Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ladies Coach in Delhi Metro – Seriously?

Thank you BlogAdda, for the feature!

Catfights are the rage this season. The other day, I was traveling in the blue line of the Delhi metro in the morning rush hour. As the doors opened at a stoppage, an ocean of women started pouring in, bustling for space and authority, filling up every left-out nook and cranny of the ladies coach. In all the hustle and bustle, an office-going young lady happened to fall back upon her neighbor, who unfortunately turned out to be a jaatni of quite a formidable temper. And that was it! She flew into a temper and pushed back, only to start with an argument. If only it had remained at that. But the next I knew, the jaatni had her hand pressed hard against the helpless girl’s throat, shouting profanities at her all along. In defense the girl’s hands flailed and fluttered about, managing to catch only as much as a button off the attempting murderer’s sweater. This only made the woman livid! “You dared tear a button off my sweater!” and WHAM! The slap resounded through the entire ladies coach, attracting many an unhidden gasp and exclamation. A girl standing right next to me, whom I assumed to be a newbie here, looked at me, visibly flabbergasted. And all I could think of saying to her was, welcome to the ladies coach of Delhi Metro.

It’s an epidemic like no other. Since the day Delhi Metro granted the city’s ladies a metro coach reserved exclusively for them, there has been no looking back. From verbal spats to catfights, they’ve done it all. Being a girl in a city like Delhi has its own negative points, not the least of them being that you’re forced to travel in that darned ladies coach. After all, you have only two options to choose from – either to be leered at by every satyr standing or sitting around you, or to travel in the “supposed” safety of the women’s compartment. And the choice is more than obvious for any girl. Period.

Traveling in the ladies coach, for me at least, is an ordeal, to say the least. Just standing there, in the midst of so many specimens of the same species and sex as you, reading their faces and knowing what’s going on in each of their minds – it is highly unsettling. Whether they are DU students or engineers-in-the-making, BPO employees or PROs, teachers or accountants at a bank, grandmothers or spinsters, it all is etched clearly on their faces, easy to comprehend for a person who has no other mode of passing time but to plug in the earphones and look around. Every time an argument or a fight takes place in the metro, everyone's eyes are on the fighters. I SAY, observe the expressions of the ones around them instead, and you'll see other things. There's this "been-there-done-that-hence-indifferent" look on most of their faces. That speaks volumes about the attitude of the ladies of our dear old Delhi Metro ladies coach.

Metro travel, I have to admit, has but a big plus point – you can complete half your daily chores in here. From filing your nails to applying sunscreen, studying for exams to finishing most of your daily quota of phone calls, it’s the most useful time of the day, which would otherwise go unutilized if you traveled by local train, bus or any other mode of transport. And every metro phone call gives a great insight into the calling person’s life; you just need to have a keen eye and a good ear. Not to mention, low volume on the earphones.

But the introduction of the ladies coach has had more misfires than it has had hits. What are its possible advantages, I ask? They say, women get privacy and security from leering men; that it prevents eve-teasing and cases of sexual harassment etc etc. But seriously, is the situation really any better, as they pretend it is? For all I know, the only thing this step has managed to achieve is a greater sexual divide in the society. Earlier it would be a fair sex ratio throughout the length of the train, with ladies seats very generously thrown in here and there, filled in mostly by grateful women. However, in the current scenario, I see a clear trend in the kinds of people occupying different sections of the train. Here’s the analysis:

• The Tharkis: These are the men (or guys, or whatever, it doesn’t even matter) who crowd in at the joint between the first and the second coaches; to be more precise, between the ladies and the general compartments. They are the ones who you can be sure of are the most desperate ones. They would stare at any woman they could manage to lay their eyes upon, with such expressions as would make anyone believe they're from some woman-less planet and are seeing aliens in us. And by any chance if a beautiful girl happens to be anywhere near the joint, voila! The density of such men miraculously increases!

• The Rebels/Insecure ones: They are the two-sided ones – on the outside, rebellious, refusing to believe that the very concept of “ladies coach” even exists – and on the inside, trying to dissuade their hearts from the realization that they are outcasts here, and that they the society has finally managed to overthrow their autocracy, at least here. They enter the ladies coach despite the authorities’ desperate attempts to divert them to their rightful place, and stay put where they are, not moving so much as an inch to let a poor woman move in her own sanctioned space with ease without having to brush past them. All I have for them is a you-know-what.

• The couples: This is another section of the metro-commuters that is on an unprecedented rise nowadays. The “couples” are found centered in two distinct regions – one, the adda of the tharkis a.k.a the Forbidden Joint, and the other, the very back of the metro train. In the first case, the female counterpart wants to escape the leers of the men in the general coaches, and the male is but forbidden in the ladies coach; what better solution than the midway then? In the second case, the male counterpart is the dominant species – to show his worth to his girl, he assures her that no one shall dare disturb her in his presence, and so, manages to travel with her at the back, where the crowd actually makes some PDA possible, in fact almost inevitable. What more could one want, did I hear?

This leaves the ladies and the ladies alone, to travel together, shoulder to shoulder, back-to-front/back-to-back in the very heart of the ladies coach. Which, one needn’t mention, brings out the worst in the feminine population of the city. Earlier, the entire female clan had a common enemy – the man, who dominates them, sidelines them and hampers their lives. Now, with the men gone, the reality lies exposed for all to see. Yes! The man was never the issue here! He was only a pretext; an easy prey to vent out all one’s anger upon. But with his disappearance, we realize that all one really wants in one’s daily life is an outlet, to let out one’s frustration. One makes oneself feel insecure, even appear victimized, only to be reassured of one’s rights. This done, all one is left with to do is to vent out that volcano on anybody one can find in the vicinity. In this case, the city’s women have turned enemies to each other. Jealousy amongst specimens of the same sex, which is more than just common among the fairer sex, only adds fuel to the fire. The result? The slightest provocation and that volcano blasts, sometimes taking down casualties with it, and sometimes to be caught by surprise at the clever dodging and backfire by the chosen victim. In the end, it’s all a battle of words, wits and sometimes strength of hands, in establishing who’s HOT(literally), and who’s not.

All that said, someone might wonder, I being a member of the very clan I talk so frankly yet somewhat slightingly about, where exactly do "I" figure in the whole scene? Well, the answer is simple. I am the silent beholder, not the participant. I never come into the picture; I just observe and then reproduce for others to see it through my eyes. Like you just did.
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