Arvind Kejriwal & I
By Vijaya Pushkarna
It was a couple of days after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal decided to gift women free rides in buses run by the Delhi Transport Corporation ( DTC) .
I want to take a bus and see what it feels like, I told the husband.
You won't have to buy the ticket; otherwise the ride will be like before, he told me, trying to talk me out of it.
He was doing that because he would have to buy a ticket while I won't have to, I said, almost throwing a tantrum.
We got into the bus. The conductor was attending to some men who were buying their tickets. I jostled my way through them, asking for my pink ticket. “Mujhe ek pink ticket dijiye please" I said twice in ten seconds.
I could not wait to lay my hand on the ticket I had read about.
These men were looking at me like they had never seen a woman claiming her right to a pink ticket before, I whispered to the husband.
They have not, this is new, he said, in a tone I did not quite like. It was as if he said they wouldn't have seen a senior woman behave like she has never been in a bus before. Though he didn't say that.
I insisted it felt different, the bus ride. We had got to the next stop, and four men piled into the bus. There were no women, even though it was free for them.
They are not fools to get into the bus just because it is free, those who have urgent work will take the metro, he explained, not even keeping his volume low or concealing his irritation.
I decided to focus on my pink ticket instead. So cute, it has a picture of Arvind Kejriwal, I said, excited. What, his picture on the ticket? How cheap, replied the husband.
Unfazed, I decided to save the ticket carefully, just as I had stamps, match box labels, picture post cards etc decades earlier.
Our stop had come. See, we would have got here long time back if you had not wanted to take your free ride, he taunted. Was the ride any different?
It was, I said. The bus was not crowded. See, if this facility had been given for men, the buses would have been full of greedy men, wanting to get into the bus just for the heck of it, I argued.
A few days later, we were taking a public transport again. Take the bus, your ride will be free, you will get a pink ticket with Kejriwal' s picture on it, he said.
It is peak hour, I won't get toehold space, I said.
No no, free rides are your right, take the bus,he said.
I decided not to let down Kejriwal. He had done this for us women. There was even a woman Marshall, looking smart in her khaki uniform, as she sat on her designated seat, and spoke loudly on her mobile phone, all through the ride. The bus was packed with women! All the seats were reserved for mahila.
I have exhausted my pink tickets, but you just move forward, the conductor said.
Are there more women because it is free for them, I asked. The conductor said he couldn't say. But they won't be in this bus unless they had work, I suggested. Those who have to get to work quickly prefer the metro, he said.
No, but they are here because Kejriwal ji has given them this free ride benefit , I defended my sisters in the bus.
Yes, I know. In the last 3 months, I have come across two women who insisted on buying their ticket even though I handed them the pink tickets, the conductor said.
There was respect on his face for the two ladies who were not there.
Where are you, that was a WhatsApp message from the husband. In the bus, I replied. Enjoy , he responded. I had been in the bus for close to 90 minutes,
Next outing, I decided to give up the bus and go back to the metro which gave men and women 10% discount. And E Sreedharan, the Metro man, was my hero after all !
Later that day, as I chatted with Dinesh Kumar , the chaiwala at ITO, on Kejriwal's electoral prospects, he told me the women of his Geetha Colony neighborhood finish their household work by 11am, and are ready to go buy vegetables and groceries. Not in the market across, but from the Mandi an hour away. They enjoy the bus ride, it is loads of fun, and it is free, Dinesh said.
His tone and expression as he described their rides had me in deep dilemma. Should I go with E Sreedharan' s discounted metro..or grab a pink ticket with Kejriwal' s picture on it?
The husband was waving out as he brought the car just across, knowing I was undecided. Frantically, I ran and got into the car.
Why didn't you take the free bus? It is more sustainable than taking a car, he said.
I had only.one choice. Pretend I had not heard him
But seriously, the free rides that women get in DTC bus are a favour they will return the AAP leader. On poll day.