I was traveling by train a couple of years back. The compartment was nearly empty that day. There was a man sitting across me on the opposite berth and next to him a woman. Two more were seated in the single seats across the aisle. Since I was the sole occupant of my berth there was enough space to comfortably seat two people to my right. And yet when I looked up from the book I was reading this is what I saw.
You know what? I love my solo train journeys. I enjoy watching the countryside whizzing past, listening to music undisturbed and also reading, whichever takes my fancy at the time. That particular day, I chose to read and was soon lost in my Kindle. After a while I wanted to drink in the beauty of the countryside now bathed in the golden morning sunlight and looked up which was when I saw the above.
I looked across at the owner of the offending feet, the man seated opposite. He was fast asleep. Next to me was free space for two, *enough to play football* to use the parlance of bus conductors hereabouts who want the passengers to make space for more people. But the man had chosen to rest his feet right next to me.
You bet I was annoyed. What I did next was stand up making enough noise to wake him. Success! He woke up and quickly withdrew his feet. I heaved a sigh of relief, went to the washroom and got back only to find his feet on my seat proper. I glared at him and he quickly removed them, putting them away securely beneath his seat. Glad to have avoided a confrontation, I went back to the interesting novel and was lost again.
So you can imagine my state when I found a foot nestling in the tiny space between me and the compartment wall, on my other side this time! Now I was royally pissed off. I woke the man with an irritated, ‘Hey!’ and asked him to remove his foot. ‘Huh? Oh!’ he replied, all flustered like, as if he hadn’t known where his foot had wandered off while he slept the sleep of the innocent. Fortunately the rest of the journey passed off uneventfully with the man keeping his feet to himself.
So now we come to the real issue at hand. No, this post is not just about the incident mentioned above, but the reactions it evoked. I happened to put this up as a Facebook update. Most commiserated with me and condemned the man’s action. But there was one reaction which asked me why I didn’t choose to sit in the topmost berth so as to be free of any such disturbance. The answer to the question is pretty easy: ‘May be that’s okay for you, but it is NOT for me!’ That should suffice, but here are a couple more things I want to say.
- I paid for and was/am entitled to my seat in the lower berth and to sit there without being disturbed by any Tom, Dick or Harry or their female equivalents.
- I chose the seat because I was/am more comfortable sitting in a proper seat than being cooped up in the topmost berth where I’d have to sit cross-legged, that or else lie down, which I obviously didn’t/don’t want to.
- Standing up to people who invade personal space in public space is to be applauded, not discouraged by suggesting alternatives.
Why do men feel that women should withdraw themselves and disappear (inconveniencing themselves) at the first sign of unwanted attention or intrusion from the opposite sex? This is not the first or only time I have had men friends say this to me. ‘Why did you talk to him?’ one asked when I recounted how a stranger had misbehaved with me on the net. Take note, not a, ‘What a jerk!’ but ‘Why did you talk to him?’! Everyone knows the other forms these questions take: Why did you go there/? Why did you wear that dress? Why did you do THIS? Why did you do THAT? It never ends.
Well, to be fair it is not just the men who walk down this path, but women do too. The difference is that my women friends online are the more aware sort, but most of the men (in real life or virtual) STILL are at the ‘why did you‘ or ‘you could/should have‘ stage and then they have the temerity to suggest it is ‘concern’ for you that makes them talk so. Concern, my foot! They have not yet learnt to put the blame, the responsibility, where it truly belongs, the very least they can do. If a man shoves his foot on my seat, HE IS THE ONE WHO IS IN THE WRONG. If someone talks nonsense to me, HE IS THE ONE WHO IS WRONG. Is it that difficult to understand? Is it that difficult to evolve from prehistoric selves?
©Shail Mohan 2018