On 9/7/2012 I came across an incident in the bus from Secunderabad to Lingampalli in Hyderabad. In the Hyderabad public transport buses, the ladies sit in front with two seats reserved for the physically handicapped and challenged (PHC), while the gents sit at the back of the vehicle. On most days, these buses are overflowing with people, and while the bus was rather empty when I got in, it soon filled up. Many women were standing, with the PHC seats occupied.
There was one man standing behind me, and I could feel his stare upon my back, though I was turned away from him. It made me slightly apprehensive and so, I moved a little behind, putting a bit of distance between the two of us. However, he soon moved towards the right side where I was standing and stood in front of me, brushing against me in the process. It was just once, and I scoffed it off with a mere general curse.
There was a lady beside me who had spotted this and she looked at me and shook her head vehemently (as though saying ‘no’ to me). I did not understand what she meant. Slowly the bus filled up and more women clambered into the front portion of the vehicle. There was a lady who ended up standing right in front of that man. She seemed to look uncomfortable, but did not say anything. From the glances that we were giving the man it was evident that none of us wanted him there. Soon, he held up his left hand with the help of his right, in the process brushing against the woman in front of him. It was only then that we realised that he was physically challenged, with one hand paralysed. It was this that the other lady was signalling, saying that we ought not to speak against him, since he was challenged!
Yet, with his hand as an excuse, he would constantly push against the woman in front of him. We asked if he wanted to sit down. He refused. He was beginning to irk everyone. Soon, that woman got down, and another lady replaced her, ending up in front of this guy. Almost immediately, she started yelling at the man. By this time, we were all telling him to go back, get down or get a seat in the PHC area. He adamantly refused. Initially I’d assumed that he was going to get down, but this was not the case. Even after all of us yelling at him, he chose to act like his pride was wounded, and that a physically challenged man could never brush against women. What is worse, that woman who had been beside me and had shaken her head in a ‘no’ when I yelled at this man supported him, bringing upon herself the severe wrath of the women around her. The conductor chose not to listen to any of this commotion (probably because he too brushed against women, as he passed to and fro collecting tickets).A bus full of women and none of us could evoke a change in those stupid men over there. I felt helpless; I didn’t know what to do. Though I was not directly involved, I felt angry and useless. Worse still, that man who caused so much problem for all the women around him was getting support from other women just because of his disability, using it to evoke pity. That infuriated me even more. And yet, there was nothing ANY of us could do! We were, so to speak, handicapped.