Navigating metro etiquette: The struggle of offering seats in Hyderabad

This was my life now — daily taking a seat and waiting for someone who deserved it.
Hyderabad metro
Hyderabad metro

HYDERABAD: Generally, I think of myself as a rebel, mainly because I don’t wear matching socks. But the speed and efficiency of the Hyderabad Metro have melted my rebellion into obedience. I stand in line, never cross the yellow line, and never carry inflammable objects — all because the baritone metro voice asks me to.

Most of my rides are hunky-dory, except when I take my seat and read the sign that says “Offer your seat to anyone in need.” What happened to “Ladies Only” or “Reserved for Senior Citizens”?

By now, I’m quite used to being obedient, but this new request to look out for anyone in need is quite a task. Who is “anyone”? What is a “need”? I can barely find two matching socks; how am I supposed to figure out the needs and wants of strangers?

Here’s an anecdotal account of me offering a seat to the needy:

The other day, I was sitting in my Metro seat — I always get a seat because I start from Miyapur. I saw a working man. He was aging, with white hair, burdened with a laptop bag, and visibly tired. So I thought it would be nice to offer a seat to this old man coming from work. When I got up and offered him my seat, he looked around for who I was offering the seat to. When he realised it was him, he looked embarrassed — the same look I had when kids started calling me “uncle.” He took the seat, sat down sadly, and checked his salt-and-pepper hair, probably wondering if this look was overrated. It was the most awkward ride I ever had until Ameerpet.

Next time, I decided not to make the same mistake. This time, I checked properly. There was an old man with wrinkles and a grandson, so I was sure this wasn’t some random George Clooney heading to Tech Mahindra. I got up and offered my seat, only to find out that the grandpa gave his seat to his grandson. I realised I had given my seat to fresh legs that had been on earth for not more than a dozen years. I stood by the door, staring at this kid and thinking, “Where are your manners, kid? I’m much older than you. Get up and offer me a seat!”

By now, I started to lose faith in humanity. I thought I’d ignore any kind of need and just pretend to read a book. But this time, there were two perfectly old people — no confusion there. The problem was, there was only one seat — mine. I had to, out of no choice, check out two old women and figure out who was older. A woman’s nightmare, to be honest. I hated it but had to do it for the greater good.

This was my life now — daily taking a seat and waiting for someone who deserved it. Until one day, I broke my hand and had it in a sling. I thought to myself, “I should take the metro now and finally redeem all my good karma from offering seats.” With my research in finding the right candidate, I almost got booked for eve teasing. Today, I was the one in need, clearly disabled with a plastered hand infused with painkillers. With a pity look, I stood by the seats, holding onto the railing with my only working hand, hoping to bless anyone who offered me a seat. After five stops, no one offered me a seat.

That’s when I judged society for being unhelpful. They couldn’t see the plight of my plastered hand. I thought to myself, “I must be the only Good Samaritan in this city.” I held onto that feeling until the crowd thinned, and then I realised I had actually entered the ladies’ section.

(The writer’s views are his own)

Sandesh Johnny

@johnnykasandesh

(This comedian is here to tell funny stories about Hyderabad)

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