Get off my seat!

Saadia Qamar July 04, 2010

It happened to me twice in a day. I was shocked and astonished for once. I had always acted very rude towards them, keeping this in mind, I always thought theirs was a bigger share in this world. A lion’s share, even when it came to clamped seats in a bus. There it was, 80 per cent of them and 20 per cent of us, poor women. Separate enclosures and separate seating arrangements. That was a joy ride in a bus. But not when the men came and sat in the compartment meant for women.

How ugly I thought, how unfitting their manners were. Then there were days, when I would fight for every female’s right to sit on her seat, at a time when most of the 20 per cent seats too would be occupied (read: grabbed) by these men. I mean, at the very least women should be given their fair share on buses.

So what happened the other day, and twice in a day, precisely, while coming to work and going back home, was that in the 80 per cent men’s enclosure, I was offered a seat. For once I was dumbfounded. How could I accept so much of gratitude from those towards whom I had always acted very rude, very impolite and sometimes even hostile? I had always thought deep in my mind that in Pakistan, equality between the sexes was a distant dream. A dream we could never see with an open eye, or at least I couldn’t. But only till recently. So finally pure male chauvinism had given way to chivalry, I thought to myself.

So now the Rosa Parks in me thinks twice before shouting, screaming and hurling abuse that these men too deserve a fair share – after all they gave me a seat in their enclosure. But does this mean that we have reached our destination to equality? Perhaps not – but there may be hope yet.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2010.

Saadia Qamar
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Tyrone | 12 years ago | Reply Hi Rosa (Saadia), This act of generosity was great but it's unfortunately a one off affair. I always find it fascinating that men who will carry out a various spectrum of action from grumbling to abusing to a fist fight if they feel they are being over charged etc sit dumber than sheep when men encroach in the womens seats. Strange isn't it in a country where the religious and cultural hammering about keeping away the sexes is a constant refrain these normal men from presumably conservative backgrounds resort to such acts and even do not raise a whimper in protest when their fellow males do so? I'm sad to say but I think the whole honour women indoctrination only works for women at home and not outside who are fair game. On second thoughts the only woman who seems to be respected is the mother even wives/sisters are subject to being used and abused. As a person who travels public transport with my wife I often have to skip buses especially late at night because the men are sitting in the women's seats. Apparently even if the conductor wants them to move they don't. Such lack of decency appals and enrages me. Then there's the other category of encroachers the relatives or long lost friends of the driver who don't really ogle females etc just take up space. A while back I read some statistics that shocked me in a survey around 80% women admitted to sexual harrassment in buses! That's a lot of women! Apparently the men sit in the seats directly behind the women and touch them, another complaint was conductors etc brushing past women too close for their comfort. One question I ask is where are all our culture/moral police (they are not a minority in our society let me tell you) when this happens? Speaking of police I've yet to see a bus be stopped by our over efficient traffic police for having men in the ladies seats for more than 3 years now. In fact to my constant consternation the conductor and the Sargeant exchange pleasantries and the bus moves on. If you can influence men and change their animal like behavoiur by shouting then hats off to you! Of course a woman travelling alone can't really get into a fight can she? She can give offenders a tongue lashing but that's about it. If things get ugly and physical who is she going to turn to? The women in the bus? The dumber than sheep male chauvinists who sit and watch or worse join in? The public on the road? The police? Raising my objectiions to men occupying women's seats I've had a varied range of responses- from a conductor who got the seats emptied, one who told the men to stand at the women's gate instead, one who rather aggressively told me to mind my own business. Once when travelling to a friend's place some years back I got in the bus and stood, some passengers told me go sit it the women's compartment- when I replied I didn't want to and men shouldn't be there. They laughed and said "Itne der se koi aurat travel nahin karti" I replied by disagreeing but they were stubborn in their views. To my delight a little further on a few women actually got into the bus! I wish those guys had learnt a lesson but.. The most interesting is when a while back (3-4 months), on the way to work men were sitting in the women's seats (empty seats were there in the men's side) and one of the passengers sitting on the back seat with me was a police man (the regular not the traffic cop). When I inquired of the ploice man why he didn't instruct the conductor to remove the men, he was silent but another passenger spoke up saying "Yahan kafi kuch kharab hai" I replied by saying " To sab kuch hone do? Kuch nahi sahi karo?", a somewhat long one sided talk (his comment was all he could muster) ensued till I got off the bus. And yes if men offer you a seat it means they can be gracious and kind but more often than not the men you'll meet will be brazen or sheepishly apologetic for being in the women's compartment or worse indifferent. So please scream away untill you can find a better solution.
Rogue | 12 years ago | Reply There are many evils in our society that need to be altered but it happens quite often that you get to see the bleak but good side of our society I am a male but i remember how i had to skip a 100 vans before i could find a suitable sitting space not a few years back in my college days and even during exams when time was an issue
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