They’re all over; buses, trains, cabs, and now, an all woman police station in Mumbai! Ladies Specials they’re called! Buses, on which only ladies can board, so also trains, designated cabs and a police station with only women police personal! And each time we create a new ‘special’, we men smile, look at each other with pride, and think we’ve done something special for our women!

What we’re actually doing is putting them in cages.

“We are caging you to protect you!”

“We are taking away your mobile phones to keep you pure!”

“We aren’t sending you to school, to safeguard you!”

A few years ago, my daughter became an anchor for a TV channel, a much sought after post. “Dad!” she asked, “Any words of advice?”

“Yes!” I told her, “Be a man in a man’s world!”

“A man?” she’d asked, “Why?”

“Because to compete,” I’dsaid looking into her eager eyes, “Don’t get pushed into a ladies special where you are expected to shed tears when upset, scream when angry, show vulnerability when you want something! Be tough just like the men around you and compete on an even keel!”

She did.

I hear about Love Jihad groups roaming the country, out to protect women from one faith against so called wily men of another! Do they really think their women so stupid, they would fall in love so easily? Or, are they actually unsure of themselves and insecure about keeping and holdingtheir woman’s love? So, what do they do?Put them in a Ladies Special with barbed wired windows!

Ssshhh! I hear the sound of a Ladies Special coming and see a few heads looking out at me, saying, “Stop congratulating us for being the secret behind a successful man, instead start saluting us for being successful ourselves!”

‘Stop telling us we look beautiful! Start telling us it’s our inner beauty you admire!”

“Stop praising us for our stereotype roles in your films as mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, instead celebrate us as individuals, independent of relationships!’

I look inside the Ladies Special and someone inside looks me in the eye and says, “Stop looking at me from a convenient male viewpoint. Let me be imperfect, whimsical, irresponsible, lazy, fierce, opinionated, loud, flabby, ungroomed, adventurous, unpredictable, unprepared and impractical like you Bob, are happy at being!”

There are others around me, and suddenly someone unlocks the cage and asks the ladies to come out. I hear the sound of drums, of music,and as the ladies stream outon the roads and on the platforms, men and the once caged women dance in happy abandon together, the men, respectful in their behavior and women confident in handling anything untoward.

And then together they towthe Ladies Special coach into the backyard of Indian history..!

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