Indradeep Banerjee
Published on: March 2013
Anjali was travelling on the Calcutta Metro. She had boarded from Dum Dum Park. She had to travel to Netaji Subhash located at the opposite end of the city. She was 7 months into her pregnancy. The doctors had forbidden her from travelling in crowded trains. But her mother was ill and Sunil was too busy at the office to drop by. So she had decided to pay her a visit. She had decided beforehand that she would board from the terminal station even though it was in the opposite direction to travel the entire distance sitting.
As the train came into a jolting halt at Belgachia Station a man in his mid-fifties wearing a cap boarded the train. The train was nearly filled, all the seats had been taken up and since Anjali was traveling alone she had taken up a ladies seat. Her adjacent seat was however still empty. The middle aged man saw the seat and promptly settled down beside her. Anjali was a bit perturbed. The man was almost the age of her father yet was sitting in a ladies seat. So in spite of being agitated she chose to remain calm for the sake of her own health. A couple of more stations went by. The train had now filled up to its nook and corner. A group of college girls still in their teens boarded the train. They were chatting animatedly amongst themselves, and smiling heartily. A couple of young men looked at them expectantly hoping to catch their eye. The girls suddenly caught the view of the man who was sitting on the ladies seat. He had dozed off in the meantime. The girls pushed and prodded their way up to the seat. They had hoped the man would let off his seat at the first glance of the girls. However no such action took place.

The man continued to doze as if he wanted nothing else but the tranquility of the hard earned nap. The girls were really furious. Here they were the free women folk of 21st century armed with the weapons of Western Logic and the right to claim what truly belongs to women. And there was a chauvinist man too old for his own sake blatantly taking away their right. One of the girls prod-ded the man who woke up suddenly from the slumber. His eyes were a bit confused and could not focus properly on the person responsible for this predicament. The girl took this confusion as a sign of the man's inebriation. With selected vocabulary she start-ed preaching a discourse on the negative effects of insobriety and the likely problems it causes in the public domain.

The man was still too vague to take in what she was saying.

Her fluent English was not registering in his mind. The group of boys now found their long lost chivalry who came up and reprimanded the man In serious terms for not giving up the seat. One of then had to show off his machismo to the opposite sex. So he promptly caught hold of the man's collar and made him take off from his seat. The shirt he was wearing was having its collar up. In the scuffle the naked throat became visible to Anjali. Suddenly it struck her why the man was behaving this way. A neat rough circle is violet was marked on his throat, the skin in the circle had started yellowing. The skin was wrinkled and seemed to peel off from the flesh underneath. The cap was displaced enough to demonstrate the absolute lack of hair on his skull. The man was a cancer patient who had his chemo evidently before getting on the train and was the reason behind his dis-orientation.

The girl promptly, with a million dollar smile, occupied her seat and beamed at her knight of shining armor. The man could not take this shame humiliation and man handling. He sat down of the floor of the train amidst the jungle of legs, which prompted another round of stampeding and kicking. His plight was so deplorable that Anjali burst into tears. She in spite of her infirm body rose from her seat and with soft hands made the man stand and take up her seat. Her 7 month pregnancy bump was clearly visible to all around her. The boys now having adrena-line rush urged her to take back her seat and leave the scoundrel in their hands. Anjali tightened her chin, braced herself and landed one tight slap on the cheek of the boy who it seemed was struck by a tornado. She turned towards the teenaged girl now dumbstruck by the sudden turn of events and uttered. "I am ashamed to be a woman for women like you. You talk of equality yet in spite of perfect health, you bereave a cancer patient of his seat and sit down upon it like you are Nefertiti reincarnate."
The girl was now too ashamed to look up. She slowly rose and offered the seat to Anjali, her head still bowed. Only Anjali replied, "If I take back the seat the purpose would not be solved. I will travel the remaining distance standing to make you understand how your insensitivity had caused distress to a cancer patient and a pregnant woman. Maybe then you would un-derstand the true meaning of women empowerment."
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