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“Agla station Vishwavidyalaya hai”: musings from the Yellow Line

As usual, there was plenty of unoccupied seating. “Forever thankful for the women’s coach”, I thought to myself as I plopped down. Two empty seats away, a grey-haired aunty was knitting away. She smiled at me when I sat down.

For most of us studying at Delhi University, the Yellow Line was a happy respite from the heat of North Campus. For me, the women’s coach was a happy respite from the entire world. It was just women; I could sit comfortably, talk to my friend about anything I wanted, and check my messages without someone peeping into my phone. Most importantly, every day, for the fifty minutes to college and back, I sat amongst some amazing women: women who used different shades of foundation and women who didn’t use it at all; short-haired women and women whose plaits I envied; women in skirts and women in salwars.

It felt like we all shared space and time together both on this journey and on our respective journeys in life. Everyone had a different story, and while there was no storyteller, I imagined in my head where each woman was coming from, where they were going, and why. It seemed like fate had tied us together for one-twenty-fourth of a day, just to remind us that we were in this together. I could see my past in the seven-year-old girl opposite me who kept adjusting her pigtails, and my future in the older ladies who peered into their phones chalking out a to-do list for the day.

It was not that the general coach wasn’t for me. I sat there more than I did in the women’s while traveling with my friends to explore obscure parts of Delhi. Although sometimes, when I was going to college alone or with a girlfriend, I would head straight to the “Ladies only” marker. “There is something about this coach”, I often thought. Our own utopia. There were no men, no unsolicited glances or advances, and no need for adjusting of skirts while sitting. There was no barrier in the air that told us to be on guard, watch out, or keep our radar up.

As I sat there, I remembered how it was just in the women’s coach that the seats reserved for the PwD category were actually kept free for them. I remembered how new mothers could breastfeed, while their co-passengers held their bags. I remembered back in 2017, when I was much younger, how everyone sat in complete silence together the day after the Unnao rape case was brought to light.

There were divides too, of course. I could see chic, put-together ladies in coats and jeans look absurdly at loud saree-clad women with bags of vegetables from Chawri Bazaar; hear college girls whisper about someone four seats away “She’s from that college you know, waha ki ladkiyan aisi hi hoti hai” (Girls from that college are like that only).

Despite all that, the coach brought us together like no Instagram post with the hashtag #womenempoweringwomen ever could. If you were on the coach on a lucky day, you might see everyone’s efforts directed towards making a fellow passenger’s baby stop crying, listen to an old lady narrate how she successfully changed metro lines from Rajiv Chowk, or see a girl blush as her co-travelers complimented her dress.

My personal favourite was the collective “ugh” when men deliberately entered the metro from the women’s coach, and the consequent rolling of eyes. Some women actually called them out, “Bhaiya, aapko platform pe ladies only nahi dikha kya” (Brother, didn’t you see ladies only mentioned on the platform?). When the embarrassed and hopefully, ashamed men ran off to the general compartment, all of us had a smile on our faces.

Most of all, I loved to observe the women who ate in the metro. I looked at college girls eating their breakfast and discussing where they could go after college; women already busy on a call and dressed in a white shirt, hair pulled into a long ponytail munching on a sandwich; mothers giving their children biscuits to munch upon. Sometimes strict-eyed women with their masks firmly affixed to their faces glared at them, but no one ever said anything.

This is what I loved about my little home on the Yellow Line Metro. Women from all ages, all castes, classes, and creeds, on a journey together. It made my heart warm and my soul hopeful.

And as the familiar voice announced, “Agla station Vishwavidyalaya hai” (The next station is Vishwavidyalaya), I couldn’t help but wait to get back to my peaceful, precious women’s coach.

This Night Owl Original has been authored by Shiuli Sural. She is a second-year history student who spends her time reading and writing. She is passionate about Greek mythology and menstrual equity. Her favorite Greek goddess is Athena. Shiuli is the founder of A Sanitary Gift initiative, aimed at menstrual equity.


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