New Delhi. The introduction of “women only” compartments on the Delhi Metro has proved universally popular with the city’s women. Fed up of staring, eave-teasing and occasional groping, women can now travel in compartments totally free of the city’s ill-mannered menfolk. However, the rule is often poorly enforced and more and more men are ignoring it and riding in the “women only” compartment.
“At first it was easy,” said Malvika, a warden in a “women only” compartment on the yellow line, “I just told the guys in the compartment to move along and most of them got embarrassed and left quickly, but now it’s more difficult.” Increasing passenger numbers mean that the Metro is frequently full to bursting at peak hours, a problem which is prompting some men to take extreme measures.
“Manpreet” is 36. She wears a loose salwaar kameez and has long, strangely lop-sided, hair draped over her ample shoulders. Her high pitch waivers as she talks, “It’s difficult to get anywhere in the rush hour, but for ladies like me things are easier,” she says, appearing to fish what looks like her right breast out from under her armpit, “one has to make an effort, but then one can travel with the other ladies, like me, in the ladies compartment where there’s more space.”
“I’m fed up of this,” explains Shalini, who claims to be “Manpreet’s” wife, “every morning it’s ‘how does my hair look?’, ‘does my bum look big in this?’ I’ve had enough! I’d rather have him home at 8pm as the man I married than as the Bride of bloody Frankenstein at 7pm.” Her three-year old daughter now calls both her parents “mummy”, she adds.
For wardens the problem is potentially deadly. Two days ago a warden on the blue line accosted three “men in disguise” who turned out to be members of the Indian Women’s Rugby team en route to a tournament. The warden is making a speedy recovery.
An ad hoc visual survey on a yellow line “women only” compartment by Faking News suggested that as much as 25% of the compartment was indeed male, although passengers in the compartment strongly disagreed with this conclusion. The reporter is now in a stable condition.
Whilst the Metro authorities have pledged to stamp out men in drag traveling as women, a leading sociologist sees the phenomenon as a positive move. Dr Rahul Shorav told Faking News, “the women’s only compartment has become a positive outlet for the feminine side of so many of the capital’s man who feel trapped in imposed masculine identities and socially strangled by stiff collars, tight trousers, moustaches and maa-behen ki gaalis.”
Rather than crack down on the cross dressers, Dr Shorav says that the Metro authorities should designate special “other” compartments for those who are “not sure” or “just curious”. “Nowhere in Delhi can a man feel comfortable in women’s underwear,” he added “and I mean socially. There are some very understanding tailors nowadays.”
However political activists don’t agree. Delhi unit of Shiv Sena, which still exists, has blamed Pakistan for such “shameful” behavior of Delhi men. “Delhi men are being corrupted by that Pakistani cross-dresser Begum Nawazish Ali, who is in India these days,” claims a self-styled local head of the party, declaring plans to kick out “uncultured” and “anti-national” cross-dressers from the compartments.
Shiv Sena has also demanded a ban on burkas in Delhi for the same reason, as the party claims that many men could be traveling in “women only” compartments under those veils, thus posing a security threat to co-passengers.
But for Malvika it’s business as usual as she throws “Smriti” off the train. “He’ll have to walk home now,” she says, as “Smriti” struggles to regain her balance on her high heels, “it’s a shame because if he meets any hijras he’s dead meat.”