More Equal than Others
I realize this while you and I disembark from the train. Having put your luggage on the platform at the railway station, I have an epiphany.
How you make that innocent face, how you squint those antimony-lined eyes, how your small, manicured fingers fidget with the sling of The Heavier Bag – all in an attempt to make the logistics easier.
I wonder how it is that you demand gender equality in all things and stomp your leg on the ground for reservations to be made based on sex, knowing, but never acknowledging, that equality is as equally impractical as it is illogical.
“The bag is really heavy, you know.” (Yes ma’am, I just helped you lift it, without any help from you.)
I wonder how it is that sometimes you can call me in the morning to frivolously inform me that you will not be able to attend the class on that day, and a proxy will be helpful.
“Too bad it doesn’t have wheels to roll it.” (I can see that. Even my duffel and holdall don’t.)
I wonder how it is that when at times The Professor calls up for attendance the entire class, you arrive a little late and usually get away with an excuse. And later, you catch up with me to say that I should have called you up with the information a little earlier than some insignificant girlfriend of yours.
“Isn’t there a ramp or an escalator here?” (Look around; your guess is as good as mine, even if your height is not.)
I wonder how it is that on some evenings, you can just sit on the ledge of The Terrace and from afar gently beckon to me on the tennis court to leave the pleasure of sports and join you there.
When I consent – you talk and I am got to talking about nothing but what He said to Her, She said to Him or She said to Her. Or if the setting is fortunate, how in life only one random philosophy is tenable; and how somehow your present (or past) stand (or conduct) on one random matter (be it behavioural propriety, social donations at various occasions or educational excellence in college laboratories) is somehow concordant with that one absolute supreme tenet. And to cap the conversation, you put a decorous - “But why! I had just come up here to enjoy the weather. There is nothing to obstruct the breeze here, you see.”
When I don’t consent - you talk and Mr. XY is got to talking about nothing but what He said to Her, She said to Him or She said to Her. Or if the setting is fortunate, how in life only one random philosophy is tenable; and how somehow your (or past) stand (or conduct) on one random matter (be it propriety, social donations or educational excellence in college laboratories) is somehow concordant with that one absolute supreme tenet. And oh, the wind is blowing and there are beaming smiles on The Terrace.
Meanwhile, the score here is five games to nil, forty points to love in the sixth game. Coming into the present third set (having already lost the two preceding sets), I realize that I might have got irrevocably behind in The Game. If I don’t make up, I will end up losing The Match! No smiles here, just bitter cringing.
“The syllabus is vast. The books are many. Oh, this deadweight!” (Same pinch. Ditto!)
I wonder how it is that sometimes after dinnertime, you can swoop into my room to talk, ask if I am in possession of some particular movie, or, what is the name of the melody which you happened to listen to on my mobile phone, et al. You shuffle through the day’s events and the problems, and slowly slide into our casual discourse your plan to have a walk on The Other Terrace (that has earned the name of ‘The Rendezvous’ and ‘The Stomping Ground’)– something to pass the time. So a tête-à-tête under the moonlit sky, under the Orion, ensues at the place which, if Rumour is to be believed, is your purlieu for conversations like these with anyone agreeing to lend you a patient ear. Once there, you complain about your incumbent responsibilities. You insinuate. And people (singing, whistling or just quietly passing by) sneak their heads in to see to whom the close silhouettes on The Other Terrace belong. The people, you say, can’t mind their own business. Then, with a sudden insouciance, you resume your diatribe.
“Why did this godforsaken train have to stop here of all places? If it had halted at Platform Number 1, there wouldn’t have been any problems.” (We boarded the train from Platform Number 1 on our onward journey. I remember that even then the infernal bags were a problem!)
I wonder how it is that you need a cortege to escort you on your travel home on leave. And if (God forbid) you are returning alone, you call me up, at say.... an hour past midnight, and offhandedly inform that your train is arriving within the hour. It is late, you say. There is no one to pick you up at the station, you say. “Your bike has petrol”, you assert or ask (I can’t tell). I answer in the affirmative. I collect the Key from the Inquisitive Two-Wheeler-Co-Owner and well, the following day, headlines have spread all over the place - Damsel in distress – Brought back to The Hostel by Galahad.
“Porter! Porter! Where is a porter?” (Present, ma’am!)
I wonder how it is that I have come to being the butt of the rampant banter. That golden age of being unencumbered seems like only yesterday. How is it that I am in this snare: this no-man’s, yet every-man’s land?
“Forty four degrees. Humid. God!” (Yes, it is all God’s fault!)
I wonder how, while it is “entirely inappropriate” of us men to walk about in vests, it is “modern and adaptive” of you to come outside in Those Hot Pants. You enjoy the liberty of picking whatever suits you from amongst our lot, without such a trace of consideration as I would like. ‘Veni Vidi...I chose as I willed’. You compare and balance pros and cons. Someone’s Ability to Swim might be pitted against someone’s Academic Aptitude. Someone’s Musculature and Strength against someone’s Sense of Humour. But a sound judgement is not guaranteed. It might be someone’s Nothing against someone’s Overall Excellence, and still the verdict could come out against what the sense of any wise jury would see prevail. And then there is The Personal Space - a panacea for all your problems, and an anathema to us. You can’t seem to have enough of it. We can’t have any of it. The very fact that due to all this some men have been led astray to The Guitar, some to The Ghazal, some to The Smoke and others to The Drink is painful. Isn’t it?
Well, it is. And I will do something about it. Enough of all this indolence on my part and all that insolence on your part. To hell with acquiescing to any feigned female guilelessness. You seek Equality? Ye seek and ye shall find. I will place and balance everyone on the same scales. No one is innocent. Naivety is a crime. No more falling for any sugar-coating. To hell with Chivalry. It is an antiquated concept, anyway; just some cooked-up balderdash of The Middle Ages. Action, from now on. Goodbye to Ethical Sloth.
“Oh!” You check your watch strapped to the slender, demure wrist that I once silently fell in love with.
There is a whistle from the locomotive. The train brimming with passengers slowly starts. The train of thought suddenly stops.
I throw one of my bags over my shoulders. The other, I grasp with one hand. I pretend to be looking with unusual interest at the train standing at the adjacent platform. My peripheral vision is concentrated at the Luggage Situation.
Perhaps you have given up any hope you might have had. You secure a tight grip on The Heavy Bag. You try to lift it with both arms. You falter once but finally it is over your shoulders. You sigh, you puff. Then just as you are bending over The Heavier Bag lying on the platform, I hear my own renegade voice -
“Wait, Miss. Let me carry that for you.”
“Oh, thank you so much.” You turn your head and straighten up. And then you smile. There is a gentle tap on my elbow. And a little lustre in your lovely, lucid eyes.
Oh, what would I not give? Or lift, if that is what is needed.