Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In defence of the Bombay local trains (NaBloPoMo Day 28)

NaBloPoMo November 2012
One post every day in November

A famous American comedian once said, “Don’t knock the weather. Nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change it once in a while.” With sincere apologies to him, I would like to take the liberty to say, “Don’t knock our local trains. Nine-tenths of all amateur literary ‘geniuses’ in this part of the country wouldn’t be able to write a word if it weren’t for trains.”

This humble attempt at writing, for example, owes its existence to the Bombay local trains. I am of the opinion that our local trains are deserving of a little more respect than we have been accustomed to giving them.

For where else but here would you be regaled by a rendition of music ranging from Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan to the latest Hindi film rage, brought to you by a couple of urchins to the accompaniment of two little pebbles?

Where else but here would you be badgered by a whole crowd of little sales executives, graduates from Nature’s School of Business, marketing their wares which could be anything from hair clips to ribbons, from nighties to nail polishes, from fruits and vegetables to hair adornments of all kinds, all of them shouting at varying decibel levels, each trying to get to a higher crescendo?

Where else but here would you find ‘state-of-the-art’ technology fans that world only when you bring a slender object (preferably non-living) in contact with them?

Where else but here would you learn to balance on one foot for more than an hour or have someone stand on your foot and be able to do nothing about it except mutter under your breath simply because you don’t know who to yell at, thus learning the qualities of sublime patience and understanding, so very essential for success in today’s relationships?

Those people who have not had the opportunity of spending at least some time in a ladies compartment have been missing an opportunity which, for want of a better word, I shall term ‘interesting’. The ferocity with which they gobble bananas, guavas, idlis and other edibles would make them strong contenders for the eating records in the Guinness Book of World Records. One must be careful and see that one makes cautious manoeuvres with regard to locomotion if one wishes to avoid friction. When they fight for place to rest their tired limbs, it is like cocks fighting for a place to roost, though I am told the latter are more subtle.

The ladies compartment has often been compared to a fish market. I don’t see why the general compartment has been spared in this regard. In all fairness, I declare that the general compartment looks like a mass of buffaloes, quiet for most of the time, occasionally groaning when their horns butt into one another. The reason they don’t gossip is not because they don’t feel like it, but because they are too busy playing cards.

Trains, are thus, the very lifeline of Bombay. If the motormen ever went on strike, life in suburban Bombay would come to a standstill.

This last paragraph is for the reading pleasure (or pain) of those diehard critics of Bombay, who declare that Bombay is an unthinking, unfeeling city. They have only to spend a few minutes in one of our local trains to have their ideas refuted. For where else but here would you exchange tidbits about domestics, rising prices, recipes, working conditions and just about anything? Where else would you open your heart to a complete stranger? Where else would you live a fast life and yet have the time to stand and stare? Where else does the pulse of Bombay throb? Where would Bombay be without trains?

(Since I have been unable to write an original post, I have posted here my first piece of original writing, something I wrote in my second year of college. I showed it to a friend, who showed it to another, who showed it to her dad. Said dad was an editor at The Economic Times, and he gave me some valuable feedback that I still cherish. The piece was written when my lovely city was called Bombay. Sigh!)

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