Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Memoirs of Delhi commute

The daily Delhi commute is no mean task.
Jostling, shoving, pushing, squeezing - a week's worth of exercise in one ride.
Conduct and deportment are conveniently erased from memory cells.
Wise words, mere ink on papers bundled together as moral science.
Its always a flurried and flustered start to the mornings.
Today was going to be no different.
All the "ladies only" seats were already occupied.
Meira thought of letting the bus pass by her and wait for another.
But ticking clock held no room for anticipation and she boarded the now almost crawling drive.
She collected her pass while scanning the safest point.
Nopes, today was not cooperating.
Two men were comfortably positioned in ladies seats.
One was definitely nearing the Senior citizen category.
The other was young. Looked more like a boy experimenting with moustache.
She knew she could ask them for a seat. She knew they would be bound to get up.
She had done that on a couple of previous occasions.
But from her first and second hand experience she knew it was better to wait then to ask.
Wait, eye contact, casual glance at the directions marked in red "Ladies only", and then look away.
She would get but two seconds before some other distressed damsel would rush in to claim her reward.
A neat kill, it had to be done in one stroke.
The strategy worked 7 out of 10 times but then she used it selectively.
The boylike occupant seemed a perfect target.
But he was glued to the window savoring the whizzing scenes.
And the other occupant was definitely more needy than her.
She gave up.
Today, Meira concluded for nth time since sunrise, was not cooperating at all.
The bus crawled on the busy ring road and she struggled to maintain a dignified stance amidst all the shoving and pushing.
The young man continued to look out of the window. Oblivious to her dilemma. Oblivious to cacophonous hustling. Oblivious to trials of commuting. Seated comfortably.
She envied him. Her leadened legs edged her to speak up. Didn't they preach the slogans of standing up for one's rights on all sort of media.
The words were on tip of her tongue and stayed there.
It was not that she lacked courage. But it seemed so futile to waste her energy on this petty issue. A table full of files would be waiting for her. And she would need every single drop of her energy to go through them all.
Then as the bus neared the AIIMS stop she heard a lady call out to somebody. The young man looked at her and she prompted him to hurry.
As they waited for their turn to get off the bus, she explained silly little things to him. How big the buildings were. The colors of cars. She even queried him if he was feeling fine. Obvious attempts to strike a conversation. Like she was making up for the time she had had to sit away from him. And then literally cocooned him in her arms so he could get down without hassle. No, the young man did not just appear boylike. He was just a boy. The young lad who could have been 25 physically was no more than a toddler mentally.
Here he was. Unable to comprehend even simple things. And all this while, Meira had been thinking of him as callous being.
Meira was ashamed of herself. She did not have courage to look up. All her strategic planning seemed and sounded so sinister.
She looked around. The seats for differently abled were occupied by the so called normal people. The ones for senior citizens too were occupied. By pretty young things. An aged man had found his place on the luggage rack.
She shut her eyes. To block all of it. Remorse blurred her vision.
She felt a nudge at her arm. A man was pointing towards the now vacant ladies seat.
But her desire had been quenched.
She looked at the old man at luggage rack and encouraged him to occupy the place.
She heard a lady reproach her in the background.
The old man smiled at her. A heart warming smile.
Meira smiled back.
She was ready for the day now.

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