by Malik Javid
Some opinion-makers, who have rarely used public transport, have stereotyped this travelling space as a synonym for harassment for women. The fact is that these happenings of harassment are rare.
The first thing that comes to our mind when we speak about public transport is harassment, overloading and pickpocketing. Men are often presented in a bad picture as proverbial predators irrespective of their age and women, especially teenage girls are presented as prey. This is stereotyping is not a generalised thing.
Mostly, men see a reflection of their own daughter, sister and mother in their fellow female passengers travelling with them in public transport. They do accord them respect. But some opinion makers, who have rarely used public transport, have stereotyped this travelling space as a synonym for harassment for women. The fact is that these happenings of harassment are rare.
During my thirty summers of life, I have always seen good Samaritans travelling in public transport, who feel uncomfortable being seated in the bus, if they find a lady, elder person or a disabled standing up. They sacrifice their own comfort by offering their seat to a stranger who they feel needs a seat more than them. This small, often unnoticeable gesture, of men, acts like a drop that makes an ocean of humanity. I have seen men standing up for women, and I have seen people reacting quickly if they sniff some miscreant is trying to harm a lady in an overloaded bus.
So it is wrong to project all men in one picture while discussing issues of public transport. In fact, most men are sober and kind-hearted. Hardly have I found a young man seated while an elder is standing up in a bus.
However, it is correct that our sisters often complain that seats reserved for them are taken over by men without caring about the law. I have never seen women appreciating men for offering them comfortable seats while travelling standing the whole distance. In our public transport, you will never see an expecting lady or mother with a child travelling in a jam-packed bus not seated. More often than not, people see the age rather than the face while offering a seat.
I remember an anecdote that vindicates my claims. During my college days, while travelling in an overloaded SRTC bus from my hometown Baramulla to Srinagar, everybody was battling for space, actually to breathe. As the bus conductor started seeking fares an elderly lady seated at the back created a hue and cry after finding her purse stolen. Some passengers started to calm her down while the bus conductor along with two young boys started tracing pickpockets but to no avail.
The poor lady kept sobbing for her lost purse by beating her forehead. She could not be calmed down. The bus conductor came up with an idea, he made an announcement with his low pitched voice to every passenger to contribute some money from their pocket to compensate for money lost by a lady. He started with his own contribution of Rs 100 and within no time he managed to gather double the amount lady had lost to robbery. This brought back the smile that the pickpocket had ruined from her.
Mostly we tend to look down on the profession of people managing public transport. They are often blamed for misconduct with fellow passengers and charging excess money. But one must not forget the people like this SRTC conductor.
(The author has a master in chemistry and is currently working in school education. The opinions expressed in this write-up are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the views of Kashmir Life.)