Green Park Metro Station, New Delhi, Thursday: The Metro platform was unusually crowded considering the time of the day. I checked my watch again, 8.35 p.m. As I approached the crowd, I could smell trouble.
‘This was bound to happen’, ‘They should do away with the ladies coach’, ‘All these problems started after reserving that coach’… I didn’t have to try hard to overhear people’s reactions. Very soon, no one had to try too hard to overhear. The story automatically unravelled before me.
A train had been standing at the Hauz Khas station (one station before Green Park) for 30 minutes. Apparently, some men were travelling in the ladies coach (nothing unusual about that). But a few women had taken it upon themselves to clear the coach of all men and make sure their colleagues enjoyed their privacy.
What had followed were a series of arguments, bordering on the abusive, and derisive jeers, all reaching no possible conclusion. The women were determined not let the Metro run till all the men were out of their preserve.
So that was it. The first official gender war in Metro. The pink divide that had begun demarcating the spaces of the two sexes Oct 2 had come to this. Nothing to brag about it but I had been anticipating it.
When middle-aged aunties start talking about women’s rights and their children’s bowel movements in the same breath, you can just smell trouble. When you see tiny toddlers using the forbidden coach for long jump practice even as men cast envious looks while gasping for breath, when the hype around a reserved coach refuses to die down even after almost two months of its implementation, you know it’s time.
So my first reaction was not of surprise. In fact, I almost caught myself self-congratulating. It had been a good 45 minutes. The train was held hostage just a station away. Almost as a ripple effect, all the trains were paused at their respective places behind it. ‘A woman has started puking in a train stranded underground,’ announced an official, enjoying the attention he was getting. The impotent wait was getting more annoying every passing minute.
Not bestowed with oddles of patience, I decided to take an auto to Central Secretariat station and catch a train from there. If there was an unusual crowd at Green Park, then it was a stampede like situation here. To my luck, a train came. Inside, something about people’s faces told me they had witnessed something extraordinary, something the usual rides don’t offer.
‘These men have no shame, see again they have entered our coach’, ‘Even after getting a beating, they are back to square one’, ‘They are thick-skinned, shameful creatures,’ the women coach was reverberating with these sounds.
So was this the same train that was held up for one hour? I asked myself. Cheap thrill took over me, I almost felt as if I was part of history in the making.
I kept my voice deliberately low and asked a girl if I was true. She gave me a broad smile and nodded with excitement.
In the meantime, the men had again started making inroads into women’s territory. A resentment was building up among the fairer sex. The men had a look of revenge in their eyes, some even had a tint of mischief. So it started again. A feisty well-built woman asked them to vacate the coach at once. No movement, no reactions. She tried again, this time at her highest pitch. Laughs followed, a few men even aped her voice.
However, all the drama came to an end at the New Delhi Station when policemen of all sizes entered the train and took charge of the situation. Some were dragged by their collars, some by their ears. Slaps, abuses, brawls followed. A little girl was crying in horror as she saw her father being pushed away; her mother was too stunned to react. An old man was pleading helplessness. ‘I am too old,’ he said. ‘Not too old to be male uncle,’ he was told by a 20 something.
P.S – If you’re wondering why I wrote Part 1, that is because I assure you
this is just the beginning.
(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)