The request seat

aka the Fourth Seat

Benches in [tag]Mumbai[/tag]’s [tag]suburban[/tag] [tag]local train[/tag]s have a fundamental flaw. They accommodate 3¼ persons each. Usually the trains are crowded and the entering commuters are on a mission to grab a place to sit. It takes monumental effort to snatch the first 3 places on the bench. But the mission doesn’t stop there. There is an equal urgency to occupy the balance ¼th piece of real estate – the fourth seat, erstwhile known as ‘request seat’. The fourth seat means compromise and submission to constant brushing against outgoing and incoming commuters. And whats worse, you just get to rest your butt partly.
On the edge
Me standing on the footboard while the train chugs into the next station.

Hypothetical situation: Three passengers are sitting on the bench and there is a tiny strip of empty space.

This [tag]commuter[/tag] enters the compartment and frantically searches for a place to sit.

The meek: Realizes that this is a request seat. Asks the other [tag]passenger[/tag]s politely, “May I sit here?” These kinds are usually senior members, or those who are new to Mumbai and shy.
The frequenter: “Please move, I need some place to sit”. This is considered to be a plain ‘no-nonsense’ request typical to Mumbai. Most of the Mumbaikars belong to this category, and this is a part of their daily life. They know that its not possible to get anything without asking it, albeit he is polite.
The imposer: “Hey, move, I want this place”. The ill mannered consider the half seat as their birthright. They will often enter into arguments with others if they don’t give sufficient space to sit. Many people in this category are those who are some weeks new into the city, or the infrequent travelers.

Now lets look at the passengers who are already sitting on the bench.

The liberals: These people crunch and make space for accommodating the fourth person even before he requests it. Again, they are typical Mumbaikars, who realize that some day they would be the ones looking for a seat. These people are comfortable with ‘The meek’ or ‘The frequenter’. However, the moment they encounter ‘The imposer’, they get converted to ‘The unyielding’.
The reluctant: This group shows extreme reluctance to crunch. They are very lethargic and often the fourth person will have to repeat his request to get some concession.
The impostor: On request from the fourth person, he will make a token gesture of moving. This person is unwilling to cede any space. He is also confrontationist and short tempered.
The unyielding: These are the people who flatly refuse to accommodate the fourth person unless he is ‘The meek’. Often a gang of friends returning after a exhausting day at work fall in this category. They are not interested in confrontations and will simply ignore the fourth person.

Something worth mentioning is that the ‘fourth seat’ exists only in second class compartments. The fourth person can remotely be described as being comfortable, Tapan and full2faltu, write more about it. Vishy describes how the fourth seat is an ignominious position… lol

16 thoughts on “The request seat

  1. Liked the analysis!
    if there are ladies sitting on the seat, the fourth seat disappears. if the fourth person is a girl, then automatically she gets sufficient place to sit as others willingly compress….

  2. hi Priyank
    came to your site by searching something about planning but loved it completely
    i have not been to mumbai but i can very well imagine this!

  3. I had a good laugh at your classification.
    You may know that the new designed trains have slightly smaller seats. so there is nothing called fourth seat now.
    new design trains ar more spacious and comfortable. less space is required to stand compared to sitting.

  4. Pingback: Fourth Seat Occupants at Blogbharti

  5. I don’t live in India, but I have noticed this phenomena the few times I’ve visited and have taken the train (which I must admit hasn’t been all too often).

  6. I traveled by the trains in Mumbai during last visit to India. They are so crowded, oh boy. We also have crowded tubes but they are much clean and people are tidy too. I guess its too much humidity and heat also the trains cater to low rung workers.
    But nice experience indeed.

  7. sir, i think you forgot to mention about second class here. In first class the scene is different. Though the seats still have 3 1/4 person space, no matter how politely you ask, the person sitting would doubt you, taking you as a criminal who just did a crime of getting into first class on a second class ticket.

  8. Ravi:
    Thanks for your comments man!

    That’s biology ;)

    तुला आवडलं ना?? बस् तर मग!

    Yeah I read about it, but havent seen it on any trains yet. Is it on the Western railway? I travel mostly on Central suburban line!

    Ofcourse I remember you.
    More in email…

    Yeah you cant miss it in Mumbai

    Yeah the heat and humidity ruins the composure. I have traveled in Toronto subways and they are not much different:)

    hahaha! I remember the wired feeling when I first got into a first class compartment! It was funny indeed!

  9. Strawberrymargaritas:
    Thanks for rejuvenating this post which is so old that I had almost forgotten. I miss Mumbai trains but it won’t be long before I travel there again. Thanks.

    There is a trackback option btw, but I didn’t understand, did you mean rss option? Thats present too on the menu to the left.

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