Public apathy

Public apathy is more powerful than public opinion. There’s more of it – Dr. Jim Boren

After waiting for more than 15 minutes and asking more than 10 auto-rickshaws, I finally decided to take the bus to Shivaji Nagar. It being a Sunday, the bus was almost empty when I started out from C V Raman Nagar.

Once inside DRDO, a few people got into it, among them a foreign couple – from the head scarf the lady was wearing and from the man’s accent I assumed they were from either Iraq, Iran or Egypt… They occupied the 2 seats on the 3rd row on the left hand side of the bus – which is reserved for women. Little later on as the bus started filling up, 2 young girls got in, by then all the ‘reserved’ seats were almost full and the girls stood – while the men’s section had a couple of vacant seats. I gently tapped the ‘foreigner’ on his shoulder and said ‘These seats are reserved for women’, the man apologized profusely and despite of his wife’s angry glares at me, walked 2 seats behind and sat.

The journey continued and little further a few seats emptied and a man occupied the seat next to me – as if waiting for the opportunity, the ‘foreigner’ addressed me, saying – ‘That is why I sat next to my wife, ‘here’ rules are not obeyed, I was at-least sitting next to my wife – I’m her relative, now the man sitting next to you is not your relative’. And taking the cue his wife turned around to hiss at me – ‘It was the conductor’s job, not yours, you should have minded your business’.

All along the man sitting next to me had a stupid expression on his face, I tried explaining to him, that the couple was unhappy that I made the husband get up. I also tried telling the man, that there were enough seats behind where he can sit. All along the man who looked ‘simple’ started talking to me rudely (in Kannada, the local language) and said, ‘if a woman wants to sit, she will ask me – you mind your business!!’ Infuriated by his sheer arrogance, I insisted with equal rudeness, that he get off the seat and made sure a woman occupied it…

All along everyone in the bus kept watching the fun – not a single soul spoke. This was a foreigner who said – ‘Rules are not followed ‘here’ – implying, in our country’ … and started arguing with me – a woman, and all along, the conductor and my co-passengers were mute spectators.

As I got down from the bus at my stop, I was wondering – what is happening to our country? Would an Indian man/woman be able to speak to a ‘native’ woman equally rudely in a country where the couple seemed to have hailed from? Why did he not understand that it was a simple act of courtesy that he was asked to extend – and not ‘a point to be proven’? Why were my co-passengers so passive – in other words – why such Apathy???

Then I remembered that ‘apathy’ is another term for passivity, submissiveness, and even numbness. It’s a sad fact that it has reached epidemic proportions when it comes to social, environmental, and political issues…

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