The other day, I was traveling on the Delhi Metro from Dwarka towards ‘Rajiv Chowk’. I was to board from ‘Dwarka Sector 13’ station and was relieved to see that there wasn’t much of a crowd on the platform. It being a Sunday evening could have been a cause for the near deserted look the platform had.
As the train arrived, and I entered the coach which stopped right in front of me, I was pleasantly surprised to see most of the seats being vacant. As if in a reflex action, I chose to sit on the ‘two-seater’ located at the very end of the coach. (The reason for my reflex would be better understood as you read further…)
It’s not often when one gets the liberty to choose where to sit while traveling in Delhi’s Metro. In fact, usually one doesn’t even have a choice where to stand. So, I was happily enjoying this rare chance and looking at the sun setting on Delhi through the window opposite me, while a man (probably in his late forties) sat beside me talking loudly on his phone. But my luxury was destined to be short lived.
As the train passed through various stations en route, crowd filled in. And soon, people were already occupying much of the floor space. As the train stopped at ‘Janakpuri West’, I saw an elderly gentleman (probably in his late sixties, with a cloth bag hanging on his shoulder) come in through the door next to me. As he searched around, (I guess, more in search of a suitable place to stand than looking for somewhere to sit) his head turned to my direction.
Instantly, I stood up inviting him to sit where I was sitting. He immediately took the offer, with a soft ‘Thank you’. But as soon as he occupied the seat, he nudged me and said, “Since you have been decent enough to offer me a seat, why should you stand ?” And with that, he shifted himself to try and make some space for me to sit between him and the other man.
I felt a bit awkward and tried to reason with him with a “It’s OK”. But he was quite certain about his decision and he literally pulled me to sit.
As I tried to balance myself on my feet while not being entirely comfortable sitting in about a quarter of the space I would have required, he asked again.
“What do you do ?”
“I’m a doctor.”
“No wonder. !”
I failed to understand this statement from him. But as I looked around, I saw the guy sitting right across us. He was looking right at me. And the look on his face seemed to convey to me that his search for the ultimate moron had finally ended with me.
I suddenly realized that the train had now stopped at ‘Tilak Nagar’ station as more crowd came in. And then I saw a young girl come in from the door next to us. She looked to be a college going girl in her early twenties. But contrary to people almost triple her age, she was absolutely specific and certain about herself once inside the train. She immediately walked up to the seats across and away from us, and went up to a young guy sitting there, enjoying music on his phone through the earphones.
And then I saw the expressions on his face change from one of enjoyment to that of detest. And soon I realized that the guy, while busy with his music, had not given attention to the sticker above his seat. Which marked it to be reserved for ladies. And before one could even bat an eyelid, the young girl was now sitting on the same seat enjoying music on her phone through the earphones. Though I didn’t give a thought to whether she asked him for his phone too.
Often, I have noticed, as my Dad feeds the birds of the neighborhood every morning, how the sparrows are the first to come down and start to feast on the seeds. But soon, there’s this crow, which descends right in the middle, stamping its authority on the food while the little sparrows spread out and sulk. I wonder how it would be the other way round if a sparrow disturbs several crows and scares them away while stamping its authority on the food. But if it would ever happen, I’m sure the crows would be sulking just the way the guy sulked now after having to vacate his seat for the girl.
Well, the train now reached ‘Rajouri Garden’ and even more crowd poured in. In the middle of which, I spotted a lady holding a little kid by the hand and carrying an even younger one in her arms. She made her way between the crowd, and co-incidentally came to stand right in front of the girl I had seen before.
To my disbelief, the girl decided that she had had enough of music and instead it was time to do some talking on the phone. And away she chatted with continuously changing expressions on her face, ignoring completely the lady standing right in front of her. And surely she must have ignored the sticker above the seats across her which said : ‘Please vacate your seat for someone who needs it more than you.’ (with an image of an old man with a stick and a pregnant lady with a little kid).
Maybe this girl couldn’t relate the lady in front of her with that on the sticker. Obviously, she had a little kid in her arms rather than inside her. So that didn’t match !!!
Which brings me to wonder, why is there the very need to have seats reserved for the elderly or pregnant females or even for females ?
We have to be told that this very seat is reserved for an aged man. So it should be vacated if such a person comes around. Why ?? Don’t we have the etiquette of offering a seat to the elderly ??
Do we have to be told that a pregnant lady needs to have a seat more than a young man ? Or for that matter, a young woman ??
But the truth is, not only do we have to be told, there have to be reservations made for actions which only demand a bit of decency.
What if there are no seats marked as ‘reserved for the elderly’ ? Does that mean that an elderly man or woman will not be offered one ?? In fact, that’s absolutely true. In such a case, we won’t even give it a thought.
Doesn’t marking seats as ‘reserved for those who need it more’ certify the fact that if not done so, our society is so indecent that it doesn’t have even the basic courtesies of everyday life ??
But, on the contrary, there are examples, as my experience above showed that even certain reservations cannot ensure acts of decency from the common public. Irrespective of age or sex, we have to be forced to act courteous.
The young guy in the case above had to be asked to vacate his seat which was reserved for ladies. He wouldn’t have budged had the girl not asked him to.
The girl though, had every right to sit on the seat reserved for ladies. But shouldn’t she have been decent enough to offer her seat to the lady who had two small kids with her ??
The question here is not about rights or reservations. It is about who needed the seat more. Shouldn’t a young girl of 20 vacate her seat for a gentleman of 80 ?
BUT… We now are in a habit of going by the rules. Or, in fact, trying to break the rules unless being told not to. Courtesy and decency are now words of the past. They don’t exist. And the incident above is not just a one-off.
Reservations regarding actions of people towards one another depict a certain flaw in the society. Reservations certify inequality (and indecency in the above scenario).
Maybe people have become more practical. So have I. That is why I choose to stand rather than face the embarrassment of flouting the ‘reservation-rules’ in the ‘Delhi Metro’.
P.S. : The above post is not a generalization. It is targeted specifically to people like the ones in the incident above.
Pictures credit : Google Images