I have a habit of going to all the markets that offer great bargains and high on the cheap thrill factor only during the day (noon), to avoid the crowd. This habit really took a great toll on me one day and by the time I was done with some good bargains in Karol Bagh I ran out of energy due to the soaring temperature. I boarded the blue line metro straight towards Noida from Karol Bagh. I was lucky enough that day to bag a seat all to myself. Just the very thought that I would be going all the way to Noida sitting in the air-conditioned ladies compartment gave me a little bit of rejuvenation.
While I was busy cozying myself up, I noticed a woman taking the seat to the front of me. She had a huge travel bag with her, a black one. She was talking over the phone and I overheard, she talked in some south-Indian dialect beyond my comprehension. After some time, her husband came to her to hand over their little baby of about 6-7 months. All the while, I tried profiling her or in a rather more relatable word ‘judging’ her. She might have been a techie or a scientist or an environmentalist or a housewife who was happy to follow her husband to his workplace in Delhi NCR all the way from South India. They might have decided to take the metro to save a few bucks to go to the railway station to start a pleasant vacation. She was a doting mother with a lot of calm in her, a simple, naive, inexperienced first-time mother trying hard to raise a little baby all by herself in a city so mechanical which is manifold faster than her quaint little hometown in south India. She had a sleek slender built and was dressed in a light green indo-western kurti with palazzo lowers. The city might have infused in her a pretty decent fashion sense. We had an awkward eye lock for a second, but instead of ignoring it completely she passed me a smile and I smiled back complacently.
I shifted my focus to the other woman sitting next to her. A confident working woman with her earplugs plugged in. She was apparently grooving in her favorite genre of music musing into her own world and stuffing her mouth with fruits and chips. She donned a smart shirt tucked in black formals matching with a pair of chic nude heels. Then I looked both of them in one frame, they were so much in contrast. In the mother, I saw simplicity and compassion and in the other I just felt the vibes of apathy from her cold brown eyes. She might have decoded the secret of surviving and adjusting in the fast-mechanical city.
Suddenly I saw the mother handing over the baby back to her husband who came from the adjacent mixed coach. She started exchanging words with the smart woman. I sensed anxiety in her mannerism and voice. The smart woman started searching for something in her bag, one after the other compartment in her bag. I looked back at the mother again, this time she stood up and awkwardly tried checking the back of her kurti. I spontaneously blurted out, “You need a sanitary pad?” She just nodded in affirmation. I handed over the pad and the smart woman handed her some tissues and even helped her in wiping out the ‘leaked’ red stains from the seat. The young mother was almost in a panic when she saw the menstrual blood stain on her kurti. The woman next to her tried calming her down and gave her directions to the public toilet in the metro station that she could use. The smart woman helped her with her travel bag as the mother struggled her way towards the metro door to de-board. She held one corner of her kurti with her hand attempting to hide the stain. The metro slowed down and the door was about to open, I could see the panic on her face, the fear of humiliation of menstrual blood leak.
A middle-aged woman sitting next to me said to me in Hindi, “Thank God that you were actually carrying a pad, she should have known about her dates, no? So irresponsible!! Doesn’t look good, no? Very bloody affair…….” The door opened and the mother managed to get herself and her bag out with the help of the smart working lady. All this while the woman next to me was feeding my ears with her take on the situation and “woman’s responsibilities” during menstruation, but my mind and eyes were glued to the mother. I saw her husband taking the bag from her, she was holding her kurti corner and hurried towards the toilet, in anxiety, in embarrassment. The metro started again, slowly picking momentum. I just hoped that she could reach the closed doors of the toilet soon to end her discomfort.
I looked back at the smart lady, she had lost her seat in her attempt to help the young mother to carry her travel bag out. I kept staring at her while she plugged back her earplugs and drifted herself back to her own world of monotony. A world where she is bound to shield her compassionate self with those cold eyes to camouflage, a world where people can even bargain emotions and barf out all the sensitivities to match up to their fast pacing lives. We had an eye contact, those eyes were the same that had been cold, but this time I saw a flaming warmth in her eyes. I got a warm vibe of empathy this time. Amidst all the hypocrisy, the solidarity still remains intact and in its purest form.