Last Friday, we witnessed yet another train strike in the city of Mumbai. Once again, we saw how easy it was for 450 motormen to bring the entire city to a grinding halt. Within a few chaos, there was utter chaos – overflowing with harrowed commuters, cabbies making full vasool of the situation.
Well, there are some perks of working in the ad industry. As usual, there was a lot of work to complete and I decided to stay back and wait this thing out. Over the years, I have been caught in a whole lot of ‘crisis situations’ in Mumbai, and it has taught me that time brings with it the best solutions. True enough, after to hours of incessant tweeting, offers for carpooling / alternative transport and constant updates – when it was time for me to leave work, the trains were up and running! Yay!
Except that my ordeal had just begun. How, you may ask. Read on.
Its 10:45 pm, I enter the ladies compartment at the rear end – which is supposed to be a ’24×7 Ladies Compartment’ with a policeman guarding the same after 10 pm. For the next 2 stops, all is well. Until I see a few men trickling in. That’s ok, they get off at the next stop. But then I notice a few girls getting angry and pointing towards the end of the compartment. There’s a whole bunch of men inside our compartment and as we argue with them to get off, a few elder women ask us to have a heart and let them be. It’s a sticky situation and they cant get in their own compartments. This, after 2 hours of the crisis getting resolved.
By the next few stops, the population of men grew considerably, leaving most uncomfortable. There were all kinds of them – the sleazy ones outdid the good ones. Even after a policemen entered and bhagaoed them from the boogie, they returned and pledged innocence.
The ladies we were arguing with gave us scornful looks, like as if we were inhuman. I could never forget that look.
I get humanity – in fact, Im the most gullible of the lot. A few years ago, I would have done anything to help a stranger. What changed me then, you ask?
Unfortunately, it’s those same women in the compartment. The spate of crimes in Mumbai, especially in the local trains, has left a bad taste in my mouth. You can’t blame me for being a little cynical about it all. The bystander effect could have well originated right here in India – had it not been observed and studied in the Kitty Genovese case. We are pioneers in that department.
Need I remind you of the Jayabala Asher case, wherein her muggers threw her off a running train… causing her to lose both legs? Or that girl who was raped on a Borivali-bound local, while those same women watched in horror? Everyone froze, not a single reaction. No one called the cops, no one pulled the chain. Together, mob mentality could have taken down those goons. God knows, I would’ve done something. But you can’t do something in solitude right? And going by the track record, you definitely can’t trust them to do anything.
So if, on that day, those men had to get together and something were to happen, would those same women defending them help us fight them? I highly doubt it. If they as a group could not fight one guy (as in the previous cases), this would have been another huge crime in the making.
Yes, maybe I’m overreacting a little. But am I wrong in doing so? This city and it’s people are responsible for me being a little cynical. Not just the men, it’s the women who have contributed to this too. There are stray incidents of kindness, and people reaching out to you. Like the kind I received during the 26th July downpour. But it’s just not the same!
So lady, you can call me heartless. I can deal with that look, with your taunts. This city has toughened me up for all that. It might take you a few more years, and sadly a few more incidents to realize just how unsafe our city has become. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen though. Not for your sake, but for the many who would suffer because of your blind faith!