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In Search of ‘Local’Fauna
Hi guys, I hope you’re having a great time with some engaging stuff going on BlogAdda. I’m thoroughly enjoying the Tangy Tuesday Picks from yesterday and trying to read the Buzzing Blogosphere on the Cabinet Reshuffle, but it’s a tad difficult to focus on reading while jostling for space in a shuddering Mumbai local. Yep, today is the day Safar Naama takes the Mumbai trains – famed, feared and still the fastest way to get around. After a wobbling day on the wheels of a bus that went round and round, I hop into the famous Mumbai local for today’s transit.
Known to carry a huge population of ‘mango’ people like me, these rattling metal boxes are every metro city’s lifelines. Transporting lakhs of people every day in their efficient and ever full belly, local trains are the best place to look at a wide cross section of people. Local train journeys are an experience you survive through, which not only builds character but also gives you great new stories to remember. So till the time my station arrives, I’m putting on my anthropologist’s goggles and going off on a hunt for ‘local’ fauna.
While the world’s population is hooked on to Pokemon Go for some real life action, Mumbai has been far ahead of the adventure game with it’s Mumbai locals. Even today, I managed to exercise all my major muscle groups just while getting into the train. Luckily for me, I also got a massage by the jostling crowds after the strenuous work out.
Now that I’ve managed to occupy the smallest possible space for a human in a corner of the compartment, I let my roving eye roam over the local, scanning for specimens. In any case, my eye is the only part of me that can move, while the rest of me is straitjacketed by the people around me. Let’s start the ‘local’ safari.
When Phoebe Buffay in FRIENDS sang the cult ‘Smelly Cat’ song, it was probably an ode to these people. Your nose detects them as soon as they enter your vicinity. Nerve endings stimulate your brain, and your gag reflex starts to act up. No offence, these species are easy to find in locals, like the one standing right next to me. My sympathies go to all those around who bear the burden of his body odour. A deadly concoction of sweat, wet clothes, congealed talcum powder and Ayurvedic hair oil assaults my nose, the worst part being I have no escape route too! Everywhere you turn, there are people with myriad combinations of unpleasant smells.
Well, what can you do except wait for a fresh draught of air to clear out some of the smell? If you have any other solutions, please help a fellow human by letting me know of them.
As I manage to get a seat, staring eyes surround me as if I am a clown ready to pull out a rabbit from a hat! I try to squeeze myself in the smallest space possible, spellbound by the mini industry that surrounds me. Mumbai Locals are nothing short of a beehive with queen bees preening in the corner, while working bees use their travel time efficiently. I see a lady chopping some vegetables for dinner, while another is knitting something pink and fluffy. I wonder how these ninjas manage to handle these sharp instruments in a moving train, and hope that the train doesn’t lurch, sending these weapons flying in my directions!
Oooh…from work to worship. I also spy an aunty praying with a rosary of beads, oblivious to all the chaos. Well, that’s Mumbai for you, you find your spiritual haven in the noisiest of places and even God has to be satisfied with this ‘devotion in transit’!
On the other end of the spectrum from the praying aunty is a prying presence. My eyes stumble upon a scanning machine, a common entity found in locals. As he stands frozen like a statue, gaze fixed on the girls standing near the door, I feel bile rising in my stomach. I observe him closely, as his scrutinizing eye remains undeterred by the embarrassed and annoyed looks by the girls. I don’t know what joy these X-Ray machines get, but they sure are an invasive species that the local environment can do without. I get up from my seat and head towards the door, making sure I bump into him to break his disturbing reverie.
What’s that sound? High pitched and growing every second…it’s a fight! They say we fight with the ones we love, but commuters love venting their frustration by fighting with strangers. Obviously, the discomfort of being squashed against another human is bound to make you cranky, which then explodes into fights, name calling and even blows over trivial issues. Too much space taken, moving too slowly, bags and umbrellas poking into others, taking the seat reserved for someone else, jostling too hard or getting into a tu tu main main, any reason is valid when these forever angry people decide to avenge an imagined slight.
Shopaholics on Wheels
Just as things were getting really interesting, the avengers lost their audience as vendors with colourful knickknacks on two fragile hangers enter the war zone. Women and men alike instantly put on their window shopping avatars, fiddling with everything in sight, touching and feeling everything on offer! The sheer variety of items, from colouring books to household items, food items to the most eye popping make up and accessories for women, astounds me. The ladies are far from astounded though, as they bargain and shop to glory! The sparring between the vendors (who are unfortunately mostly minors) and these ladies out on a shopping mission is so much fun to watch!
As I make my way to the exit, chanting God’s name as I’m pushed along by the swarm of people, I see the guardians of the door at their post. These hawa se baatein karne wale people stand at the door even when they have to get down at the last station, and turn into Avengers (see above) if someone pushes them in the rush to get in or out. The backsides of these Khatron Ke Khiladis have never met a train seat, as they prefer to flutter in the wind even if the whole compartment is empty!
I finally make it out of the train, with my bag and shoes intact, still swimming in my thoughts that have been flooded by these amazing characters. Locals may be crowded, suffocated with an upsurge of commuters, yet they chug into railway stations every morning, ready to carry the essence of our country. They keep transporting people to their offices, schools and one step closer to their dreams.
Have you stepped into a local train and found these people making your daily transit a little more interesting? If you have an eye like me, hop on to our Found in Transit Series and tell us about some interesting caricatures on your route! Safar Naama takes your leave as off I go to book a ticket to the skies for my next week’s flight. Where would we fly to? Well, wait for next Wednesday to find out the itinerary!