I use it to travel to my office every day. Still I have written nothing about it till date. Iam talking about the Mumbai local trains.
Since "Slum Dog milionaire" succeded so well talking about Mumbai and Poverty, let me try and emulate; talking about 'Mumbai Locals'.
"Slum dogs on locals " - hey that sounds better. The Danny Boyles of the world, better listen....pssst ....read what this man writes. A real creative genius at work.
Ok , back to the business of writing.
Whats so great about a suburban train system? Though I had heard stories about the Mumbai Local trains before coming to Mumbai, my experience in them sort of clarified the picture and blew away some myths too.
Though the trains run through the city and is owned by the Indian Railways, there are a different set of rules that sort of govern the lives travelling inside. Rules by convention, unwritten , but accepted without a murmur. The rules that create the scenes being played out inside the compartments. Rules that are different from the Bombay Municipal Corporation ones and beyond the IPC (Indian Penal Code)
From here on we go scene by scene. Like shakespeare.
Tararamparara.............(the curtain rises...)
Scene 1. Second class compartment of 8.08 am local to Church gate. Three people seated on a three seater. Whats so great about it? Nothing.
The fourth fellow jumps in, slightly ahead of the population explosion that is about to happen at the door, as the train enters the platform. He gestures to the three already seated to push against each other so that he has his rightful place of placing a single ass at the fourth place. After much shoving, pushing , feigned ass movements, skirmishes etc an equilibrium is reached, where- in the fourth fellow is on constant brownian movements while holding on to his precious one assed position.
By the way in the first class , the same scene should be enacted sans the fourth fellow who is banned there. Only three here in a three seater. But the first fellow is in trouble there. How?
This is how. The seats are cushioned here. But by their constant use the edges are higher (by less usage) as compared to other places. So the window seated fellow gets a feeling akin to sitting on the kerb with one ass 5 inches higher on the road and the other ass (-)5 inches on the ground.
Hey why did you pay higher and get into the I class yaar? To get your already split ass all the more split?
One more thing which reflects the broad mindedness of us Indians here.
Eventhough there are only three on a three seater in the first class, still the first two fellows try their level best in a concerted manner so that the last guy is always on tenter hooks and is made to appreciate their benevolence in keeping him seated fully rather than half assed.
Scene 2. The Seat Mafia ?
Like any place else in India - mob is strength.
As the 8.08 local arrives , 7 people block 25 others from entering. 5 from the defense related group of 7 , raid the vacant seats. After the capture, 'the five' guard the territory till the other 7 arrive. 7+5= 12 enjoy their ride every day. 25+ another 50 fuckers remain so through out their life. The Genghiz Khan like mobs urinate to demarcate their territory and the others sniff and leave with their tail between their legs.
Scene 3. Camaraderie.
After capturing their respective territories - these mobs carry on with their love for each other , and private celebrations. Hah..! how true that its said that the guys who travel togather on the trains are great fellow beings.
That the comrades on the mumbai locals are very thick friends is what the legendary stories are all about.
Once one of them slips through and comes under wheels of the train.
The others carry on as nothing has ever happened. Camaraderie, my foot.
But thats my mistake.
Actually here I should not be talking about camaraderie but of another great charactaristic of the mumbai populace- resilience. THE RESILIENT MUMBAI . Exactly as the newspapers screamed right after the 2006 train bombings, as also after the terrorists walked in and ..and....fu.... everyone around in 2008.
Unperturbed they carry on and on after each catastrophe. Thats not being insensitive, but......
yeah , TRULY RESILIENT.....
Scene 4 : The video Coach
"Which compartment are you in daily? I have never met you ". My friend enquired.
"First class at the front" I reply .
" Iam usually in the video coach" he says.
"Video Coach ? Where's that?" Iam confused.
"Come I shall show you today" he says with a sly smile.
We jump into the rear end first class cabin, adjoining the ladies first class.
"There- thats your video and playing too", my friend said gesturing towards the ladies cabin transparently visible through the open spaces between the two cabins.
"Nice name I said", half thrilled half shy and finally sitting on the seat looking away from the video. My guilt overcame my thrill perhaps. It may take me a while longer to get used to the convention.
The convention - the seats facing the video gets filled first. Mind you, I have observed, the same is the case in 'the video' too. Thats when I realised that 'they' are our video and 'we' are their video. Not only our's but their's too is a video coach. While the males are more or less glued to their 'video', females appear preoccupied though their stiffness and mannerisms probably suggest being hooked to the video.
So that much for the video coach.
Epilogue - Loose Pants and Laptop Baba
I belonged to their group once. For a short while. Seat capturing, camaraderie and all.
Laptop baba worked away on his laptop, once he was seated.
Loose pants never had a tight or correct fitting pants. Loose pants retired from service a shortwhile later and left for Nagpur, his native, ofcourse after the customary exchange of all promises to keep in touch. He disappeared from our world.
Laptop Baba was probabaly undone by his laptop. He may have tried working on his laptop while driving. He shifted to another world.
I left the group after that. Others are still carrying on - Resilience.
I retired to another corner of the local train, switched off the video, and covered myself over with newspapers, magazines and books.