"The Bombay Local"

 When I and my sister get down at the Dadar station, I have a smile on my face and she has a frown.  She hates Bombay. The heat, the crowd, the smell, the lack of space, most of the things. She is an absolute Punekar. She regrets the fact that she was not born in Pune. While I’m really jealous of the fact that she is born in Bombay, and me in Gwalior.

When we get down at the Dadar station at 6.30 in the evening, it is  peak time in the Bombay local trains and stations.  We have to take a train to Santacruz where my father lives. To do this we have to go from platform number six to one. When you have to cross this bridge at 6.30 with your luggage, it is a great task. I and my sister mostly take the left hand side of the bridge but in 3 to 4 mins, we are pushed all around and we find ourselves right in the middle. I feel like it’s only two of us against a thousand people. We seem like the only ones to be walking in the opposite direction. I kind of enjoy this experience. I am smiling most of the time while my sister gives me that, ” what is so funny, you idiot?” look.    In one of this encounters my sister’s dupatta went missing and she realised it only after we reached the platform.  In that crowd she didn’t even realise when her dupatta slipped away. I controlled my urge to laugh, it helped when my sister herself bursted out laughing.

If you want to see and experience the spirit of Bombay and majority of  her people you have to travel in a local train. You realise how tough life can be.  I had a great experience recently. I had to travel everyday from Santacruz to Churchgate as I had a tournament to play. After my practice I was heading back home in the evening. I had this huge kit bag with me and I was really tired. I entered the train and to my utter disappointment there was no place to sit, so I just stood right next to the door with the kit in front of me. It didn’t seem so intimidating yet. As the train reached Churni road the compartment was almost full but it was still comfortable.

 The next station passed by, and that was when the real fun started. The train now was jam packed. There was an aunty wearing a cross across her neck, right next to me. I asked her if I was standing on the right side to get down at Santacruz. She smiled and asked me, ” First time? ” . ” No, just after a long time. Have lost practice.” I replied. ” Dont worry, you are on the right side only.” I expressed gratitude to her and God. There was no way I could have got down at Santacruz if it was going to come on the other side. I couldn’t even see the other side. On the next station there were at least 30 women ready to pounce on the train. I held my kit bag tighter. Didn’t really help! One fat dark woman didn’t see my bag and she tripped and fell over on the other women in front of her. You can’t really fall in a Bombay local train. There is no place to fall. ” Kya bhara hai us bag mein? Mien bhi fit ho jaongi!! ” she shouted. I thankfully couldn’t see her when she said that. She was pushed away by the crowd in the front. I thanked God again.

I was on the left corner, right next to the door. In very similar conditions,with a  very big bag weighing 10kgs!

After this at every station the train stopped I would shout, ” Badi bag hai niche, Dekh ke, please” It didn’t help too much but it was the least I could do. There was constant fighting and bitching going on around me. They were a bunch of real angry and tired women. These were the kind of things I over heard,

” Arey Mera duppatta.”

” Push mat karo, jagga hai kya age.”

” She stamped on my feet first.”

” No manners this young generation has! Don’t even say sorry!”

” Arey jara jagga do na! Ab kya pappi doge kya aunty?”

” These women should be bloody sent on the Virar train, then they will know.” ( it is said, if you want to punish a man and send him to hell, push him into a train going to Virar.)

” Bandra utroge, nahi na toh phir piche jao na.”

After some 30 mins on board I luckily tried to confirm if I was standing on the right side to get down at Santacruz. I was a station away. I asked a girl next to me. She looked at me with fear in her eyes. ” No! Santacruz is on the other side.” I started sweating a little more and panic started setting in. The woman next to her saw my  face and gave me a golden rule of travelling in a local train.

” ALWAYS, always make sure you ask two different people about the right side of the platform. If their answer is the same only then rely on it.” I think I will remember this all my life.

By this time all the angry women around me knew that I was in trouble.  Santacruz was a minute away. I gave up hope. Suddenly a woman next to me shouted, ” Take your kit bag above your head. We will push it ahead and you too. Don’t worry. ” The platform came. There were again 30 women ready to pounce. It was “us” against “them”. Till that very bit we were all angry with each other. Though, we suddenly transformed into a team with a mission. Once the train stopped, we had a minute. I frankly have no clue what happened. I pushed through bodies, smells and boobs.  By the time I was out a young girl in  front of the crowd was holding my kit bag. I took it from her and a few women were smiling and waving goodbye as the train left. We won, and I wanted to do a victory dance.

Such is Bombay. It is a very harsh city. People are always angry,tired, and chasing a dream or even a train. They will abuse you, push you, step on you to get ahead. But then they will also help a girl with a 10 kilo kit bag to get down on the Santacruz station. Humanity is slowly becoming rare. When you experience something like this it brings a smile on your face. More so when the big dark woman who tripped because of you is amongst the women who  smile and waved you good bye. A smile like that remains with you.

the Band Stand Heroes!


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