Life in a ladies' Metro

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 7.09.08

The women-only coaches in Metro proved to be a non-starter and will be scrapped. But they left in their wake more comic moments in seven days than two decades of Metro travel have.

Monday, Tollygunge Metro Station , 1pm: “Dada, eta ladies compartment. Apni ekhane boshte parben na (Sir, this is a ladies compartment.You can’t get in here),” says a policewoman, brandishing her baton at an unsuspecting gentleman who has just settled comfortably into an empty seat in the last compartment.

“Ladies seat shoriye amaader kono laabh hoyni. Look at how the women are pushing us to get to the seats. They will never change,” mutters one man to another.

The Women’s Reservation Bill may still be in a state of limbo, but that didn’t deter the Metro Railway authorities from posing as guardian angel to the Calcutta woman.

Taking a leaf out of the Mumbai local trains’ book, the first and last compartments of each train were reserved for women, for only a week, it transpires now, while the “Ladies Only” seats in all other compartments were taken away.

The move let loose pandemonium on the tracks. Cries of “please shift” were replaced by “This isn’t a ladies seat anymore. We men can sit wherever we want to now.”

If one thought that reserving two whole compartments was just what women want, they couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“What if all the Calcutta women do not fit in these two compartments? Will they push the rest out?” smirked a 30-something woman.

The 9am to 7pm deadline also did not go down well. “Do Calcutta women not travel after seven?” an irritable woman asked.

The week also witnessed unprecedented girl bonding. “Rush. Otherwise this seat will be taken,” screamed out a woman from one end of the general compartment to an elderly lady at another end, casting indignant looks at a man edging towards her.

But more seats weren’t a boon for the men. It led to gender war. Intense confusion prevailed as the men went scurrying for the general compartments, having suffered a verbal whiplash from women after inadvertently walking into the reserved compartments. They were clearly a disgruntled lot.

“All reservations are for women. Aamader jonyo kichui nei,” a bespectacled gentleman cried, having failed to get a seat even in a general compartment. Reason? They too were occupied by women.

If the first few days went in hunting for the “Ladies Only” signs, the next few days were spent in scampering from the ladies compartments to the general ones. Many were literally pushed out of the first and last bogeys, with some failing to re-board the train.

Some men, however, could not wipe out the ear-to-ear grins as a woman struggled with four bags as they sat snug in their seats. Sweet revenge, it seemed.

Ekhon eta toh aar ladies seat nei. Aapni last compartment e chole jaan (Go to a ladies compartment now),” smiled a man, pointing to the missing ladies seat signs. They have been covered with white stickers.

With the roll-back, the Metro Railway men will have quite a task peeling off the numerous stickers. And the station cops can go back to snoozing again.

(Contributed by Priyanka Roy and Saionee Chakraborty)