As a teenager, I used to avail of public transport frequently. Buses had seats earmarked ‘ladies- only’. No self-respecting man worth his salt, dared occupy those ‘reserved’ seats, however pressing his need to sit might be. If an old man bowed with the load of his age or the weight in his hands dared to use one of those seats, perfectly healthy young nubiles would have him vacate the seat through piercing glares. Should a lady carrying an infant enter the bus, it would invariably be kindhearted men who would offer her a seat, while those occupying the ‘ladies only’ ones would remain glued to them looking the other way! I have had to see off my mother and, or sister on the train. They always travelled in ‘ladies only’ compartments. I had to help them with their luggage and help them find seats. Other ladies in the compartment would stare at the ‘male intruder’, as if I were some serial rapist! The most ‘feminist’ or two among them, believing firmly in their inviolable rights, would growl at me ‘this is a ladies-only compartment. Can’t you see?’ The reason for my presence in that hallowed spot, backed by my mother and, or sister would have them back off with an audible sigh and a matching gesticulation, leaving me thank my lucky stars, and God!
The attitude of the ‘weaker sex’ had me place chivalry high up on the list of ‘endangered species’. To me chivalry seemed to lose deserving takers back then.
But recently, two incidents had me change that perception. After a Sunday church service, I found myself jostling to get inside the impatient lift (as all modern lifts are wont to be these days) with an octogenarian aunt of mine. I backed off to make way for the respectable lady saying, ‘ladies first’, with a bow. She, to me looked taken aback. Once inside the lift together, she remarked ‘ah! A less chauvinistic Syrian Christian at last’. I felt like a knight in shining armor at that magnanimous remark from my aunt who had remarked ‘you’re a male chauvinist worse than St. Paul!’, only the other day. She must have got that impression from my writings, which I share with her for her feedback which I respected.
The second incident occurred at the hospital I work in. while waiting for my helper, whose services I needed, thanks to a disabling stroke, a well nourished lady seated before an outpatient clinic offered me a seat, which I declined respectfully, much to her surprise, (I thought). She watched me sympathetically walk away with a limp holding my helper’s hand.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, having grown up from those youthful days when I had almost written off chivalry and its relevance, I’ve come to believe chivalry is indeed alive and kicking even today through these incidents in which I was the benefactor and beneficiary respectively!