The Fourth Seat Conundrum ~Shouvik Banerjee

Picture the following scenario:

You are traveling for the first time in an Indian local train and you notice that the bench can comfortably seat three people. But then a fourth person arrives and asks the others to adjust. Now a fourth seat has been “created”, but it is hardly so because there is barely enough room for one cheek! Throughout the journey, you see the person shifting, adjusting and complaining that there is room but his co-passengers won’t comply. There’s always the possibility of a little fight or a heated argument to break out. The passenger grumbles and you can see that he has half-a-mind of leaving his seat for some other poor soul to try his luck.

But he won’t.

He never will.


Because he is suffering from the same conundrum as most of us. There are four seats in life. Let’s explore them.

First seat

This seat is reserved for the person who arrives early and prefers waiting, sometimes for a long period of time. He has probably fought his way to the seat. In his mind, he has already chosen where he wants to sit – the window seat. After all, who doesn’t want a window seat? But here’s the thing, he is also the most vulnerable to the scorching heat, the bone-shattering cold winds and not to mention, the unabashed lashings of the rain. Yes, he will enjoy the cool wind against his face on a warm summer day, but all days won’t be similar. Moreover, he will be asked to close and open the windows from other passengers, a task he is obliged to do whether he likes it or not. And since he’s sitting the farthest from the door, he will have a difficult time exiting the train in case he feels he’s sitting in the wrong one.

The people sitting on the first seat are the ambitious ones, those who have fought tooth and nail to reach the top and are probably still fighting to stay there. They want the best view of the world and are, therefore, prepared to start early and go through all hardships and fights to reach where they feel they belong. This is the mentality of champions. However, they also develop an inflated ego that hurts them indirectly. They believe that they are the best and hence should get the best out of everything. But they are an insignificant part of the world and others, in a way, feel they are ignored. And this feeling gives rise to animosity.

Second seat

The second seat is actually the best seat in the house. The person who occupies this seat has arrived right on time, neither early nor late, and has probably made his way comfortably, with little struggle. Because after all, no one makes their way to the top without a little fight. He never gets instructions from others and he knows that the one sitting near the window won’t trade places with him. And he also knows that the one on the third seat is more jealous about the person in the first seat. He is still far from the exit but at least has the psychological advantage over the person on the first seat.

Those who find themselves sitting on the second seat are the ones who’ve achieved both inner and outer peace. Their ego is in check and even though they don’t have the “best” view of the world, they still see it. So, in a way, they’re not missing out on anything. This is the best seat on the train of life and this is the seat we must all aim for. We may have all the wealth in life, all the luxuries in life, but without happiness, they mean very little.

Third seat

The third seat is for those who arrive late when the train is already full. He probably did not fight his way to the seat, but that only means he gets the leftovers. He doesn’t have a choice and has to satisfy himself with what he’s got. And even though he has a seat, he still grumbles and will probably continue doing so throughout the journey when others push against him.

People who find themselves on the third seat are lazy yet ambitious. They want success, they want wealth, they want happiness but they are not willing to fight for it. They come late expecting to get the best but are instead given the last item on everyone’s list. It’s not a bad place to be but it’s not great either. And not to mention the occasional nudge they receive from those on the fourth seat, asking them to move a little, push a little when there’s no more space to move.

Fourth seat

The fourth seat is for people suffering from an existential crisis. To sit or not to sit, that is the question. And most people choose to sit when they want to stand. The person who “creates” the fourth seat has probably arrived in the nick of time when the train has left or is about to leave the station. In fact, it won’t be surprising if he’s done a Usain Bolt catch the train. He expects a seat when the train is packed. But when he gets one, he complains. He spends the entire journey arguing with the person on the third seat about how little he has because he is convinced that the world has unfairly robbed him of his space.

Most of us are sitting on the fourth seat, even though we don’t want to accept it. Our time management sucks and we make terrible, terrible decisions in life that force us to run after professions and jobs where we don’t belong, relationships that we don’t want and a life that is not for us. We don’t want to take the time out to study our lives and understand who we are and what we want from life. In all our hurry, we get up on a train because we feel it’s leaving us because that’s where the “majority” is without realizing that if we were meant to be on that train then we would be sitting on the second seat, or even the first or the third seat.

But the best part about life is that we always get second chances. The train you’re on will arrive at some station or the other and that’s when you need to decide where you want to be for the rest of your journey.

So, if you feel you deserve better then get down, take a deep breath and decide which train you want to get on. And one day that train will surely arrive.