." Apparently the pimp asked my friend first if he wanted an auto and then if he wanted "Ladies, Drinks or Disco."
How is the stereotype Men? How is it?
How does it work for you Men? You pinch a woman's shoulder or lean into her and that gives you a kick huh? "Kissed the girls and made them cry" huh George? Foot boarding and feeling up women, is all the same thrill for you?
Would you climax if we did this?
Sometimes when I'm stuck in traffic, auto guys who are ahead of me will turn back and stare. Ok, let me contextualise this. If a man looks, its ok, its nothing bad. So if we were both stuck in traffic but going in opposite directions, and our eyes met, even lingered, its ok. But when we are both facing the ass of some truck in front of his, but he inconveniences his neck to look at me, and stare, that is not ok. So I feel like I should stare back, I can do this. But I can't and he wins. Sometimes I feel like I should probably give them the finger. But he is probably the kind of guy who won't know what it means. Or if he did, he would say, "Come on baby, how is the location?"
Tomorrow when you meet me, you may feel like you need to talk about this and maybe other stories of your own. But don't because I will be like, "Whatever." I mean, a man's got to do what a man's got to do.
When Blue Sweater left, she turned back and said, "Take care." So I did. I clenched my fists… and put my knees together. Then I drew my bag closer to me and adjusted my dupatta.
I have walked home on that road a thousand times. I love it in the day time- These trees are majestic. But in the night, these same familiar and awe inspiring trees, appear wizened and dangerous. I don't plug in my ear phones to play music because it doesn't seem like a good idea. Not today.