I grew up in a protected environment at school. The school bus used to pick us up from the designated stop and drop us off at the same spot. There were no stalkers to dodge, no creepy men with unwelcome and uncomfortable advances. But school isn’t forever, nor is the safety of its manned boundaries.
As the unsupervised commute to college began, so did the unsettling gaze of men, an unprovoked comment here, an unwanted touch there. Ask any woman in your family about her experience of traveling on a local bus. If at all they tell you, you wouldn’t allow them to board that thing ever again. But do we all have that choice? Since buses are the cheapest means of transport, the majority of the population cannot afford to make a different choice. But does that mean people do not deserve to be treated with dignity?
If you have ever travelled on a local bus, you would know how impossibly overcrowded it is. Now that I recall, it’s a horror story. Even an inch of the vehicle isn’t unoccupied. Ventilation is the least of your concerns, even though there is none. You just can’t move! It’s a great struggle to make your way out of that space, literally pushing some away, and requesting others, so you can get down at your destination. It won’t be wrong to say that cattle are transported more humanely. Why? Because if they choke or get hurt, money is at stake and sadly, that has succeeded in becoming the centre of our society too.
As our moral fabric is in shambles, we do not care about maintaining segregation among the passengers, if not from a religious perspective, not even from a human one. It is no surprise that horrifying tales of harassment come out of such situations. The fact that you are jam-packed, and overlapping on one another, gives the predators a chance to unleash whatever filth they have stored in there. Women are groped, pushed, and touched in unmentionable ways and most of them bear this in silence because that’s what’s taught and encouraged. Some muster the courage to object and that too once in a blue moon, fellow passengers show traces of conscience, and the perpetrator is shown the way out while at other times, the elderly women shush the younger ones for raising this issue, and resort to victim shaming.
Overcrowding beyond the approved number is illegal and grounds for punitive measures. Despite that, the practice is thriving for decades, right under the noses of enforcement authorities, who are in slumber either by inefficiency or by choice.
We as a society are so comfortable with brushing it all under the carpet that a mere utterance of our degrading state of affairs doesn’t go well with those in denial. All because we suffer from a moral crisis. We are okay with the sin as long it’s not spoken about. We like the idea of a perfect place we live in which is far from reality. If we scratch the surface, we will find deeper problems that point to the faults in our upbringing. We must ponder over where we went wrong, and how we raised men to believe it’s okay to encroach upon the personal space of women, in private or public and, how we, as a society facilitate the same.
(Author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)