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My Feminist Fight For A Front Seat On An Intercity Bus

13/06/2016 8:31 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Blurred motion shot of a photographer taking photos from a bus in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.

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I got a phone call this morning that got me thinking and made me write this post. It was a phone call that either reeked of gender bias or I am PMSing today and my inner feminist just needs to vent out on a trivial issue. Either way, this post doesn't matter because let's face it girls: it is a well-established fact that it is always the woman's fault, we dress to invite it and we don't deserve to have any opinions or preferences of our own, no matter how much we try and fight. But I am going to share my experience anyway.

As I booked an intercity bus from Bangalore to Hyderabad with "XYZ Travels" (no libel today!) for later tonight, I immediately got a phone call from the company. The man on the other end of the phone sounded rather perturbed. He shouted, "You have booked a seat next to gents, Madam!" The reason for his distress was that in spite of one "ladies' seat" being available I chose to book seat number 1, in the very front, which was in all probability going to be next to a man!

I mean, what if the woman next to me turned out to be super mean, a kleptomaniac or a really loud snorer?

He was calling to check if I was confused and also to inform me that he would do the needful and change my seat to the only available one meant for "ladies". He sounded irritated at the prospect of spending a valuable minute of his in doing so. So far, I bet even you are as convinced that it was my fault for not having picked the obvious choice -- the purple highlighted seats which are "reserved for ladies" among all the blues. But here is the deal -- there are only four such seats on a Volvo bus with 49 seats. They are usually the third row of every bus and right on top of the front wheels, making it a bumpy ride.

Now, before your male ego compels you to argue that the front seat is also technically on the wheel, let me tell you the exact logic that went through my head before I booked the front seat (yes, logic, surprise surprise!). The one "ladies' seat" that was available was window not aisle, and even though I am not 6 feet tall, I do prefer to have the choice of more leg room, or the choice of curling up to let my legs hang on the side as I find this the perfect position to sleep, or the choice of resting my feet on the front partition. Further, it is always a plus to not have a seat suspended over me the whole night in a semi-sleeper. So with four pros against the one con of being seated next to a man, my logical brain clearly wanted the convenience of free movement over being seated next to a woman.

I'm sure there was a chance of being seated next to a half-decent man, who sleeps and lets sleep, without "acting funny".

What really ticked me off about that phone call was our general predisposition to judge people based on gender. I mean, what if the woman next to me turned out to be super mean, a kleptomaniac or a really loud snorer? Conversely, I'm sure there was a chance of being seated next to a half-decent man, who sleeps and lets sleep, without "acting funny". Or maybe I could've been seated next to an old uncle because let's face it, there are more probabilities of that than being serendipitously seated next to Ethan Hawke (that only happens in movies).

As I boarded the bus at night, I was glad to have found myself seated on the front aisle seat next to a woman. I had one of the nicest bus rides as my neighbour and I put our legs up on the solid partition, lounging back while being forced to watch Baahubali for the 10th time(I'm not complaining, it is a great movie). Either the man on the phone finally did see my point or the woman felt safer booking a ticket next to a woman. Either way, if you don't ask for what you want, you will not get what you truly deserve. Even if it is just an aisle seat with more leg space.

#RevolutionFrontBusSeatsforWomen

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