It was a rare case of passengers taking up cudgels for a railway employee aboard the Shatabadi Express last week. Barring a handful, all passengers in the executive class (Coach E/3) launched a signature campaign in favour of the hostess on duty.
The incident took place on Saturday on the Delhi-bound Shatabadi from Amritsar. Hostess Gauri Sharma was on duty. For those who noticed, she had been on her feet taking extra care to ensure that passengers are comfortable.
In the morning, when the train was headed for Amritsar, she had gone that extra mile to get cutlets for a passenger though they were not on the menu: “Ma’am, cutlets are served in the non executive class coach but we will try and get them.” And she did.
In the evening, however, things took a turn when an irate passenger summoned her and demanded an explanation on why the bread was stale. Short of abusing her, the passenger, (name withheld) a resident of Delhi’s plush South Extension area, (seat E-3/25) took her to task on the quality of food. Taken aback, Sharma profusely apologised. Her mild manner probably emboldened the passenger who was bent on humiliating her. In a choked voice, Sharma suggested he write a complaint, which he did but not till he drove her to tears. What was worse was that none of the staff, all men, who were on duty came to Sharma’s rescue.
It was at this point that some passengers, all women, walked up to the aggressive passenger and intervened. They told him that Sharma was a government employee and he had no business to treat her the way he had. His plea about the quality of food went unheard. At this point, some men also joined and condemned his behavior. Seeing the outrage, the passenger was literally on his knees: “Let me apologise to her…I am ready to say sorry.” But the women were determined not to let him off so easily. Instead they launched a signature campaign in favour of Sharma. Apart from commending her patience, the passengers asked for protection of women employees.
“It is not enough to ensure the physical safety of women employees but equally important to protect their dignity and self respect” said Dr Gita Pant, a passenger and signatory to the petition for Sharma.