Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just another Train Journey

After reading my views in ‘Hello Everybody’, my friend P asked me, "You jumped to the unfriendly-world conclusion just because a bunch of boys behaved like boys? Isme unki kya galti? Have you ever stopped to think how we men are treated by you girls?"
Actually I haven’t! As a feminist, it becomes a hard and fast rule not to think too sympathetically about any guy. And it becomes difficult to do that when we (girls) think that we are constantly undermined in a male-dominated society.
"Unfriendly world... you girls are worst at this!" and we launched in a typical cross gender argument.

P: Girls are conservative... more than necessary
Me: Yes, but like I said there's a reason behind it
P: Which frankly I don’t accept
Me: And you never will until you step in our shoes!

Before you start to think that this is just another long article about the customary boys’ v/s girls’ war, stop! This blog isn’t about that; nor it is a lecture on feminism, it’s about the story that he told me to prove his point.

P: Did I tell you the story about the girl I once met in train?
Me: No, the last time I heard of a girl someone met on the train, was a few years back. And she turned out to be God!
P: What are you talking about?
Me: One Night at the Call Centre by Chetan Bhagat
P: well, this is different. Do u want to hear it?
Me: yes, please!

And so the story began:
Having spent Diwali at my native Kolhapur, I was returning to Mumbai in the Konkankanya Express. As expected the train was jam-packed and after making my way through hundreds of people and thousands of bags, I reached my seat, which was mercifully empty. I heard the last announcement and train started slowly. Appreciating Indian Railway for being on time, I silently thanked Lalu for doing a good job.

Me: I don’t think Lalu alone is responsible for a good system!
P: Is that the point of this discussion?
Me: Sorry, please continue!

Once settled, I took a good look around the compartment. Although my seat was empty, there were around 10 people, plus 2 cranky babies in the compartment meant for 8. Few passengers tried to make casual conversation to guarantee that I had a confirmed ticket, since many of them were on the waiting list and they wanted to secure seats if others didn’t turn up. I also had a little chat with group of four young gutakha-chewing work-searching close-to-illiterate boys from UP, who had general class tickets and wanted few berths to sleep on rotation basis, few already preparing to sleep on the floor. Meanwhile I searched for my earphones, silently wished them good luck and started my favourite classical rock while sipping through a cup of lukewarm, stale and sugary coffee.

An hour later, train pulled up at Miraj, last major station and the already crowded train braced itself to accommodate a few hundred more. It was almost midnight and I was planning to sleep. I had the lower berth and I politely requested others to move up to their respective berths. One fellow showed signs of sitting at the corner of my berth as I slept. I showed signs of ‘I have no problem with that’. I lay down on my seat using my bag as a pillow as few more people rushed into the compartment. One of them was young slim girl checking her ticket against the seat numbers. I was thinking, ‘not a bad company, she definitely looks more civilian than most on the train’. She made way through the crowd and came directly towards my seat.

Me: wow! Looks like your lucky day.
P: Not much…

I was expecting her to tell one of the UP boys to get down. But instead she rounded on me and said in an unusually stern voice, “This is my seat, you go find some other place". Everybody in the vicinity, including a 2-year-old baby turned to look at me. If I was surprised, it was nothing compared to the looks of shock I received from my fellow passengers; they thought I had lied about my confirmed ticket.
Thinking there was mistake, and hoping against hope that it was not mine, I started searching for my ticket. After couple of seconds of nervous fumbling I extracted it from my pocket. Till then several other ticket holders had asked a group of boys and others to vacate their seat. The compartment now contained as many standing as sitting, and the girl in front was furiously tapping her feet expecting me to hurry up and move from her seat. I checked my seat number twice on the berth and ticket – confirmed bogie with other passengers – the date was correct – I even recollected and confirmed the train name. Ensuring I had the correct ticket I demanded to see hers. But she only barked at me in reply, "Koi natak nahi chalega, nikalo yahan se."
By then it had become a matter of interest to everybody in the compartment.

P: After all one young good-looking girl was in crisis. And every Tom, Dick and Harry would play hero for the Damsel-in-Distress.
Me: Normal male tendency!
P: (*an angry smiley*)

Furious, I tried hard to keep my cool. I insisted again to check her ticket, but she refused point-blank and demanded mine instead. Resigned, I produced my ticket and had it examined by every head in the compartment, irrespective of whether or not they could read. Having her doubts cleared, she gave the ticket back to me with an inscrutable expression. And just when I thought I had won my case, she dumped her bag on my berth and settled down saying, “wait for TC to come.”

Me: What?

I couldn’t believe my ears, “Fine! We’ll see…” I thought as I too sat down.

The next few minutes passed in total silence. I could sense many eyes watching us earnestly. I glanced around at the girl to see that she sat clutching her ticket. I wanted to check it, but couldn’t see how I could do it without attracting her wrath again. I knew that it was impossible for a computerized reservation system to issue the same ticket to two different people. Wanting to know more I decided to start somewhere. So I asked her if she had checked the Date. She looked at it and… there it was, the long pause I had expected to see earlier!

Me: Oh shit! Don’t tell me…
P: Yeah… dumb ass!

She looked confused and asked the date. I said, "It is 3rd, but your ticket should show 2nd November as you boarded at 11:55pm". She verified it again... and there was a longer pause this time. I knew what had happened but trying hard to hide an evil grin, I put up a fake inquisitive glare and continued to look at her. After a couple more minutes of silence she finally said, ”Travel agent ne galat date daal di" That was the first normal sentence she had said all night. I was so angry I wanted to lash out at her for ruining my sleep and embarrassing me in front of everyone, but something stopped me from asking her to shoo off from the place.

Me: Yeah, it’s called attraction! Hehehe…
P: It’s called chivalry!
Me: Sure! ;) So what happened to her?

First, she was embarrassed although she never admitted her fault. She requested me to leave a corner of my berth for her to sit. She checked the entire bogie for better place, obviously without any luck. Now she was nice to me and a little too sweet for someone who looked like she could have murdered me earlier. She was nervous, as she had to sit the whole night and also a little worried since there were so many people lying on the floor, she couldn’t keep her legs where they wouldn’t touch anybody else. Now she was the one without a ticket and a fresh ticket and fine combined would cost 850 bucks and she wasn’t carrying even half of the amount. She tried calling her parents for help, but her battery conked off. I felt bit sad for her, but I remembered her attitude and decided keep quiet.

Me: And that is called chivalry?

Anyways ... the night didn’t turn out that bad for her. TC was nice and helpful – he collected fine of Rs. 850 – others pitched in – she got a valid ticket – then used my cell to call her parents and received few during night – boys made place for her on the floor and also put papers below for her to sit. Early morning at 5, I asked her to sleep on my berth and I moved to the door to enjoy the cool air and the spectacular green Sahyadris in soft light. Later as the train emptied, she moved to the top berth where she slept till 10am and I sat on mine reading a half-finished book. When the train reached the Dadar station we both got off, she briskly said ‘Thanks’ and we departed.

Me: How gallant of you!
P: can you believe her? She never once apologized! And she was super cold till the end like it was my fault that she had the wrong ticket!
Me: well, Albus Dumbledore said that people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right!
P: Do you ever stop quoting?
Me: No, I don’t!
P: Anyways, the point is, I think I would have felt better if she was polite right from the start. I can imagine problems with a girl's security in a crowded train, but not everybody is a jerk! In fact the uncultured illiterate boys helped her the most.
Me: well, maybe she had some bad experience earlier. This kind of attitude could be fueled by a number of occurrences!
P: Yes, maybe! But does that mean that you start taking it out on everyone you meet?
Me: Ok, I agree with you. So she did behave foolishly, and totally inappropriate. But it’s not right to generalize about the entire gender on the basis of one or a few incidences, just like you said! Accepted, its not right on our part to prejudice against all men, so I hope you will not carry the grudge against all girls either. Lets call it a truce!
P: Cheers!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life is like a cup of coffee. You sit by the window and take a careless sip only to realise that someone forgot to add sugar. Too lazy to go for it, you somehow struggle though the sugarless coffee.... only to see the sugar crystals lying at the bottom.
Thats life, shaken but not stirred!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Law of Usenet Bandwidth!

Have you heard of the Inverse Law of Usenet Bandwidth? It was formulated by John Barger, the man who coined the word weblog back in 1997. It says, "The more interesting your life becomes, the less your post and vice versa”.

So naturally I figured that my posts should explode with energy and excitement because there seems to be none in my present living condition. My daily routine goes roughly like this; I get up by 11 am, read the newspaper (which means to say that I religiously follow the comic strips and the TV guide and scan roughly through the headlines and the sports page), force down some breakfast (my hunger senses take longer to wake than I do) study, gulp down lunch (because I had a late breakfast), play Age of Empires and curse furiously under my breath because I always lose the Wonder Race, study some more, scream that m starving at 6pm sharp (my hunger senses are most active at this time) , study some more, watch boring Marathi TV serials with my Mum or by-heart my favourite dialogues from the movies stored on the computer, study more, eat dinner and then when the entire world drifts in slumber I’m wide awake. I read, write, study, and scavenge food from refrigerator till sleep catches up with me around 3 in the morning! Next day I again get up at 11, eat, study, play, eat, study, watch TV, do TP (Time Pass for those unfamiliar) on computer, eat, study, eat, study and sleep! And the day after that I again get up at 11, eat, study, play, eat, study, watch TV, do TP on computer, eat, study, eat, study and sleep!

Results: my laziness bug is more prominent than ever, my eating habits are absurdly bizarre; at times I hog, hog and hog some more, other times, I go in the fasting mode (which has nothing to do with spirituality) sometimes I study sincerely, sometimes I sit with the book in my hand while my head goes on the world tour. I don’t remember the last time I had exercise and definitely don’t see when I did something fun!

But on the plus side, I’m sms’ing more, I’m calling people I hadn’t spoken to in months, pampering myself with face masks and hot oil head massages and not complaining about being too busy. I’m even taking bath twice a day just to have something to do with my time. It’s only been 15 days spent in my study jail and already feels like an eternity!

For those who have not understood what I’m on about or where the girl who spent hours online has disappeared to, here's the update: due to inability to clear my CA Final exam answered in November 08, I’m again on a study break, slogging for the next attempt due in June 09. And I have no Internet at home!

So there! My next post is up and I sincerely don’t know whom John Barger was kidding? Going through what I’ve written again, I feel my post sounds every bit as depressing and sad as my life right now! Of course, I’ll be delighted to know if someone disagrees!