Sunday, February 01, 2009

The lady in the bus

My company bus starts at Deepanjali Nagar and goes via Banashankari, BTM layout and silk board before reaching the office. I get in at Banashankari and normally it will take close to about one and half hours to reach my office in the morning and close to 2 hours in the evening to reach back home. Since I get in close to the starting point of the bus I have an advantage to choose the choicest seat in the bus. And having travelled in the same bus from some months now, I usually occupy a window seat in the second row which keeps my journey uninterrupted. The movement of the people who get in at later stops disturbs the people who have occupied the aisle seat. Once I am in the bus I sleep for most part of the journey.

It was no different this morning except that when I got into the bus I found my usual place already occupied. I did not want to move to the rear of the bus and so occupied the aisle seat in the second row and as usual dozed off. Every now and then I could sense the movement of people towards the rear seats and by the time the bus reached silk board I was again fully awake. The bus was full by that point when a lady got into the bus and started searching for a seat. Normally, people who get into the bus at that stop and do not find a seat, will get down and wait for another bus as most of our company buses have to ply via that stop to reach the office. But this lady did not get down from the bus and stood in between the first and the second row. It takes about 15 minutes to reach the office from that point.

I wondered if I have to give up my seat for the lady. It will not be courteous of me to sit while a lady stands. I looked and saw most men seated around were either sleeping or were busy with the morning newspaper. So as long as you are ignorant that a lady is standing there is no need to feel bad about it. Pretend to be asleep and the gentlemanly world will not blame you. Moreover in a big city like Bangalore with a population of close to 8 million, you cannot expect everybody to behave in a true gentlemanly manner at all times. So in the true spirit of a daily long distance commuter I closed my eyes and pretended to be blissfully asleep upholding the values of an ignorant gentleman.

My eyes were closed but my mind was full of thoughts if I have to make way for the lady – ““What happened to those lessons of chivalry I have learnt? Have I forgotten them so soon? But I have to think of myself too. I commute close to three and half hours everyday. This lady might be spending hardly 30 to 45 minutes in the entire day. My need to be seated is more than hers. But would have I thought in the same way if my mother or my wife were standing? Wouldn’t have I offered the seat to them? If my mother or my wife were standing, yes, I would have, but here the scenario is different. Moreover I occupied this seat before her. I have all rights to sit. There is no rule which asks me to forgo my precious place. This is all true. If a guy was standing these thoughts would have been probably ok, unless he really needed to sit. But here, it’s a lady who is standing, and I should be giving up my place. Why should I give up? Aren’t there any other gentlemen sitting around? Guys who might have got into the bus one stop earlier to this lady, why can’t they give up? Also, many of them look senior than me. If seniors don't understand, it’s ok for me not to worry about it. Just because some guys around me are neglecting, is it correct on my part to think its ok? Don’t I have some basic courtesy? I understand the basic courtesy. Sometimes I have travelled standing till this very point, in the evening due to non availability of seats. Did anyone ever give up their seat for me? Just because no body ever offered me their seat, should I act in the same way? Can’t I take the first step and show the people around how a gentleman behaves? Ok I will offer my seat but let the lady not come to a conclusion that, she can get into a bus and somebody will offer her a seat. She has to check if a place is available and should also try to take another bus if one bus is full. But for today I will offer her my place. But let her stand till half way””

Once I had come to a conclusion that I will offer my seat, to the lady, half way, I waited to be very sure that it was 7.5 minutes since she had stepped into the bus. I did not want to open my eyes and check my watch as it would put me on the same stage as the other so called gentlemen sitting around me. When I was sure it was 7.5 minutes I opened my eyes and pretended to have been sleeping all the while. I looked around and to my dismay we were very close to the office, a minute or 2 away. It will be foolish of me to get up now and offer the seat to the lady. I had wasted close to 15 minutes thinking, only to realize that the entire exercise had turned futile. I looked around at the other gentlemen who had at least used the last 15 minutes fruitfully, sleeping or reading the newspaper. As we reached the office I got down the bus and decided never to think about this entire episode.


~Narendra V Joshi