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She never focussed her energies too closely to analyse the gendered spaces while travelling in a bus. Mostly, buses had seats especially for women; so this made things easy. But this time the situation was different. She was on a district bus without ladies seat allocations and she was alone. There were too few women travelling by the bus to have separate seats. The conductor and bus driver did try to ensure the women were seated together. But some of the women got left out. She, however, was seated right behind the entry way near the aisle when a man came and asked her to budge. She obliged and tucked herself close to the window, her bags on her lap. She watched the view outside, on a mission to tune the man next to her out.

After a few brief moments, he settled into his seat and fell asleep. She kept looking between him and the changing landscape. Contrary to her adjustment and uneasiness, he occupied the space with a prerogative. She marvelled at the way he sat with his legs apart, head titled and completely at ease. There was an advantage that existed in his posture. One that he didn’t seem aware of and until recently, she hadn’t even noticed.¬†They had both paid the same Rs 93 for their seat. But he owned the space he sat in. She sat conservatively in hers.

Why did she not feel the comfort that he did? Was she scared? Or did men occupy space with more authority than women? She couldn’t place her finger on it. But throughout that four-hour bus journey she studied his active body language opposite of her passive, pulled back one. Maybe she could learn a few tips from him.

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Diverse spaces, inclusive spaces, public spaces, wide open spaces; spaces are so important in shaping ideas and thoughts. Good spaces create scope for interactions and nurse good discussions. But off late, I am discovering that the spaces I encounter have become dismissive and alienating. People pounce on each other when a contradicting remark slips into the conversation; there seems to be no room for difference of opinion. There is a tendency to get on the defensive and begin a screaming match. There seems a lack of tolerance to the polar opinion. Patiently listening has suddenly become a rarity. With regards to some topics like religion, a certain chief minister and other controversies are far worse. When I see this happening around me, I wonder what is needed for anyone to talk, discuss and argue without fear of being attacked? It seems simple to keep an open and cool mind, hear the other out and respond with your opinion. It isn’t so hard right? It shouldn’t be, anyway.

Yet, I find there are few such spaces.