Monday, May 1, 2017

But what about equality?

AIt is around 1.30 PM in Delhi. The heat is at its peak and it is not even May yet. People have been waiting at the bus stop for quite a while. The bus - No 392 - to Noida doesn't operate as routinely or frequently it does in the morning or the evening. Maybe it is to do with fewer passengers in the day with most commuters already at work. Or, maybe it is to do with it being lunch time or the fact that many of these buses shift to being school buses in the afternoon. Irrespective, the wait isn't helped by the relentless sun.
Finally the bus arrives and plenty of people give up their seat at the stop and move, swiftly, in the direction of the low-floor vehicle. The bus doesn't wait for long after stopping momentarily quite a distance away from the designated stop - but that is how buses work in the capital. The vehicle doesn't stop near the curb for you to hop on, you have to run to get on. There are men and women all boarding the bus to head towards their desired destination. A woman of nearly 30 years old gets into the bus and makes her way towards the seats marked for 'women'. A sign above clearly says "mahilaye". A total of six seats are kept aside for women - despite the 25% reservation directive of the transportation authorities in 2013. That would make it nine seats for women considering 35 seats on the low-floor DTC buses.
The woman in question, sees a man sitting on the seat, gestures and points at the "mahilaye" sign above. The man, in his mid-20's, flings his backpack and gets up without a word. The woman takes the seat and the bus continues to move swiftly on the DND Bridge over the Yamuna.

Passengers disembark from the bus at Sector 16 stop and the woman is part of the queue. She gets off the bus in an orderly fashion - or what is the closest resemblance to order in a chaotic city. She takes one of the many battery operated rickshaws available and heads to her office. As she punches her ID card on the electronic machine to register her attendance for the day, it flashes her employee code on the screen. All good, the woman thinks in her head. She takes a quick look at her phone to check the entry time and notices a message from her boss to reach the conference room as soon as she is in. The woman knows what this is about. It is April, it is appraisal meetings month. She expects a good increase in pay for all the work she has put in over the past year.
The office AC is in full blast and the sweat pouring from her forehead starts to evaporate. She notices her boss in the room alongside the lady from Human Resources. All of them greet each other and exchange pleasantries including the mundane small talk. Finally the papers are out to discuss her performance over the past 12 months and she starts to beam with glowing numbers. The expectations get a jump with HR head also agreeing that she's been solid over the year. They shake hands and she makes way out of the room to allow one of her male colleagues to step in and discuss his performance. 
She knows he's not had the best year gone by and hasn't achieved the targets as required. But he still remains upbeat to get some hike.
At the end of the day, the letters from the HR arrive and she can't hide her surprise that her raise isn't as much as she expected. On the other hand, her colleague has received a bigger hike than he deserved and even more than her. She can't help but think there is sexism and bias at play but she stops herself from approaching her boss or remonstrating among the team knowing full well how much she needs this job. She also understands any retribution would not resolve anything either. As she walks out of the third floor office, she can't hide her disappointment and the disgust with the gender discrimination at play.

--- Fact of the matter --- 
Many women push for equality, rightfully so, without preaching it themselves. They are strong advocates for feminism, also rightfully so, without understanding it is about equality between both genders and not about women > men. The example of bus seats is a simple one that happens every day. Why should there be seats reserved for women? Understand that the idea is to ensure safety but why would a woman make a man get up in a fairly empty bus? Emptying the seat for pregnant ladies, reservation of seats or not, makes sense. Getting up for senior citizens and disabled is important and saving seats for them imperative.
To sum up, if you're a woman and marching up to a bus seat and making a man get up - your age or not - based on the regard that it "your" seat, you're being a hypocrite when you complain about no equality in the society.

Note: Anita Phalswal makes some interesting counter points to mine here that you might want to read too.

Words: 870 words. Reading Time: Approximately 4 minutes 30 seconds

But what about equality?

AIt is around 1.30 PM in Delhi. The heat is at its peak and it is not even May yet. People have been waiting at the bus stop for quite a wh...