I will never again complain of being protected too much, because sometimes stringent shields make my life easier

For someone who skipped from an all-girls convent right into a women’s college, I knew the perks and drawbacks of being surrounded by hushed whispers and restroom gossip on makeup, men and menstruation.

I even skirted, briefly, the testosterone-pumped gyms that promised daily viewing of glistening six-packs and protein shake-guzzling masculinity, choosing a powdery pink ladies’ gym instead. My parents were more than happy, of course. I reluctantly bore this abnormal separation of the sexes, in the name of education and safety.

But my happiness knew no bounds when, on the third day of commute to my office, I realised there was a ‘ladies special’ — a train dished out by the MRTS for women starving for space, and a break from roving eyes in the otherwise crowded trains, where men outnumbered women on any given day.

Gone were the spirited arguments against the stupidity of the women-fort, or the moat of conservatism that reduced co-ed extravaganzas to insignificant trickles. So relieved was I to breathe in air instead of the nook of a sweaty arm, and to not watch in mute horror at red jets of paan casually being expectorated through the windows at regular intervals.

I was also glad to not navigate the narrow compartments every evening to find space to sit. I even found no qualms in reaching office a good half-hour earlier just so I didn’t miss this golden transport. So, how did I, a person who found the ‘land of ladies’ only tiresome and frustrating, suddenly take pleasure in travelling with just the sisters?

It was when I realised that women do sometimes need safety. I realised this more so, when the deceivingly lanky, baton-wielding women cops, who travelled on the ladies special to ensure no man dared to step in, were absent.

As the train floating the banner of ladies-only luxury chugged into my station, I noticed a difference. Men were hanging from every nook and corner of the compartment meant exclusively for women. the tired working woman clutching her dripping umbrella, that bunch of giggling girls who need to get to Coffee Day, that sweet grandmother who was returning from the bank, and yes, for me.

What could I do? I am outspoken, yes, but I could not single-handedly nudge each and every man out of the train. So I climbed on and hung with the men, all the while darting — what I hoped to be — threatening glances at them.

But were they threatened? Not in the least. With no brave lady cop, or more accurately, her baton, mantling us, there was little possibility of scaring these men. Men, who knew that the train was meant only for women, seemed to find the whole situation funny. So there I was, hanging on, while my book, which I would have otherwise devoured, while kicking back by a window seat that promised sea , disheveled hair and glimpses of Indo-Saracenic architecture, lay inside my bag, sadly neglected.

I instead had to wait for these transgressors to heave themselves off the train when security guards at a station unceremoniously hauled them out. This happened every time the lady cops fail to turn up.

Men and women certainly cannot live mutually-exclusive lives. I will never again complain of being protected too much, because sometimes such stringent shields make my life easier. I can live with not having lived on the wild side, because, the wild side tends to creep up on us anyway, like the men in the ladies special.

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