Sitting in the Ladies Car is a Privilege
NEW DELHI, India—Unlike the rest of the cars in the New Delhi metro, the ladies car is tidy, uncrowded, and quiet. The air conditioning mingles smells of freshly ironed fabrics and soft perfumes. Words are hushed and conversation is light, but the dress is loud and colorful. It is a break from getting hassled in the streets and bothered on the buses. We are separated, yet we are still being watched. Through the open entryway male passengers in the connecting car leer unabashedly.
“I think they’re jealous,” I tell my mom, “packed in that car, all wearing a similar shade of beige.”
I feel grateful for whatever invisible force is barring the men from entering our car. None of them attempt to cross the threshold, yet they are all turned, watching us.
I stare back. In this space I feel safe—safe enough to play chicken with at least one mustachioed man. I refuse to break my gaze, coupled with my signature stank face. The train enters the station and the man looks away. I bathe in the glory of victory. The lady of the ladies car wins. Yet the feeling quickly fades once we step off the train, and I see the man watching me again through the crowded terminal.