No, I am not talking about the seat acquisition game that is part and parcel of Mumbai locals – where you struggle and strategize to outwit fellow passengers to get seats on trains.
What I want to talk about is perhaps more complex. We went to York this weekend – just a day trip to one of my favourite places. Our return train was late by half an hour and we heaved a sigh of relief when we finally boarded.
After we settled down in our seats with reasonable commotion, hubby went off to visit the loo. Within the seconds the ticket collector came asking the recently boarded passengers for tickets. Now, usually, the passengers who have boarded the train at the last station immediately hand out the tickets and the TC does not ask each and everyone. In our case, hubby had the tickets and he was not there. The rest of us made no attempts to tell the TC that we need to show our tickets and he just passed us by.
Now there was this lady probably in her mid 50s who was sitting opposite me a few seats away. She had a big round face with a straight nose, sharp blue eyes that looked down on everything around, frown lines creasing her forehead, curly auburn hair cut in a nice bob and a scowl on her face which was perhaps permanent. She seemed the kind of person who was completely pissed off with life.
When she scowled at me, I thought that she thought that we don’t have tickets and hence didn’t show them to the TC. She eyed me with this haughty contempt look. There was this another lady sitting next to her who was probably her sister. She murmured something to her and the sister started laughing with little interest in the matter. Now then this lady again swept the compartment with a disdainful look and looked at me as if I was utterly unworthy to be sitting there.
This all happened before hubby returned to our seats and I gave him a quick update. The saint took one look at her and said that she is probably frustrated with her life in general and it is none of her business whether we have our tickets or not. (This is why I think men don’t understand visual cues and body language!)
To add to her frustration, we soon got out our snacks of bread and chutney, cheese, khakra, chiwda and got into a discussion. Now I am the kind of person who gets angry with such behaviour. I hate being made to feel wrong when I am obviously not wrong. In this situation however, I had no opportunity to perpetuate the anger/rudeness/contempt by talking to her as she got down at the next station.
Oh how I would have loved to fan out our tickets like a pack of cards or even better, make everyone rush to the next compartment in the false pretext of not having tickets just to irritate her further when the TC came back later.
I hate not being able to give back!