Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chivalry is dead these days.... or not!!

Chivalry is a much debated topic in these modern times. Whether its about how much is too much (Sir Walter Raliegh laying down his coat over a puddle to let Queen Elizabeth cross it) or too little (opening doors, offering seats), to the feminists vehemently calling it a violation of their rights to equality (I know of friends who refuse to take the ladies' seats in buses etc), chivalry is popularly discussed amongst us. But whether chivalry is dead these days, I am never able to make up my mind!

A few months ago I was travelling from Delhi to Mumbai. When we landed in Mumbai, and got into the bus which transfers to the airport, 2 people were discussing how Delhiites are such MCPs while Mumbaiites are more chivalrous, taking an example within the bus of a man, who was contentedly sitting on a seat while a lady next to him was standing, looking uncomfortable. I heard the comment but felt bad for the guy, cuz I did see his gesture towards to woman to offer her a seat, but she herself refused.

Though I don't know if there was any merit in this statement, and having lived in and loved both Mumbai and Delhi I was unable to decide.... when 2 incidents occurred on my recent trips to Delhi which both asserted as well as refuted that statement of Delhiites not being chivalrous.

In my first incident I was visiting a doctor with my mother. I went up to the clinic to have a quick meeting and get back, while my mother stayed back in the car. As soon as I got back and started to leave, I realised the key had got stuck and something inside the ignition had broken because of which I could not start the car. Now the car was parked on the roadside, not a parking, as I had intended to be there only for a few minutes. But we were now stuck on the busy roadside, where soon our car was a hindrance to the already very heavy traffic.

Soon the traffic policeman came and asked us sternly to remove the car from there ASAP. We tried to explain the situation to him, but to no avail. We called a helpline, who promised to be there in half hour, but eventually turned up more than an hour later. All that while we were continuously harassed by the policemen, and were forced to move the car on neutral, manually. Mom and I got out and started to push the car towards a nearby lane. The road was unsuitable and our strength not enough to make much headway... I looked around and saw we were near a bus stand and just next to us many people, all men, were standing. But in spite of seeing two women haplessly trying to move a car by themselves, not one guy budged. They kept standing there watching the tamasha! I got really pissed and asked someone to help... and not a single guy came forward.. they just stared at me shamelessly! I told them off, telling them what a shame it was that they would not help two women in distress... not one guy felt ashamed enough to come up to help even then. I was so pissed off that day, I can express. Downright shameful behaviour, like I have never seen before. No feeling of humanity in anyone! That day I made up my mind, that indeed Delhi men were a bunch of asses.

Till I changed my mind a few weeks back, on another trip to Delhi. That day mom, dad and I were travelling to my in-laws' place, which is a good 35 km away. We had barely left our house that it started to drizzle and 2 km into the journey, we had a flat tyre! Now we had a spare, but it was raining, and we were dressed for an outing, and I was with my 55 and 65 yr old parents... Nevertheless Dad and I got out and started to work on replacing the tyre, while mom tried to hold up an umbrella for us.. again we asked a few rickshaw-walas to help... we even offered money. But no one bothered. Dad refused to let me do the hard work, and started working on removing the tyre while i assisted him. Seeing him do this brought tears in my eyes, less out of sadness and desperation and more out of frustration on the lack of some good samaritans in this city! When suddenly a Wagon R stopped and a middle aged and an old man came out, both of them with folded hands saying "Bhaisaab, can we be of any help in any way?" And then they took over, refusing to let any of us help, and both of them (the old man with an injured hand too) changed the tyres in the pouring rain, and ensured all was well, before bidding us good bye. I did not know how to thank them, not that they asked for anything. I wanted to express my thanks in some way, but giving money for example, felt like an insult to their genuine help and concern. So we all just thanked them profusely with words and bid them good bye and good luck.

And that is how I came back to square one.

Since then I have thought about this and various other experiences and incidents and though, with the attitude towards women being much better in Mumbai than in Delhi, Ive come to a conclusion that chivalry is very much alive, even if in a few men, and no matter what the statistics reveal, I think it has nothing to do with the country or city or religion or education... A true gentleman can be of any caste, age, background, and touch your life out of the blue in unexpected ways, and make you feel truly, like a lady!