No room for reservations

No room for reservations

Aditya was happy that day for he was to start his first job at a firm in south Mumbai. Living in a suburb far from the city, he would find himself at his destination not before an hour’s travel. He is a young man in his late teens and my neighbour, whom I call a ‘friend’ despite our age gap. A mimic and a humorist, he is well-liked by fellow students in his college.

He hopped onto the train with effortless ease, as if he were a veteran commuter, and upon finding an empty seat, rushed to occupy it. However, two other passengers who were in the adjacent seats wouldn’t let him. They said that the empty seat was meant for their friend who would be boarding at the next station. The boy obliged, although the prospect of travelling standing until another seat fell vacant was quite strenuous.

Aditya was amazed because reservations in a local train sounded very strange to him, though this was his maiden suburban train travel at peak hour. These reservations, he learnt very soon, were by such passengers who could foist their might on fellow commuters and make them easily succumb to pressure tactics. Highhandedness by gangs in suburban trains is notorious. Only the other day one read a report that a passenger got dislodged from his seat by a group of commuters who wanted to sit together and gossip.

The following day, Aditya again sat on the empty seat next to the previous day’s duo. They reminded him, “You forgot what we had told you yesterday, young man? Get up, our friend will be joining us soon.” And then, as if he needed their permission to occupy a seat, they said in a condescending tone, “But if you want to sit until then, do so. We have no objection.” Though he got vexed, his smile masked his anger.

At the next station, their friend got in and the duo told Aditya, “Come on, man, enough sitting. Now get up.” Aditya continued to smile and stayed put in his seat. This made the trio angry and when they proceeded to push him away from the seat, the young man thundered, “Gentlemen, look, I don’t need your permission to occupy a vacant seat as I hold a first-class pass which sufficiently entitles me to do so. Are you not aware that you can only reserve your seat in a long-distance train, and not in the local trains? Come on, I challenge you to dislodge me from my seat.”

They were shell-shocked for they had never experienced such sort of defiance before. They realised that they were dealing with a tough guy who stands an inch or two above six feet and hefty to boot and wouldn’t take things lying down. Timidly, they shrank back in their seats. There was a rush of admiration for Aditya from other passengers who had been watching the interesting happenings with rapt attention. He was the cynosure of all eyes!