It was late in the evening and I was travelling home after a long day of work. The first class compartment of Mumbai’s local train was crowded, as usual. In the middle of the compartment stood a young woman and something about her, maybe the way she looked or may be the way she stood, caught my attention. I felt compelled to watch her as the stations went by.
She was beautiful. She had a lot of makeup on which isn’t that unusual for the first class but it was fairly different. She had a stole completely draped around her body and her body language said she trying to blend in but her there was something about her that ‘separated her from the crowd’.
I looked more closely and I noticed her clothes. A clear sign that she did not belong to the corporate working class who were traveling home, she was a bar dancer!
As more and more people came to the same realization, an uncomfortable tension grew as most could not accept her presence.
Some just stared.
Some looked away in disgust.
Some not so quietly whispered, we should ask her to leave.
Yet she stood there with quiet dignity, enduring the stares and her eyes communicated with each and every one of us. I still remember what those eyes conveyed –
You may be good with computers but I am good at entertainment. Professions don’t matter, at the end of the day we all work to run our homes. I might earn even more than you, so don’t you dare give me those looks. I have every right to be here!
In this atmosphere of judgment and condemnation, something extraordinary took place.
A group of young college girls were sitting by the window. They were watching us, watch her. They could see the distaste and disapproval for this young woman on the faces of their elders ‘their role models’. Yet they didn’t seem to embrace this attitude. The way they looked at her, differed.
They could see her quiet dignity and they respected her for it.
As one of the girls got up to leave, the difference between the college girls and the rest became abundantly clear.
The girl leaving smiled and offered the bar dancer the seat amongst her friends. It was almost as if they were silently offering to become a shield against the disapproving masses.
She looked stunned by the offer, her eyes soften and I could see tears which were held tight during the war of eyes rolling down her cheeks.
I was surprised at the gesture, the ease with which these girls accepted her, their humanity and so were other women in the compartment.
For most of us – increments, promotions, career are a never ending list of aspiration but for her, a little humanity and recognition from the so called ‘achhe ghar ki ladkiyaan’ must have been a life time achievement.
We only cry about our ‘dukh dard’ without realizing that a little gesture from our side could become a big reason for someone to live.
I was inspired not only with the bar dancer’s dignity and self respect but also with the way the next generation sees the world.
They taught me something that no Management book could ever teach me.
About Being Human!