Like any other non-Mumbaiyya, I am scared of the locals. For almost a year, I resisted vehemently to any suggestions of trying it out even once. So in the strange way that life operates, I am thrown in a situation where I am forced to travel partially by the locals. And strangely still I am kind of warming up to it.
I have learnt which trains to take in order to avoid that mad rush; how to figure out whether it’s a 12 coach or a 9 coach train and stand according to it; just how fast to run in order to reach the first class compartment on time; and how to stand near the door without inconveniencing the mass of women getting in or getting out.
I know now that when one says ‘empty’ it means that you’ll eventually get a place to sit, when its ‘comfortable’ it means you can stand without being jostled.
Its like an assault to your senses when you enter a station…all you see is a moving sea of faces and bodies. But look around and you pick up stories.
Like the woman sitting in front of me one day. She was talking gently on the phone when my feet accidentally touched her feet. She threw me such a venomous look that it felt like a physical blow. So much stress, so much aggression and so much bitterness….and I’m sure she’s not even aware of it.
Like the two blind girls who came and stood at the correct place meant for them – the compartment for the handicapped. They were confident and happy – talking non-stop. In a place where it’s a daily struggle for everybody, they stood out like an island of happiness.
Like the girl who didn’t know where she was because she was fighting with her boyfriend on the phone. I tried hard not to hear what she was saying but I did hear her say a couple of times – “if you don’t take care of me…you’ll lose me”. She was young and her words made me think how much she has to learn.
I have realized that one has to stay aloof from all these stories that are abound lest you get sucked in its vortex everyday. So I avoid the peak traffic times and I stay miles away from the second class compartment. I love to stand near the door and feel the wind and the raindrops on my face when the ‘fast’ train speeds past the stations.
I don’t want to become a part of that world.
Or maybe I have already become just another story.