What’s the big question in your life right now? My best friend is wondering whether to wear a
or a sari on her wedding day, another one is debating the pros of an MBA over the lowly offerings of a media job. What’s my existential quandary? The ladies coupe of the Delhi Metro.
Seriously. Every time I look at that pink ‘Women only’ sign, painted like a packet of sanitary napkins, an internal debate starts. Do I, or don’t I, like the concept of a dedicated bogey for women?
I have no clue. The pros? No groping men. Reason alone to award the concept a gold star. Also, there’s an 80 per cent reduction in the 6pm stench of sweat and the odour of alcohol that wafts about after 8pm. In the pink coach, the scent of Chanel No. 5 mixes with cheaper, stronger deodourant — not entirely pleasant, but not cringeworthy either.
A staunch advocate for the ladies’ coupe, Namya, my metro companion, points out that women no longer have to worry about men falling all over them during a crunch. Often stuck at work till ungodly hours, my colleague Girija has taken to using the metro these past two weeks. A women-only zone makes 10pm feel safe, she says.
The cons? Non-stop chatter. Unpredictable cat fights. A no-holds-barred scramble for seats. All those wailing babies and crawling children now restricted to one coupe alone. And, the end of any notion of personal space. Where men, afraid of being accused of sexual harassment, may have given you the quarter of an inch to breathe, here women feel no such compulsions. All their chromosomes squeeze into one, unidentifiable, gelatinous mass.
Ashna Banga, a reader, wrote in with her five-point crib against the pink coupe. “Aunties can’t stand it if a young girl gets a seat… and they’ll glare at any boy/man who accidentally comes in, till he gets uncomfortable and leaves,” she wrote. Imagine a whole compartment of women staring down some poor fellow. Every time this happens, I can see the poor fellow running away on quivering feet, scarred for life!
Which brings me to my biggest problem with the whole thing. Reservation. I studied in a feminist college, but it was an all-girls institute demanding equality. Ironic? It messes my head up. In the ladies’ compartment, too, girls feel liberated, empowered in a space that’s essentially marginalising them. Doesn’t that just boggle your mind?
I don’t know if I’ll ever reconcile with this quandary, but I’d like to throw a question at you. After an entire coupe has already been booked for women, is it really fair to reserve seats in the general sections, too? I think it’s totally ridiculous. What about you?