Discussing the taboos and stereotypical practices in an Indian society, the act of compartmentalization in public transport like trains and buses is quite common – general compartment, ladies compartment, ladies seat, general seat and so on. But how bizarre it can be if I talk of compartments in auto rickshaws?
Right from the first day of form submission at my university: West Bengal State University, Barasat, I’ve been noticing a rush from the university gate towards the auto rickshaw stand. Attending the classes everyday, the reason for the rush eventually attained my acknowledgement. The rat-race was strongly participated by the female students who struggle everyday to win a seat in the back row of the auto. But again, I was perplexed at the thought of what comfort the back row could provide to its female passengers that the front row couldn’t. Days passed by as I managed myself at any seat of the auto, until one day arrived that cleared the fog for me.
It was a lazy afternoon as I reached the auto stand, dead-tired attending long lectures at the university. The moving vehicle warned me to sit tight and not to lean outside. Moving on, my doziness met a sudden halt when a humerus bone hit the muscles of my left breast. Pacing myself with the motion, I felt my body and my mind jammed. It was the right elbow purposely moved by the driver, utilizing the opportunity of every turn and every crack on the road. Yes I couldn’t win the rat-race that day and so was this prize for me, being hit at the breast recurrently. Stuck in motion, I could feel the blood rush to my head, boiling and fuming, like every blood cell praying for a protest! I could hear my heart beats louder than the creaking sound the auto-engine, until when a voice shrieked: “Darao!”. I could feel my lips pulsating the word three to four times, growing stronger and louder every time. Hesitatingly though, the driver looked at me like a flash and finally apply the brakes. I rushed out of the auto and dropped my bag off the shoulder to the seat. Pushing the bag stick to his elbow I said aloud: “Now hit my bag with that secondary organ of yours as much as you want. Good luck to you, if that may appease your desires.” Escorting myself back to the seat, I turned back to check the faces of the rats. I could the read the silence of the empowered eyes among which a girl smirked at the driver saying: “I hope you’re at peace now. So let’s move.”
I don’t know what better I would’ve done that day. But I remember the fear in the eyes of the driver, as I pushed my bag hitting his elbow. Respite or remorse, this incident engulfed nothing but burned like a flame of protest. It not only created assuage to my heart for the miles left to reach my home that day, but also made the co-passengers realize, that a word of protest can bring a change to any ill-situation. Running the rat-race to escort oneself to the back-row seats of an auto isn’t a solution to the molestation practiced recurrently. If one girl gets a seat at the back, the girl left for the front row no way deserves to be a survivor of sexual harassment. If one voice of protest can stop the offender for a day, more voices of protest can eventually stop the offence.