The city of Mumbai: There have been more ordeals than niceties since I came to this city. I’m still to absorb the extent of open drains, flies, the cost of living and the filmy people.. Here goes an interesting nothing in my life:
Boarding the local was a fight. It always is..
I made sure I was surrounded by the experienced ones. Their instructions were engraved in my memory. Somehow the word ‘push’ was the most prominent of all. Then the train arrived. I made little progress until I pushed with all my might. The proceedings of those few seconds remain a bit sketchy in my memory but I was happy to have accomplished the mission of boarding the train. My friends soon reminded me that the war was not over yet. I still had to fight to avoid being thrown out at the subsequent stations. As the train moved, things fell into place: gaps were filled, peace was restored. At the next station, another scene of havoc transpired. Peace was restored thereafter. The pace with which the Mumbai traveller transforms from war-peace-war mode is astounding. During one of the peace sessions, I looked around at the faces. They revealed nothing. Happiness, pain, joy, suffering: if there was any, they’re surely good at concealing it. I continued and I noticed one middle aged gentleman in the corner seat.
Even though our conversation had not started yet, I pitied him already. My sympathy had a lot to do with my experiences with insane rentals, cost of living, travelling in Mumbai etc. I made some personal assumptions about his earnings and his lifestyle (a sick thing to do I know; God forgive me). A little casual math told me that things may not be very comfortable for this gentleman here. Some small talk initiated our conversation. The moment the first words came out, they shattered all my assumptions.
He was happy!! His voice made that clear. Somehow, this does not seem right.. What about my sympathies? This fellow left no room for my generous offerings. What about the way the city breaks bodies and minds? How can this gentleman survive? I was to find out soon.
As the conversation progressed, I was to find out that our Mambaikar had his ways to take on whatever the city threw at him. That he had managed to get a seat had something to do with his strategy of ‘reverse journey’. Our protagonist travels in the direction opposite to his destination and gets off at the last stop. Here, he catches the empty train headed to his destination. But doesn’t that mean losing a lot of time everyday. Not to forget the futility of covering some stations twice? “So what? I have a seat, don’t I?”- he chimes. Wow, I should have asked him to help me out with my little problems as well. This guy seems to know it all. Now I could recall some other stories as well. I remember commenting to a corporate hot-shot: “You travel 4 hours a day. And if it rains, God save you! Don’t you ever wish to move out of the city?”.
“ I keep pillows and a lot of reading material in the car” he stated matter of factedly. “And if it rains, I have slippers and a raincoat in the boot. I abandon the car and catch a train”. If you explore, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of stories in these lines. The show must go on. A lesson in patience and perseverance to be learnt here. Whatever the city throws at you, your attitude prevails.
I was still thinking of the psychology of Mumbaikars. Don’t they ever feel cheated by the city of dreams? All the hardships and there was still something in the local traveller’s tone. Now I finally got it!! Pride. That’s what struck me in the local train Mabaikar’s tone. Pride.. This gentleman was proud to be the breadwinner. Proud to be a part of Mumbai. Proud to have made a mark, to have survived in the city. It will take a long time for me to comprehend that.
They say the city grows on you. Well, you know there’s one fellow who wishes the process would speed up..