Operation Protective Edge

It is a little heartening to note that the recent Israeli-Palestinian Conflict had taken over a fair share of the media attention. However, it was still shocking to come across articles like the one on Washington Times that justified the excessive use of force by Israel in Operation Protective Edge’ in the name of ‘fighting terror’, and clarifying that Israel’s fight was against Hamas and, that they announced warnings before firing at residential areas. I guess, the fact that the majority of those dead were civilians speaks for itself.

However, the Israeli-Palestine Conflict is not what I would like to dwell on here. This post pertains to a certain incident that I faced about a month ago, in a private bus in Kochi.

One fateful Saturday evening, two of my friends (1 male and 1 female) and I, found ourselves waiting near Lulu Mall, for a bus to NAD (where our college is located). Soon, we saw a bus approach and, in our hurry to flag down the bus, we ended up getting into the bus from the door at the rear end. In retrospect, the story would have stopped with a rant about the unbearable crowd in that bus, if I had gotten in through the front door and stayed in the front half of the bus (that translates into the ‘female-section’ of the bus).

Now, let me acquaint you with the bus-etiquette in Kochi. The first 5 rows are reserved for women. Somehow, that seems to also translate to a tacit rule that women can only sit in those 10 seats. And it is heavily frowned upon, if a woman was ever so thoughtless as to walk up to a vacant seat next to a man and take that seat. The men on their part, feel no compunctions of conscience when they see a woman holding a child and standing beside their seat (You see, it is the duty of one of the women who are occupying those 10 reserved seats, while the men just sit back and enjoy their ride!).

Having explained the relevant background, I can now move on with the events that transpired after I got on from the rear door. Soon after we got in, my female friend and I tried to move to the front of the bus, but the human wall ahead off us proved to be an effective barrier between us and the rest of our kind (those with an XX pair of chromosomes). And thus, we had no option but to stick to the rear end of the bus.

Soon, men around us took it upon themselves to protect us from others like them. One of them even suggested that we get off the bus and pay ten times the cost of our bus ticket for an autorikshaw ride to get us to our destination. We just nodded and ignored their well-intended advice. A little later, the crowd thickened. Some of these men advised us to move into a corner. Our male friend stepped up to the occasion to form a human barrier between us and the rest of the men on the bus. We reached our stop safely, albeit after some struggle and after a lot of resistance by the male friend against the rest of the crowd.

While I am grateful for the presence of the male friend that day, I am disgusted by the way society likes to keep women from harm’s way – isolating them and curtailing their freedom. Why does ensuring a woman’s safety have to do with a woman removing herself from any occasion where she has to be in the company of men? Why can it not be about teaching the men to be respectful of women, treat them as fellow human beings inhabiting the same world; as people who have the same rights and freedom as the next man?
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