Not Preity but fighting for seats is in Indian sub-culture

Seats are an extremely emotional issue. Especially in Mumbai or Kolkata, where the next world war threatens to unleash itself every day in local trains. Over? What else but seats!

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | June 17, 2014



So it’s a row over front-row seats that led to the Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia spat, you say? I say it’s way more serious an issue than to be merely dismissed with the irritated bat of an eyelid, or frustrated thwack on the thigh before both the complaint, the complainant and the accused are dissed.

Seats, trust me, are an extremely emotional issue. Especially in Mumbai or Kolkata, where the next world war threatens to unleash itself every day in local trains. Over? What else but seats! Window seats are premium. People can kill or get killed for one. The window seat facing the engine even more so – super-premium. Next comes the middle seat, for which people can bicker till they a) start coughing like there’s no tomorrow, b) the tomorrow actually comes, c) one of the bickerers faints, or d) whichever comes first.

Local trains must be the only place in India where a premium is put on the middle seat; nowhere else in a world that puts a premium on sanity would anyone want to be squeezed between two sweating figures. The aisle seat, meanwhile has to be shared with someone: either a fourth person would ask the occupant to move a bit to “adjust” his or her posterior, or with a fifth, sixth or nth person’s rear, tummy or shoulder (depending on the size, height, girth etc of person/s standing near or in front of you if you are either the adjustable third or adjusting fourth occupant of the third seat.)

All theories about the adjust quotient, of course, go straight out the window if you travel in first-class coaches of local trains. The adjustment does not happen there. No sir. You are considered either a rustic nonentity not worth a reply or a fashion designer from Neptune – and thereby not worth a reply – if you make that singular mistake of seeking a favour from the owner of the rear planted on the third seat. A cold stare would greet you; such that you would want to either jump off the train, vanish from the face of the earth that instant or, failing either, feel like paying no attention to provider of the said cold stare and instead stare blankly at the folded newspaper you are carrying.

The conversation that takes place before, after or amid all this seats-sharing could put some of our honourable legislators to shame – they outrage not only human modesty but even modesty of the most modesty. And in Delhi – where sociologists, psychologists, logicists and parapsychologists are toying with the idea of studying this new branch of behavioural science called ‘Delhi Metro war for seats when the train inches in’ and another set of slightly similar but equally different behavioural science called ‘DTC and the art of scientific harassment in crowded buses’ – the threats are often so vivid as to leave you livid for the remaining few of your years on planet earth.

Coming from that, and without casting aspersion on any claim/allegation/counter-claim/counter-allegation, the Zinta-Wadia spat seems like a fight worth following. So, which front seat did you say your uncle, who knows a colleague who knows the chief minister and the police chief and the hospital chief and the stadium chief and the chief of all chiefs, say he can guarantee for me?

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