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Home / Columns / A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Sorry, this seat is taken

A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Sorry, this seat is taken

No it isn’t. No unpaid seat is occupied till you park your butt into it.

columns Updated: Jan 06, 2018 14:39 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
Call me the rudest person on earth if you please, but I’m sorry, I do not get the concept of saving seats that you haven’t paid for — for people who are not even present there yet.
Call me the rudest person on earth if you please, but I’m sorry, I do not get the concept of saving seats that you haven’t paid for — for people who are not even present there yet.

Sorry, my hand is itching to slap someone. Hey, don’t make that face. I’ve been good of late, haven’t I… talking about all nice and serious matters. But this week I have a good reason to be pissed off. Stop cursing me under your breath, please, and consider these scenarios.

Scene 1: I went to the hospital to meet a friend whose mom was admitted for a surgery. The friend was meeting the doctor at that time, so she asked me to wait in the visitors’ lounge downstairs. The five-star lounge of the posh hospital was full of people, several of them standing because there were no ‘available’ seats. Well, I saw one empty seat and moved towards it, and with Olympic-record-worthy swiftness, a woman sitting next to it placed her bag on it. “The seat is taken,” she said. “Oh ok, I replied”, and moved back. You can’t be arguing over seats in a hospital, you see. Who wants to be there out of choice, anyway.

Scene 2: The ‘unpaid-unreserved’ seating area at a prestigious summit, with celebrity speakers. One session ended, and another one was about to begin. I looked for a seat, and saw that there were plenty vacant, from a distance. Going closer, I discovered that almost every seat had handbags, jackets or limbs draped over them. Finding one that had none, I sat down. Within seconds, the guy on the next seat leaned over and whispered, “I’m saving this seat for someone, please.” I wonder why he couldn’t have his friend sit five inches away for a 40-min session — no, not a musical performance where he may want to get senti and hold hands with the other guy — but of a discussion on, hold your breath, CANCER RESEARCH. Anyway, I dutifully got up and decided to ditch the session altogether.

Scene 3: A popular theatre, where a friend was to do a classical dance recital, in aid of an NGO. The entry tickets were not numbered, and in big bold letters, it was written outside the hall that the seating was on a ‘first-come-first-seated’ basis. In I go and encounter a diva, who was sitting on one seat and had her two-and-a-half meter dupatta draped over four others. Fed up of the unreasonable seat-saving population of this world, I marched ahead, removed her cloth from one of the seats and sat down. ‘Someone is already sitting here,’ she said. ‘Oh damn! Someone is sitting here? Have I sat on him? Why is he so invisible?’ I shrieked, moving my hand on the chair at lunatic pace, attracting the attention of some of her other seat-saving brothers and sisters, who were, by now, desperately calling up relatives they couldn’t obviously imagine sitting physically away from while experiencing a life-altering recital of Kuchipudi — and saying, “Suno, jaldi aa jao. I’ve reserved the seat for you as of now but some rude people have started fighting.” Rude who? Me? Well, either we as a population do not understand the concept of first-come-first-seated, or we have the definition of ‘rude’ messed up in our heads.

Call me the rudest person on earth if you please, but I’m sorry, I do not get the concept of saving seats that you haven’t paid for — for people who are not even present there yet. Go to a fast food restaurant and you’ll see one person at every table, reserving five seats for friends or family who are all standing in the queue to order, chatting away. In the time that they would take to place their order after arguing over which toppings they want, some poor soul who didn’t get to sit could’ve easily finished off his burger and moved on. Get onto a bus or local train, and there are people who would grab a seat, and immediately put their bag on the next one, as if their heartbeat might stop if the friend who’s to get on at the next station doesn’t sit next to them. Morons, I tell you. Still stuck in the mindset of a fifth grader in school when they would tell their best friend, “Aaja aaja, maine teri seat malak li hai.” Idiots. I wanna say, “Aaja aaja, I want to give you one tight slap.” What do you think… will they come? Some genius sorts of people have even devised ways to block a slot in the check-out queues at department stores. They just place their shopping cart in the queue, and then saunter away to grab some more things. Someday, I’ll sit in their shopping cart, and they’ll not even be able to move it ahead with a crane. Because, you see, general politeness seems totally lost on some people.

The argument that a seat-saver normally gives is, “We arrived first, and therefore the seats are ours.” What I don’t understand is how they include other physically distinct human bodies, invisible at that point, as they are yet to descend on the scene, in the term ‘we.’ By that logic, I want to ask them the following questions.

1) At what point does the term ‘first’ start from? If I had visited the same restaurant or theatre the day before and sat in the same seat, then technically I arrived ‘first’ and the seat should be mine.

2 )How can an inanimate object such as a bag or a handkerchief used to block seats, get priority over a full-fledged live human body that is waiting to sit?

3 )What particular pleasure do people derive by sitting next to their friends/relatives in sessions or performances where they have to watch silently and can’t even exchange a word?

The nation wants to know. Sorry, if that reminded you of a certain news anchor, but at this point, I feel no less agitated. Let us start a nation-wide movement to tell people that an unpaid-unreserved seat is NOT occupied till you park your butt into it. If you want to show your friends or relatives that you care for them, write to me and I will tell you 10 reasonable ways of doing so, without putting others into inconvenience. Sorry, my dear, that seat’s not taken anymore.

Sonal Kalra once sat on someone’s bag to make a point that a seat can’t be reserved this way. Turned out that the bag had a poodle dog in it. Ouch, thankfully alive. Mail her at or Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra

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