Sometimes, I cannot even believe that the word ‘adjust’ is really an English word. It seems to belong uniquely to the Indian context. Anything can be adjusted. I remember how amused I was when I learned that people even adjust Raahu kaal – the Inauspicious Time. Traditionally during this Inauspicious Time, you can’t do important things. So, if you have a train to catch, you pretend to leave. You leave your slippers outside the door, or your luggage with the neighbours. Just a little adjustment, and you’re safe.
Today (and yesterday) on the train, I was astounded at how normal it is for people to feel that everyone will (and ought to) adjust.
My co-passengers had tons of luggage. I was on a side berth and I wanted to sit with the seat back straight.
The lady travelling with me looked at me as if I was the most inconsiderate person in the world. “If you put the seat back down, someone else – an RAC passenger- can also sit.”
Meekly, I lowered the seat back.
On my berth (the top berth) was some of her luggage. I asked her to move it.”Why don’t you put one bag on top of the other?” suggested the lady.
“I’m tall,” I said, apologetically. “I need all the room I can get.”
Grumpily, she took one bag away. I tried to adjust with the second bag, hoping she would see I was uncomfortable. She ignored me. It was, apparently, my duty to adjust.
Her son ultimately took the other bag away too, thankfully.
Somehow, that did not change the fact that I still felt apologetic and she still felt wronged.