A Girl on A Bus...

The other night, I traveled from Bangalore to Hyderabad on an Orange Travels Bus. It was an A/C Sleeper (1+1). That means it had cabins with berths similar to those on a train. I got on the bus at around 11;30 pm. And by that time, two out of four berths in my cabin were already occupied. I settled down on my berth.

About a half an hour later, while I was busy over a call with my girlfriend, the last passenger of my cabin boarded the bus from another stop. It was a girl. And that's all I can tell you. 

She entered the cabin with a handbag and surveyed her surroundings. Three guys. And I bet that's all she saw. I happened to glance at her face at this moment. And I caught an expression of doubt, suspicion, terror, panic. Discomfort, I could have rationalized. But panic? 

You see this is what the world has come to.

A girl finds out that she has to spend another 7 hours around three men, each of whom looks educated and civilized, and her first reaction is terror. That's how safe we make the women feel. So, I looked away. And didn't look back at her all night. But I kept on thinking about this, thinking about it as a guy. 

What's my reaction when I am around three strangers, I thought to myself. It is definitely not panic. That's because I am a guy. Strangers don't even bother to give me a second look. We might exchange a few pleasantries but during overnight journeys, even that's kept to a bare minimum.

But for a woman traveling alone, there's always this one guy, who's looking for an opportunity to chat her up. Or this one guy, who is trying to find a way to touch her. Or this one guy, who keeps staring at her all night long.

If I were a girl, I thought to myself, I'd like to be treated just like I was being treated by the guys around me. With utter indifference. Because actually that is comforting in this scenario. At midnight, on a long-route bus, you want to be left alone. So that's what I did for her. I didn't even look around to see if others were looking at her. I just let her be.

Usually, the ticket reservation systems run on a simple algorithm where they try to club all the single women together. But not a lot of women travel alone on inter-city buses, so the algorithm is rendered useless at times. But isn't it pitiful that this algorithm, this lifeless set of formulas is the only thing trying to ensure a safe journey for these women. Isn't it our duty to make the women feel safe?

There might be many men who might respond to my question with, "I am always helpful and nice to the women who are traveling with me." To such people, I'll say, "Unless you extend the exact same courtesy to your fellow male travelers, it's super creepy. And I'd suggest you to stop."

It's the freaking 21st century, for God's sake and women deserve to be treated like equals. That means the single woman, who has booked a bus ticket for an 8-hour inter-city bus journey, doesn't need your chivalry. Just like she doesn't need your stares or passes or comments.

Incidentally, the girl and I were the last people to get down from the bus. While getting down, I politely let her step out first. She gave me a nod and walked away. Here I know I did my part to make her feel safe coz this scene would not have played any differently had it been a fifty-year-old lady instead of this girl or another guy.



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