Stop complaining ladies, men get harassed on buses too!
‘Mardon ko toh koi tameez hi nahi hoti ke bus mien kis tarah safar karna hai!’
(Men have no manners at all regarding how to travel on a public bus)
This was a phrase that I came across last week when I was waiting at a bus stop. The words came from a middle aged woman, standing a few feet away from me, conversing with her colleague. On hearing this, a rush of anger took over me, but before I could say anything to her, my bus arrived and I had to board.
Dear women, I understand that you get treated badly in our patriarchal society and that the men around you might make life a living hell, but believe me when I say this; you are not the sole sufferers – men have it way worse than you do.
Not that there is anything wrong in travelling via public transport, but the way men are treated by the driver and the conductor is what makes the ordeal all the more torturous for us.
Don’t believe me?
Here are a few reasons why men have it worse than women do when travelling on public transport.
The annoying conductor
Have you ever been pushed, hit or threatened by a bus conductor?
Well that is probably because most conductors talk to you in a respectful manner. However, conductors are not as chivalrous with the male species as they are with women.
From verbally haranguing male passengers, to physically pushing, abusing and even hitting them at times, nothing stops the conductor from getting his way on a bus. If he wants you to cram together and get away from the entrance, he will make sure that not a single corner in the bus is left empty.
Even at stops, the conductor works towards getting as many passengers as he can, even if their number exceeds capacity. He shouts out names of destinations, all the while urging other male passersby to travel on that bus too, sometimes even physically pulling them in whether they want to travel in that particular direction or not!
Men, to the conductor, are unintelligible animals that need to be treated like a herd of sheep, whereas women are royalty. All the shouting and pushing makes many of the male passengers angry and frustrated and even worse when, at the same time, the conductor greets the women with respect and gives them their due to time to settle in comfortably before moving on to his next male target.
The occasional drug addict
Have you ever had to share a seat with a drug addict?
Have you ever had to take his greasy head off of your shoulder as he doses away in oblivion?
Have you ever had to shower and change your clothes as soon as you reach home because you smell like hashish or charas?
I am guessing not.
Well yes, men experience all that and more whilst travelling. I am not saying that no woman has ever had to go through similar experiences, but the probability of coming across a male drug addict on a public bus is far greater than that of a female drug addict.
This category also includes the pan eaters. While squirting their residue out through their blood red teeth, they don’t really care if some of it falls on you because you are sitting next to the window. At that point, you wish nothing more than to cut the piece of your flesh off where that repulsive thing fell. You never feel clean after that.
The exceptionally congested bus
Have you ever been slapped by a man because you accidently placed your hand on their shoulder, thinking it was a support rod?
I bet you haven’t, and God help the man who ever mistakenly did manage to hit a woman. As they say, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’
And if nothing else, a few tears is all it takes for the entire male population to stand by your side and beat the man up for being ‘disrespectful’, albeit, mistakenly.
A man being hit, however, is a totally different story. I am sure many men have experienced this while travelling in a congested bus. Being packed in the back like a herd of sheep, there are many times men have to enter the female section of the bus, pertaining to lack of space. This is done primarily out of necessity. Yet many women, blind to the fact that almost half of Karachi is travelling via that particular vehicle, make an issue and give dirty looks to the men who are in their compartment. Labels such as loffar, beghairat (shameless), jahil (uneducated) and badtameez (disrespectful) are given to these innocent men, without hesitation.
I always try to board a less congested bus whenever I can. However, this one time, I was getting really late for university and had no choice but to get on the first bus that came my way.
Unfortunately, the bus was filled to its capacity (the conductor had done his job well) and so I had to enter from the women’s compartment. While getting on, I had to take support of the handle which is at the entrance of the gate. In the rush of the bus not stopping and other passengers behind me urging to get on, I grabbed on and finally entered the bus. What I did not realise was that a woman had placed her hand on the handle as well and I had taken hold of her hand while getting on, purely by mistake. With a loud shriek, the woman almost pushed me out of the bus and then began shouting at the top of her voice, as to how I had ‘taken advantage of the crowd’ and abused her.
It was perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
Hence, men are in danger from both sides, either of being crushed under the tremendous amount of passengers from the male section or of being in constant fear that they might get off balance and fall on a comfortably seated woman, letting all hell loose.
The upper floor
People who say Karachi doesn’t have double-decker buses need a reality check. In Karachi, every bus has the capacity of becoming a double story vehicle – that is, of course, if the annoying conductor wants it to happen.
With brute force, the conductor takes advantage of the passengers’ need to travel and inconsiderately asks them to climb up on top of the bus, where there is virtually nothing but the upper part of the roof. Hence if someone slips or falls, they are either incompetent to travel on such a world class vehicle, or are too weak and so are ‘unmanly’.
Again, no woman is ever asked to go and climb on top of a bus. It is the men who get this treatment, regardless of scorching heat, rain or a bone-biting winter breeze waiting for them upstairs.
Getting off the bus
When was the last time a conductor pushed you off the bus, while it was moving on full speed, so that he can clear the doorway for other passengers?
In fact, most definitely never.
Well, this is almost a norm for men.
Men are treated far worse than women when they are about to board or depart the bus. In case of men, the driver never cares to slow down, let alone stop. Hence it’s a now or never situation. If they get off in time, great. If not, then tough luck. The smartest thing to do in this situation is to wait until a woman gets off the bus.
Because no matter how hurried the passengers may be, and no matter what the situation is, the bus ALWAYS stops for women, whether they are getting on or off it. The driver categorically hits the breaks and halts the vehicle, even in the middle of the road, for the women to get down with ease.
As if men do not have the need, or the right, to be subjected to such ease and kindness. I have slipped so many times while getting off the bus that I am surprised I am still in one piece!
So, in conclusion, dear women, yes men treat you unkindly, but in public buses, men are the victims, not women.
A bus symbolises the mental torture, humiliation, frustration, physical pain and in some cases, even injury, which awaits us before we board. So the next time you make a comment about how uncivilised men in buses are, think again.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.