Sunday, 9 September 2007


I showed my boarding card to the airline official at the gate, had my hand baggage tag checked by the policeman and got into the waiting bus. My ticket to Delhi had cost me a grand total of Rs. 99 (plus taxes of course!). Still it was cheaper than anything you could have imagined as recently as five years ago. Flight travel has become more affordable than it ever was.

The bus slowly filled up and as it did, my look of dreamy anticipation turned into a frown and then an audible grimace as a woman bumbled in and dropped her bag right over my foot. I just about managed to keep my tongue civil and polite. I took a second look at her and the grimace became disgust. I was so obviously traveling with someone less educated, less privileged than me.

It sounds very nice on the dinner table to comment on how the "standard of living" is improving and how once elitist modes of travel such as flights are becoming accessible to all thanks to liberalisation, competition and low cost airlines! However, as I realised the day before yesterday on that bus, the biases remain. I wasn't very happy when I saw the crowd around me, when I found some of the men staring at my clothes. And then I wonder whether such an equality was a desirable thing?

The elite do hate giving up on their privileges. I like the feeling of exclusivity and so no wonder it is not easy to fight or change the system. We are all too comfortable in the little space that our privileged position allows us to negotiate and live our lives with relatively more freedom. To risk losing that space that comes with belonging to a certain class or caste is not easy, after all it does help me fight oppression as a woman! And so we live in a world of illusory freedom and equality and to get rid of the biases requires an herculean effort (as I am discovering! I still don't know if I want to get rid of them at all!).

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