Making something ‘better’ does not always mean gigantic, world-changing steps. Sometimes it can also be a small moment, perhaps over-the-top in this case, but still, a sign of better things to come.
The Indian Railways saw a similar moment on Monday, when they responded to a request by a male friend of a woman, via a tweet.
The man, who tweeted to the Union Railway Minister directly, wanted the authorities to arrange for pain relief tablets and sanitary pads for his friend.
Not only did the railway authorities acknowledge his request, but also arranged to meet the health requirements at the earliest.
Although the situation in question was not life-threatening and did not require messaging the Union Minister of Railways, the fact that Vishal Khanapure, a man, did it and that the Railways responded to it, is a positive sign in the larger scheme of things.
Here’s what happened
Vishal was aboard the Bengaluru-Ballari-Hospet train, when his friend found herself in a difficult spot. She had started menstruating soon after boarding the train. This train leaves Bengaluru at 10.15 pm and reaches Ballari at 9.40 am the following day.
On the way to Ballari, she confided in Vishal and told him she was unprepared.
Vishal, who hails from Kalaburagi and works in Hyderabad, took charge of the situation and using his presence of mind, decided to seek help from the Indian Railways Seva.
According to a report in The Times of India, as the train was leaving Yesvantpur at 11 pm, Vishal tweeted to the Railways.
“It’s an emergency please…one of my friends is travelling on Hospet Passenger…(followed by seat details) is in need of Meftal Spas tablets. Please help her,” he tweeted.
The response of the Railways was quick.
“At 11.06 pm, an officer reached my friend and confirmed her requirements and took down her PNR details and mobile number. At 2 am, when the train reached Arasikere station, officials of the Mysuru division were ready with all the items she had sought. We are all surprised by the quick response,” Vishal told TOI.
Thanks to the immediate response of the railway authority, the young woman received the pads and medicines in time.
“Such requests are often made to us through tweets or on 138. We are always ready to help passengers,” an officer told the publication.
Moved by their gesture, Vishal took to Twitter to thank them on behalf of his friend too.
While Indian Railways deserves to be lauded for the help, the situation highlights the changing attitudes within the country. Perhaps even as little as ten years ago, seeing a man publicly demand hygienic solutions for his female friend’s periods would be surprising.
Moreover, the prompt request from an institution of public authority like the Indian Railways, might have raised many eyebrows.
While periods are a completely biological process, as a country, we remain largely unprepared to ensure women have access to the minimum at such times.
Moments like these, however, do show us that things are changing, and for the better.
We must not forget that this incident also sheds light on how we need railway stations, trains and public washrooms to be more period-friendly.
Although Vishal could access social media to seek help, it may not be the case with others. And so, it is crucial that these spaces are either stocked with sanitary pads and medicines or have pad-vending machines installed to cater to women passengers.
Here’s hoping such a future comes sooner, rather than later.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Feels good that Indians have shed their inhibitions on matters that were earlier taboo. The male perspective has also seen a sea change in attitude. What do they say ” A friend in need…. ” quick thinking. Kudos to the railways for acting fast and not triviliasing the issue. These are situations that people never forget or fail to appreciate.
It is heartening to see such prompt response but it is surely not a singular praiseworthy step that railway is seen taking. Let us all support railways and other public utilities in their efforts to come out of closed mindsets and do our bit too (like if any other female passenger was carrying such support, they should promptly share those without being uncertain about availability if and when they need.)