May 29, 2011

Gender (in)difference

"Do not sit on the left side of the bus. Those are for the ladies", said the father of a ten year old lad, to his son.

"But dad, these seats are empty"

"May be, my son. But those are ladies seat. See what is written here" his father replied pointing out to the written instruction on top of one of the seats. "It says Magalir, which means Pengal. Now what does Pengal means?

"Ladies!"

"You are correct. So you and I cannot sit on those seats", said his father in a closure tone.

"Give us two tickets to Adyar", asked one of the two ladies  to the conductor. They were seated in front of my seat, about two rows ahead from where the father and the kid were sitting. "Dad", the lad brought his father's attention to those ladies, "then why are those ladies sitting on gents seats?"

"No, my son. There are no 'gents' seat. There are seats for ladies, and the rest are general. Anybody can sit in these seats"

"Oh! But why are there special seats for ladies alone?"

"Hey kiddo, you are not supposed to ask these questions" snubbed an old man seated behind the two. As expected, the kid went silent for a while. The bus came to a halt in one of its stops and the kid saw that some more gents got in to the bus and were standing, though there were some ladies seats unoccupied.

"Dad, why do they have separate seats for ladies? Why can't these gents who are standing, can occupy one of those seats?" the kid asked with a low voice, apparently afraid that the old man may overhear.

"Son, ladies have separate seats because they are better than men. Din't you hear on yesterday's news that girls came on top in SSLC exams?"

At this point, I was expecting the kid will say "if men were given separate seats, will they too fair well in studies?". Instead, I was taken by surprise when the kid asked "give me one more example other than education for why they need separate seats?". Man! this lad is thinking way beyond even me! Or am I not thinking at all?

"Son, gents can stand for long time. But ladies get tired soon. So they need seats where they can sit and have a comfortable journey", explained his father.

"Gents get tired too! In what way are we different?". It appeared to me that the boy was in a determined mood to find out the real reason behind the gender (in)difference.

At this point, a Swift that vroomed past our bus while it slowed itself to the edge of the road to halt, caught the lad's attention. I was getting myself ready to get down in the next stop, which is my destination. I will be missing the kid's argument with his father, I was thinking aloud, when I heard the lad asking his father, "what is the speed at which that car traveled?"

Kids! How quickly they get diverted! I glanced my view towards them as I got up from my seat and proceeded towards the exit. The father seemed to be relieved when the kid shot the new question. Of course, the speed of the car is relatively an easy question to answer!

The conductor called for my bus stop. I got down when it came to a halt, and cycled my way to Cauvery, one of the "boys" hostel in IIT Madras.