I am traveling with three colleagues – two men and one woman. On our way, we stop at a roadside hotel for tea and snacks. The hotel has more chairs in the open ground than inside. It is evening time. The interior of the hotel is not so good, so we prefer to sit outside in the open air. We are just wondering whether to eat anything or a cup of tea would do, bang comes a vehicle. It is black Scorpio, playing loud music. Four young men get out of the vehicle. They are chatting loudly. They pull the chairs and keep on talking – more of laughing in fact - loudly. The driver of their vehicle gets outside, leaving all four doors of the vehicle open. The music is still on – piercing everything around.
I don’t like loud music. I also don’t like insensitive people. But I do not hurry. I always believe in giving people time to settle and to understand the environment around. The music is disturbing everybody there. It is obvious from the looks people are giving to those four men. Our group is disgusted with the loudness of music. There is a hushed discussion on ‘how people do not have manners these days.’
I know there is no point discussing the issue amongst ourselves. The noise making guys do not know that we are disturbed by their music. Without conversing with them, how can we assume that they will understand what we want? Whether we want or not, dialogue is an essential part of the life. So, I get up. Knowing me well, my colleagues are aghast.
“Don’t go and say anything to them, they will not listen to you”, one of my elder colleagues almost orders me. “Let me go and request them whether they can bring down the volume of the music. No harm in requesting, at most they won’t pay any attention to me...” I try to convince my colleagues. By experience I know that if I approach people in non-aggressive manner, people generally accept the request.
“No, they don’t seem to be of the type whom you can request”, another colleague chips in.
“There are so many people around. Why you only have to go and talk to those people?” another colleague is irritated.
“Let me try at least. I don’t intend to pick up any fight with them. But I cannot sit with this loud music here…” why I am apologetic even when I am not wrong – I do not know.
“You will not talk to them. If they say something mischievous to you, I will not be able to control myself and there will be a fight”, my senior colleague reminds me again. They three make me sit on the chair. For the next half an hour we all sit there irritated, angry, frustrated. We do not enjoy our tea and our well deserved break.
I am traveling from Mumbai to Ahmadabad. Until the train leaves Borivali station, there is never peace around. So, till then I compromise with the situation. After the train leaves Borivali station, everyone settles down with the luggage and silence spreads.
However today there is some noise. Some people have the habit of speaking loudly on their cell phones. May be, one of those is in the coach today. Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. Now I start getting irritated. I try to locate the source of noise. I am sitting in the 15th row and the sound is coming from the first row. I approach the first row and notice that two youngsters are watching a movie on their laptop with full sound on.
“Hello guys, the volume of the movie is really disturbing me. Could you tune it down please?” I ask politely. One man says ‘Sorry’ and immediately the noise vanishes.
When I come back to my seat, at least ten people sitting in the middle rows “Thank” me for my action. I just wonder why none of them could request those laptop guys.
I am in a train again, with another colleague. A young man is sitting next to me. At one of the stations, vendors enter in the train. People purchase eatables and magazines and soft drinks. One of the passengers sitting in the next rows says something ugly to the vendor. The vendor must have so many such experiences, he just neglects that rough speaking man.
I do not know what exactly happened, but I suddenly find the next row guy abusing the young man sitting next to me. The language used by the man is horrible. He is threatening the young man. The young man is confused. He tries to argue with that abusive man. That adds fuel in the temper of that abusive man.
I look at the abusive man carefully. He is wearing fancy, costly clothes, expensive wristwatch and goggles. He seems to be educated and rich – we all are in an AC compartment. I am not sure what has provoked this man – but the language he is using is unacceptable, unacceptable in public space. I am going to try conversation with this abusive man. My colleague senses that and urges me: “Keep quiet. Don’t say anything.”
I am aware that it is night time and I how can I not know that I am a woman! But does it mean that I don’t take a stand when someone is abusing an innocent person – though I do not know that innocent person?
The abusive man is making loud phone calls. He is inviting his gang at a particular station and threatens the innocent young man again. The innocent young man is frightened now. He asks me whether shifting to the next coach would be better for him. We are talking in a low voice. I advise him to stay where he is – at least we know that he is innocent – the passengers in the next coach would not understand anything. An old man sitting in the back row is interested in our conversation. He apparently knows this abusive man. His advice to the innocent young man is: run away as fast as you can. Get away and catch another train if you can.
To me the back row man says: You please keep quiet. Don’t say anything to that abusive man.
In front of the whole crowd of frightened and confused passengers the innocent young man sneaks away. The abusive man is making another series of phone calls – describing the young man and ordering his friends to “look after the young man”.
For me, my inaction was scarier than people’s response.
Delhi Metro. From 3rd October the first coach is reserved for women. Generally there are Metro persons guiding people at the platform. However, few men still find themselves in the women’s coach. Whenever I come across such men, I politely inform them to move to the next coach. Generally they accept and move on. And all the women who are sitting and standing around me say ‘Thanks” to me. But why they did not tell that man to move away?
Why am I such a coward? Especially when I am with someone? Many times I feel we are at our best when we are left to ourselves. When we are bound by the people around, we are supposed to please them, accept their beliefs and life values. This leads to many compromises, which makes us a different person altogether – forcing us to behave differently than our beliefs. So, better to be away from bondage.
We wait for someone else to take a lead – because our approach to most of the situation is that of confrontation. We assume that a fight will take place and hence we keep ourselves away from intervening. But many times you can resolve the situation by just having proper dialogue; you don’t have to be aggressive to make your point. You have to believe that the person in front of you does not know (rules, expectations, demands of the situation etc.), so make an effort to convey those.
If only I could just stop behaving like a coward, I would be able to learn more, grow more, enjoy more and live more happily.
Cowardice is the biggest barrier one has to cross to live like oneself – the greatest fulfillment one can have in this life.