Wednesday, June 29News That Matters

The humanity that also travels in public transport

A few weeks back I was planning to write about the tribulations that women face while travelling in public transport. Before I could put my fingers into motion on my keyboard, I had to stop as more than one local newspaper had already published articles on this topic in the past few weeks. I had to give up my plan but the writer inside me didn’t let me rest. Something was nagging at me to write on this topic, so I started to look at it through a different prism – an optimistic prism. Instead of writing about harassment in public transport, I chose to write about the humanity, the humane acts and behaviour, that we often encounter while travelling in public transport but which we tend to ignore as we are often busy in highlighting the problems we face.
The first thing that comes to our mind when we speak about public transport is harassment, overloading and pick-pocketing. Men are often presented in a bad light as the proverbial predators, irrespective of their age, while women are presented as prey. One can’t generalise this notion as most men see a reflection of their own daughter, sister and mother in their fellow female passengers, and thus accord them respect. But some opinion makers, who have never travelled in public transport, have stereotyped this shared space as synonymous with harassment of women, even though these sorts of things are not regular and routinely reported about our public transport. In fact, such instances are rarer in our public transport as compared to other states.
During my thirty summers of life I have seen Good Samaritans who feel uncomfortable on being seated in a bus if they find a lady, elderly person or disabled person standing while travelling. This small, often unnoticeable gesture of men acts like a drop that makes an ocean of humanity. So, it is wrong to project all men into one picture; in fact, most men in the valley are sober and kind-hearted as the decades-old conflict has melted our hearts into a more compassionate form. Kashmiris are by nature soft-hearted. Pain unites us and we can’t bear the pain and suffering of others as our heart tends to melt quickly. Hardly do we find a young man seated while an elder is standing. Although our sisters often complain that seats reserved for them are taken over my men, I have never seen women appreciating men for offering them their seat. In our public transport you will never see an expecting lady or mother with child travelling in jam-packed bus not seated. More often than not, it’s age that is given precedence over gender when somebody vacates the seat for another person.
During my college days, while travelling in the jam-packed SRTC bus from my hometown Baramulla to Srinagar, I was battling for some space between the crowd when the bus conductor, who seemed to have aged beyond the age to be fit for this profession, started collecting the fare from passengers. Everything was going normal till out of nowhere an elderly lady seated at the back created a hue and cry that someone had stolen her purse. Some passengers started to calm her down while the bus conductor along with two boys started a search for the thief, but to no avail. The poor lady kept sobbing and lamenting for her lost purse. The bus conductor came up with an idea: he made a gentle announcement to every passenger to contribute some money to compensate for the money lost by the lady. He began it himself by contributing 100 rupees, and within no time he managed to gather double the amount the lady had lost to the theft. It brought back the smile that the pickpocket had stolen from her.
Mostly we tend to look down at the profession of the people who manage public transport. They are often blamed for misconduct with passengers and for charging excess money. But one must not forget that people like this SRTC conductor still have humanity left in them.
We need to stand up for the blessings of public transport as everyone is not lucky enough to afford a private vehicle. `

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