Friday, August 12, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Ragpicker in the Bus

My apologies for the title sounding like a Doyle story; but the incident begets mention and it is definitely curious (or rather funny, but I can't decide as of now).
My commute home from the office is more often than not a boring affair, mostly consisting of trying to identify which of the hoardings along the way are new. Last week was a welcome change. The first curious incident was that the bus was not crowded, which it always is. I still had to stand, but I had the liberty of standing comfortably. The seat beside the door was occupied by a young girl, whom I'll call a ragpicker for convenience' sake. She had a huge plastic bag, which she had placed on the seat beside her. All was well until a young man climbed aboard with with two ladies, presumably his wife and mother-in-law. In the absence of empty seats, he brusquely asked the girl to put the bag on the floor so his wife could sit. To his horror, he was awarded with a dark, tobacco stained smile and a 'ja be, bag nahin uthati'. Apparently, saving face in the presence of women is one of man's instincts. So off this man went on a tirade on how the girl was preventing good, honest taxpayers from the seats they deserved and why the girl deserved to be thrown out of the bus.When this had no effect, he called upon the conductor to intervene and get her to vacate the seat. Unluckily for him, this was one conductor who believed that discretion was the better part of valor and after the girl resisted his polite efforts, walked away to the front of the bus. The girl did have one technicality in her favor after all, she had paid extra for luggage, and saw no reason for her bag to be discriminated against by being placed on the floor.
The man had no option but to keep grumbling on the sorry state of the world, and another kind gentleman who was watching this incident with some amusement, gave up his seat so the man's wife could sit. Everything was quiet until two other particularly noisy gentlemen climbed aboard and started off the argument again. The girl stuck to her point, the conductor kept mum and the other passengers were by now, starting to enjoy themselves. It seemed very much like a David Vs. Goliath battle - 4-5 noisy men against one young teenaged girl. Resorting to the last option, one of the men got the driver to stop at the police station on the way and spoke to the inspector on duty. The inspector hopped on board to see what the fuss was all about; was surprised to see a young girl causing the furore. And, quite hilariously, the girl told the inspector how the men had harassed a poor girl and threatened to beat her up. The inspector politely asked the girl to place the bag on the floor, and she complied this time; he also reprimanded the complaining gentlemen for 'threatening' a young unaccompanied girl.
While all this provided around half an hour of entertainment, it wasn't yet over. Bandra saw two young ladies requesting a man in the ladies seat to get up. Apparently inspired by the ragpicker, the young man refused to relinquish his. What really had the commuters in splits was his argument - he had occupied the seat when it was empty - he had not deprived any lady of her seat - and it was the lady's fault if she did not board the bus from where it started. Here's a sample conversation -
Lady: Do you see this label here? It plainly states that this is a ladies seat. and you are not a lady.
Young man: Madam, I am also educated, and I can definitely read what the label says. I also know what I am, and I am not a lady. But if you wanted to sit here, why didn't you climb in before me?
Lady: Are you mad? Are you new to the city? You should learn the rules.
Conductor: The lady is right, you should get up.
Commuter: I must say, you're the kindest bus conductor in the entire service.
Conductor: Thank you.
Lady: It wasn't a compliment.
Conductor: Oh! Young man, get up.
Young man: You don't interrupt.
Ragpicker girl: The man is drunk, why are you all scared of him, pick him up and throw him out of the bus.
Lady: Do you want me to take the bus to the police station? They will teach you some rules.
Young man: I'll get up, you can have this seat as charity.
Conductor: That was a good decision.
One of the commuters: Conductor, is your bus always this interesting? I'll wait for this one everyday now.

I realize now, that translated to english, and out of setting, this incident may not really seem as curious, but use your imagination - place yourself in the curiously empty bus on a rainy, tiring evening - and there's a tobacco chewing teenaged girl hogging an entire seat......


Kapil said...

Man this was really good. had me in splits, in no time :)

Abhijit Pai said...

yaar ye sab tere saath hi kaisa hota hai .. why not with me:)