Ok, I may have missed passing through the Fire of Baptism when I entered Bombay, but it's never late to experience the city in all its glory. I am talking about THE experience that can give me a taste of Bombay - THE SECOND CLASS TRAIN RIDE.
I had planned to go to Bandra, the hangout location for the Big Shots in the film fraternity and home to several Businessmen. One might also be able to identify it with Linking Road (part of my ever so memorable trip to Bombay in the 11th Std). After work yesterday, I walked about a kilometre to the Railway Station, on some of the dirtiest roads ever tread on. Ironically, all the signs that said 'Keep your City Clean' were the main hotspots for garbage disposal and betel spit. When I finally reached the station, I was in a dilemma whether to buy a First Class ticket or not. My uncle advised me to go First Class as according to him, I would not survive a Second Class trip. This was reason enough to buy a Second Class ticket (I love to prove other people wrong :)
I was waiting for the train along with hundreds of other people and after a while the train pulled in at my platform. And this is when everything began. It all happened in about 5 to 10 seconds. Chaos. Hordes of people struggling to get into the train while hordes of passengers were struggling to get out. No concern for old or young. Every man for himself. All one has to do if he wants to get in or out is to stand in the middle of the crowd. The crowd is like a water current that pulls you wherever it wants to. Without any effort except for trying to stay afloat, I was sucked in with the crowd. I was banged and bruised by the time I got into the train.
Once inside the train, the lack of free space was pretty painful. People were all over eachother as though they were cushions (research shows that on average about 3 to 4 persons can stand comfortably in a sq.m, the density of people during the Haj Pilgrimage is 10 per sq.m whereas in the Bombay trains it is about 12 persons per sq.m; this sort of density is also seen in the case of rats). I didn't worry too much about pickpockets because everyone was busy trying to catch on to some bar or railing to keep themselves from falling when the train stops. All my senses were going through an endurance test. The smell was overpowering (number and proximity of people around didn't stop these guys from farting!!). Nausea sets in in a little while due to want of space to move and pure air to breathe. The sights were appalling. I got a taste of the actual Bombay, not the make-believe one that Bollywood Stars and Businessmen portray and sell to the world. And then, there was the noise of passengers shouting at eachother for room and at the incoming people to allow them to exit decently (the incoming people don't understand the simple logic that if they let people out of the train, they will have more room for themselves), but no, these guys are so fond of the passengers in the train that they don't want them to leave.
I noticed one thing in the ruckus though: not one indignant passenger swore... A fight could not ensue anyway because there was no space and this would be an added incentive to swear but no one did. I was amazed at their spirit of taking things in their stride. There was another incident in the train which clearly illustrates this attitude. A father (who I struck up a conversation with earlier) with his small son were bound to get off at a particular station. But when the train stopped there, the incoming crowd pushed back the duo and the son was visibly shaken by the force. My eyes met the father's and though he was indignant at first, he just seemed to shrug it off, check if his son was ok and move on without any further thoughts. This is the typical Mumbaikar. Bombay has got pockets of richness in a land mainly comprising of people of the lower income group. The houses are dilapidated and a sad sight to see. But even in this setting, I got the feeling that people were content with what they have and are leading a happy if not prosperous life.
On the whole, I was able to see the nuances of the city and understand its people and their attitudes. I took back something positive from the whole journey and obviously I survived. However, the smell still stinks and the crowd still sucks (but only physically :) Later...
Why I love this city #36 - 1. You can do anything and everything. 2. Increase your brain power with tantra. 3. Move on sucker. 4. Food clothing and girlfriends. 5. Mera naam mera kaam....
5 years ago