Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thane to Curry Road
It’s been three months now. Taking an auto from the gate of my apartment it takes 20 min to reach. It also generally takes 20 rupees. We pay the money and rush. Sometimes I see it standing from the road. The first reaction is of relief that today there will not be a wait. You suddenly take it easy and walked slowly towards it observing hordes of people moving with and against you, autowallas trying to find their way out and beautiful girls all set and ready to be noticed in their office. I try to look at the crowd in it so as to speculate my chances of getting a seat. Seems pretty ok, it will be comfortable times today. I am around 30 m from it. Suddenly I hear a whistle. It starts moving. I brisk my pace, it gets faster. I start to run and just when I reach it, the thing has generated a good speed. In a spur of a second I decide to take the plunge and get in. but I am still not good enough. I see my thing leaving me; all satisfied for it has many like me inside. I miss my 9:02 local, look at the indicator. It says 9:20 the next local.
I get a seat comfortably in the next local. But boarding even an empty local train in Mumbai is not so comfortable. It’s just that the people have become so habituated of jumping and pushing that they do not realize that at least when the train is empty one can take it easy. But I always try and take it easy allowing every excited passenger to get in and then allowing myself. Luckily today I got a seat which is not the case always. The train took off. It was already full to the amount of people for which these guys have provided the seats! And some were even standing.
I generally take a novel with me to read and today I had "The Joke" by Milan Kundera. And I was reading the part where the protagonist is dumped by his girlfriend. Not a good time to read this, as I am already feeling a bit sad about getting late to office. So I close the novel. The men on both sides of me were sleeping and one of them was even snoring. A man was trying to start the ceiling fan by rotating it with his pen. No success for him though. A guy sitting in front was talking to someone in murmurs as if a deep secret was being discussed. I got lost in my wandering thoughts. One very good thing about Mumbai locals and even Mumbai is that you can seem pretty normal even if you are completely engrossed in your thoughts, something I found difficult in small cities. Basically people give a dam here about what the others are doing!
People barged in at the next station, Mulund. The compartment became saturated already. Two of the men came and stood between the seats. One of them had a paper in his hands and put his bag upon the shelf and started reading it. I looked around and saw many people doing the same. The space near the door was already crowded, but even there I saw a tall guy holding the bar with one hand and opened novel in the other. "Padhaku ho to aisa", I thought. The telephone guy had already increased his tone and now it was audible to me. He was talking to someone about his business. Probably the secrets had been discussed and it was time for the more mundane issues!
I looked out of the window. The local trains have a good speed. Hence you do not have the leisure to look out and observe clearly from the window; only the glimpses are what one can take note of. The picture of the city is symbolized well by the scenes from the local. Occasionally one sees tall buildings, colored in yellow or white or brown either standing alone or with its clones, providing comfort to the deserving from the nitty gritties of the common life. I wonder whether the rich of today ever realize what actually goes on the roads in the city. They live in furnished air conditioned houses, travel in air conditioned cars, work in air conditioned offices shop in air conditioned malls and party in air conditioned hotels. But then I realized that there is one thing that would always remind them of the toughness of the city. And that is the problem of traffic and road Jams!
Anyways while I was wondering about the rich the scenes had turned to small chawls and crowded houses covered with blue polythene bags (probably). Some of these were just hands away from the station walls. Could not see much except that these places are not as attractive as their bigger contempories. Then there are scenes of filth around the stations that stink and along with the smell of sweat from my fellow passengers, make for some bad moments. But again the city recovers as in between lay the lush green mountains and trees along a stretch and one wonders how so much land is still in accessible to the land hungry people of Mumbai! Another good viewing is of the attractive girls waiting for their trains on the stations. I caught hold of one of them sitting comfortably on the bench. Might be a model, I thought. The one advantage of bird watching from a local train is that you would never get caught, its gives you a kind of a free pass to look at and appreciate the Mumbai beauties.
The train was full to the brim before the Kurla station. People were standing in whatever aerial space they could muster. They were trying to get as much inside as possible. The space between the two doors must be crying, I felt. No one was able to stand straight. Everyone had to twist either his back, or his ass or his legs to make space. Some where carrying their heavy bags on their heads as they could not get it down. One of the guys was literally standing on one foot. Lord Shiva might get happy of him but he was not happy for the time being as he kept shouting at the man in front of selfishness! People were trying to get their heads up occasionally for fresh air as a fish trying to come up the waters for oxygen. it suddenly occurred to me that if for the time being the local turns completely transparent so that nothing else but the people were visible, their whole arrangement, all their poses will find its place in the kamasutra.
Some people got out at Kurla and some came in. Nothing changed much except the characters. The new people were the ones who had to adjust a lot and the others already on the train had bought some comfort. The guy on the phone had now become quite vocal, discussing about the Lehman and Morgan Stanley buyout and how this would affect their profits. Everyone was giving looks at him wondering what he was doing on a second class local compartment. He probably realized this and increased his voice even more. Suddenly I saw people around me holding their noses and looking at each other in contempt. A bad smell hit my nose and I too closed it for comfort. Someone had forgotten to empty his bowels today and my adjacent passenger was looking at me as if I was the one. I returned him the same look and it sufficed.
At Dadar it was ejection time. Three quarters of people in compartment got down one of them shouting out loudly 'Dadar, Dadar’ as if he was the only man knowing this! The sun peeped in and the air found space. The iron holders hanging above started moving in a sine way, rhythmically. Comfort stretched its legs little bit and I opened my novel. But no and again closed it. Curry road was two stations away. I searched for my companion Thakur and saw him sleeping. He was completely on me and if I didn’t wake him up, it would be some drama. But no this is not college fun so as soon as Parel station passed I told him 'Thakur Saheb ,aa raha hai" .We took our bags, waited for the train to stop, got down and relaxed a bit. I saw my ironed shirt crumbled up. Thakur had already started to move and I tugged in my shirt, adjusted my bag and bid adieu to the train only to meet again in the evening.