On a Monday morning in early December, on the 7th platform of Borivali railway station, the ladies compartment area was filling up with women waiting for the train to arrive. Faces full of energy, some with Monday blues, some busy chattering about plans for the week ahead while others were panting breathlessly, thanking God that they could make it well before the train arrived. I was glad to have reached on time only to know that 7.39 AM Churchgate Fast was delayed today.
“I want you to resign today, what’s left in your petty job? I have been earning pretty well, so what’s the need for you to work?”
Faint words fell on my ears when I turned to see a couple hurriedly walking towards the first class.
“I want to be on my own and not depend on anyone else, can’t you understand?”
“Why do you need to be independent when I am earning? Just do as I say, do you get it?”
“Will you even listen to me?”
The voices faded as the train barged into the platform. The casual exchange of dialogue between the couple lingered on my mind for the whole day deafening my thoughts. Did she actually quit her job that day? Did he always dominate her with his plans and was she always suppressed? Or was she used to that kind of behaviour?
My cell buzzed and broke the chain of my thoughts.
“Hey Ashok, is everything okay? Are you not coming to work today?”, I asked.
“Everything’s okay. Called to remind you that we’re to attend Priya’s wedding today evening. Do you remember?”, Ashok replied.
“Oh yes, I do. We’ll leave at 5 pm. The venue of the wedding is somewhere in Andheri right?”
“Padmavati Gardens”, Ashok directed the auto-driver to grace the occasion of our colleague, Priya’s wedding.
“Yahan se left lena hai (take a left from here)”, I further directed, but the driver drove straight instead.
“Bhaiya left chaliye (Bro, take a left)”, Ashok stressed.
The auto turned left of the road.
“Ashok, I also told him to take a left. Why couldn’t he listen to me?”
I almost lost my temper at that. We’re in the millennial era but gender bias still prevails. Does one have to be a male to give directions?
“Hey, just forget it, it isn’t a big deal”, Ashok tried to console me, yet it troubled me within.
The stage was set for a grand evening with red carpets laid, exotic flowers adorned in the background, lights in vivid colours and sizes came to life while the night sky was lit with blinking stars that added to the backdrop of the open garden. The air was filled with the mixed aroma of mouth-watering desserts, sumptuous starters and the main course. My grumbling tummy made me turn my way to the starters counter.
“Hi there!” called a voice, I turned around to find my office colleague along with a lady, who was probably his wife.
“Hey Deepak, you’re just in time”, I said.
“Hi, meet my wife, Mrs. Sharma.”
“Hello, Mrs. Sharma”, I replied thinking that surely she has a name, why couldn’t he introduce her with her name?
After exchanging pleasantries, I moved ahead to look for my friend’s family.
Meanwhile, my friend’s mother got busy introducing me to the rest of the family members as “Meet Mr. XYZ’s daughter”.
While this is the most acceptable way to introduce women in the family especially in our country, it does prick me. Do we give our women the due respect they deserve? Why aren’t men introduced similarly? Isn’t it time we re-condition ourselves along with our society in which we live, connect and relate to? Respecting a woman, in other words, could be the way her family talks to her in public.
On my way back, we waited for the train at Andheri station on the 4th platform. It was a jam-packed Virar train. As the train slowed, a man raised his right hand horizontally as if to touch someone.
“Aaah,” a girl screeched.
Gosh! That man had slapped her, for no good reason.
“Bahar nikal. (Come out.)” Bang! Mohit, another friend and colleague, had slapped back that man, who had the nerve to slap a girl waiting to get into the train.
“Tujhe kaise laga, vaise hi woh ladki ko bhi laga! (How did you feel? The way it hurt you, the same way it hurt that girl too.)”
My feet had taken me to the farthest corner of the platform. Shaking with fear after witnessing the awful incident, I didn’t dare to speak to Mohit when he came looking for me all over the place.
“Don’t worry lady; I am not going to hit you”, Mohit told me.
“Why did you have to slap that man?”
“Exactly for the same reason, that guy slapped the innocent girl. He was wrong and I had to show him that”, he replied.
“My God, guts you have man!”
I have come across very few men who do respect women for what they are. I wonder if it’s too much of an effort to do so.
The next day, while I was at work, “Hello, Ma’am, this is Dilip calling from Your Bank, Churchgate branch. Your investments have not been reviewed for a while now. Could you drop by at the branch sometime this week?”
“Oh sure Dilip, I’ll see you tomorrow after work. Thanks for reminding.”
At the bank, during my meeting with the Bank Representative, Dilip, while discussing market trends and good investment options, he excused himself to make a call. Dilip had been guiding me with various investment options for the last three years and was known to be a decent guy.
“Excuse me, Ma’m, I’ll be right back attending this urgent call.”
“Sure, go ahead Dilip.”
“Hey Riya, I want you to deliver the document in my top shelf to the bank right now”, he told the person over the phone.
“Why Dilip, what’s the document about?”
“You won’t understand so just leave it.”
“So no problem, you can explain it to me.”
“You don’t even understand the market trends, what good would it do for you to know about it. No, chuck it, get going and just do as I say.”
Dilip was loud enough on the call for me to overhear every word of their tiff. How could he be so rude to, I guess, his wife? He was different at work. What a contrast that was! It wasn’t that he was under pressure that he did not have the time to explain things to her. Is it too much to ask for from her husband?
Such incidents sound so common that we hardly find anything skewed about them, well, thanks to our conditioning. It’s time that women collectively stand up for ourselves and put a stop to the disrespectful behaviour directed towards them. Having said that, we also see several women leading teams of males in the corporate world and not just that; there are several sectors that were previously untouched by women, like space science, the armed forces, female drivers, managing traffic and the list goes on.
A part of society is absolutely changing, however, there indeed is a stronger need to sustain that change, especially in the way, we, as a society treat women in general. An environment free of bias and dominance is the need of the hour, wherein ‘she’ is allowed to voice her thoughts freely and not just that, her opinions and decisions are dealt with due respect. Is she given a sound hearing to everything that ‘she’ says? While the change must begin with us, let’s also shape up the new generations by listening and respecting their voices so that they replicate the change they see in us, to take this movement forward.
The woman needs to sustain her efforts in learning to stand up for herself for what she believes in, become her own inspiration, learn to live for herself first and then for her dear ones. A part of the world does note this change, while the rest of the world is yet to wake up!