[Reader-list] Questions concerning 6th Independent Research Posting

Zainab Bawa coolzanny at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 26 13:35:14 IST 2004

Questions on Sixth Independent Research Posting

Since some days, I have been questioning myself on the ladies compartment. I 
don’t know why it was introduced in the first place, but what’s interesting 
is that since it has been there, there has already been this segregation of 
sexes on the train space. Interestingly, we have (very specifically) the 
‘Ladies Compartment’ and (in politically correct terms) ‘General 
Compartment’ which is usually known as gents compartment.

Exclusive space for women (by virtue of creating separate ladies 
compartments) perhaps was intended from the point of view of ‘deliberately 
segregating sexes’ (I am speculating here) for reasons of security, privacy 
and gender norms (perhaps!). Now that women have a ladies compartment to 
themselves, has their ability to negotiate and occupy space enhanced 
positively? Would women have been able to express themselves (the way they 
do in the ladies compartment) in the ‘general compartment’ too? Have 
security issues heightened for women because of the ladies compartment? Or 
would women face security issues even in the general compartment?

Now that the ladies compartment has been in existence for a long, long time, 
women seem to be unable to conceive men and women traveling together. When I 
mention to lady commuters and to male commuters that across the world, there 
is no separate marking of compartments into ladies and gents and that both 
men and women travel together, they are astonished.

A friend, who lived in Mumbai and has now moved to Shanghai, was narrating 
her train experiences to me in both cities. She mentions that she feels 
comfortable traveling with men in Shanghai trains and in this context said, 
“Of course, Chinese men are much more civilized than our Mumbai men. I would 
not be able to imagine traveling with men in Mumbai on the trains. But I 
wish men and would travel together on Mumbai trains. Perhaps, this would 
help us women face men better!” She spoke to me about how it was important 
for her to be aware and alert while she walked on the platforms and bridges 
in Mumbai else someone touch or pinch her here and there.

In my last posting, I spoke of exclusive spaces for women. I realize now 
that as women are going out to work, they have taken on the ladies 
compartment space and are making the most of it. in an interesting 
conversation last evening, an acquaintance said to me over the phone, “Have 
you seen that when the train starts moving while leaving the platform, in 
the general compartment, men often put their hands out to help other men get 
on the train. You will not find this on the ladies compartment where women 
are stretching out their hands to help other women get on. In fact, women 
dissuade other women from getting into the ladies compartment.” I found this 
remark to be very interesting also in the light of the fact of how regular 
women commuters on the Virar fast create trouble for Borivali travelers to 
get on and off the train, stating that Borivali travelers should have sense 
to travel on their trains rather than on Virar trains.

Now that women have the ladies compartment as a space to themselves, are 
they displaying their claims to territory in as aggressive or even more 
aggressive manner than men? Are they enjoying their privacy and cherishing 

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