Of local trains and other sober things…
There is a certain pregnant expectation in watching the piercing light of
a local train approach. The beam sweeps in, with the menacing mass of the
engine whining behind. Sometimes its as if the light itself propels the
train, pulling it along. The circus begins, however, when the 12 coach
slow rushes into the station, yielding to the eddy current brakes. I can’t
think of any other term to use except “multitudes”. There are two
distinct movements. First there is a withdrawal as the engine passes by.
To me its like the first move a long jumper makes, when he leans backward
before his run up. Then, perfectly timed with standstill, the multitudes
rush forth. If you havent seen a ruch hour sequence at Dadar Station, then
you are one of those who find the fight scenes in Lord of the Rings purely
imaginary. No dear friend… such things happen, and they happen right
here in Mumbai.
One experience I will look back with awe will be that of the local trains
in Mumbai. Nothing you’ve heard prepares you for it. Impossible things
happen. Yes people can hang to a train with only the fingertips of one
palm. Wny not the other one too? No no. That will hold up a marathi
crossword. All this for a man who is missing power poles by a whisker. I
bow my head down and pile drive into the coach. A seat is a mere dream.
Having your entire body inside the coach is the holy grail.
But the night trains with noone have a mystery of their own too. The
trains shake a lot more. And there’s something poetic in the way the
handfull of people, and the dozens of worn, yellow painted handholds
resonate in their gentle movements. Oscillating as the train rattles past
station after station. Jerking forward as it stops. I think I have had a 3
rupee lime juice at every station from Charni Road to Jogeshwari. A fair
distance I might add. And every single place it tastes exactly the same.
Mass customisation mammu.
And for the literary types, there are the mysterious adverts and fliers
pasted to train walls. They all fill up black squares stencilled onto the
coach walls. As is every single word the railways has to tell us.
Stencilled in, bad grammar, spelling and all. “Pull chain for emergency”.
Everything from coaching classes, v.d. specialists to Rupa underwear. The
other day, I think the day of the elections, I was quaking my way from
Andheri to Grant Road. This kid started cleaning the bogey with a one foot
broom. India Shining indeed, I thought. Couldnt be more than four or five
years old. Kneeling in the collected refuse of a day of locomotion. For a
few rupees. As I handed over a rupee to him, I wondered if democracy makes
sense to him, all this EVM and “Vote for your rights” seemed bizzare.
People, sometimes I think all this talk of good and bad in giving and
taking is all crap. Sometimes, like in that train, I think having is a
crime in itself. Enough of melodrama.
More as I go around the country on my journey of discovery and hernia repair.