Convergences and contestations
A preliminary reflection on our responses led us to derive certain commonalities between the passengers. A common thread connecting many female travellers was their constant juggling unpaid care work at home and paid jobs in offices. Some women’s routines started at 5:30 am and ended at 8 pm, these routines being a dizzying array of childcare, domestic work and a 9-to-5 job. One could see the fatigue in their faces. Many were daily commuters for over a decade and had forged a bond with their commute modes.
There were also divergences, especially between male and female travellers’ testimonies. Men felt more comfortable during their commute to work, while women expressed their tiredness and unease by the end of their commute. A significant reason behind this is the differential and often disproportionate share of domestic labour that working women (especially those who were married) were undertaking. Another difference was public transport patronage between men and women from the same family. When we asked women whether any other male members of their families travelled by public transport (in this case, the train), most of them stated that they used their bikes - something that could indicate that the men practice greater autonomy even during the commute. A majority of these reflections align with popular conceptions (or sometimes, misconceptions) of gender roles. However, there were outliers as well. One particularly enthusiastic respondent shared that he partook equally in household activities with his wife, beaming with pride. He also added that the long commute made him tired and joked that his procrastinating nature didn’t help this disruption of routines either. Another male respondent, while describing his experience overall as comfortable, complained about the uncertain waiting time to catch his train. This uncertainty often caused him to miss doing his namaz at home, which was highlighted during the interview. He says, “There are very less trains from Asangaon. I have to catch a train at 7:18 pm and it is almost 40 minutes now.” he adds with astonishment, “Forty minutes to wait for a train, in Mumbai, in 2022. Can you imagine?” We could not imagine either.
Most respondents depended on auto-rickshaws and informal transit for last-mile connectivity. Once again, there was a discrepancy in the auto-rickshaw patronage between men and women. Most of the male respondents used their bikes to cover the last mile, while women are dependent on modes like auto-rickshaw and even paratransit options like share autos. One woman recalled that auto-rickshaws were not always on time. She states “But one has to wait for auto-rickshaws, right?” Another lamented the pollution and construction debris she had to face every day while getting to the station, “There is so much dust and pollution, especially during traffic jams.” The path to the station seemed more perilous than the journey for her.
Webb, N. (2017). Survey: leading questions. In M. Allen (Ed.), The sage encyclopedia of communication research methods (pp. 1711-1711). SAGE Publications, Inc, https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483381411.n605