. .. The title always has a happy ring in my mind. It could easily be a feel-good-book and as a matter of fact there is one by Anitha Nair titled the same. I read it many years ago and wallowed in my own experience traveling in one over a long journey. It was the notorious Patna to Madras misnomer-ed as ‘express’ which took three days and four nights. I wonder if Laloo brought improvements to it at all ? Of my many journeys on that train, I distinctly remember this for we were in an all women compartment. Amma had said it was “safe”, since we were traveling without appa. She had also said it would be hence cleaner and easier to make friends. And just like that, we had managed to make friends along the way with many mother-daughter, mother-children traveling just like us. I don’t remember anything untoward about that journey, but a compartment transformed into the sounds of women talking, sharing food, codling others children and children having a ball of a time.
So, when I read Bg’s tweet about the most recent rape victim in Kerala, the words ladies compartment had conjured these happy images in a flash. And like an abrupt full stop, I snapped back to what the news was about. And the first thing that struck as odd was amma’s words ringing “SAFE”. A simple google search will bring you chronology of violence against women in a ladies compartment; of being raped, having thrown acid upon, of being surreptitiously ogled by men in burkhas and probably many more unreported/unrecorded cases?
Did you ever wonder what is the real need and motive behind all the gender separation? It is not a thing of the east alone – I had frequented a gym couple of years back and it was run by women and was advertised as women’s only gym, with no brawny men coveting you. I had picked the place out of proximity and little out of the all-women banner. It had me surprised that even the west held these inhibitions. And it is for the presence of these hard rooted inhibitions that concepts like unisex-restrooms standing for gender equality are only made possible in fiction like in the Ally mcbeal sitcom.
So where does all this figure in a ladies compartment or the ‘magilair mattum’ etched behind the seats in PTC buses? Why do parents fear sending a girl child to a co-ed school and succumb them to the walls of a convent bred? Is it enough to separate women from men to ensure their protection?
Probably not. That has been proved time and again. I had mentioned once about the plight of women in Kerala. And it must come as no surprise for many that the most infamous city in India for eve teasing is hyderabad. I can narrate many disturbing incidents I have heard of and some experienced, but let us just say, I have come to understand so long as men don’t come into terms with the way women have turned independent, she will continue to be hunted and still blamed for being a whore or dressing up like one. So, in a society that is waiting to blame the woman for atrocities committed against her, where do you hide?
So, thats where the ruling bodies decided to sideline the problem instead of attacking it. Just the way, it was considered that 33% reservation is all it takes to uplift women, women are given “reserved” seats on trains and buses. It is hoped that for those few moments she is traveling in a nest of her own gender, she will be safe from ogles, brush-asides and whistles. That is all she hopes for! And it only bodes ill that, even ‘that’ is a lot to ask!