Recently heard a stand-up comedian say something about local trains in Mumbai. Remember him saying, 'The true nirvana (or 'moksha' in desi) can be experienced in locals, while we think it would have been better, had it been just soul and not the material, mortal body, then it'd be so easy to move across the suffocating crowd, floating.'
So true!! I felt the same during one of my visits to the city and the 'local' journeys. While I stood with a group of ladies, on the platform, I saw a train coming our way. I, being a newbee, started asking whether it was a dadar local, to a female standing next to me. She turned around to answer and as the train came to halt before us, everything went in slow motion. I was pushed from back with many hands and bodies, me and my handbag going in different directions and before I could realise it and the female could answer if it was the right local, I was already inside the bogie!! The train had already started moving and I was stuck at the bar at the gate. Finally grabbing my handbag tightly and hanging it on my shoulder, I tried to stand properly. May be it was too late to realise that one of my shoes was missing and I was standing there half-barefoot. 'My god, what do I do now?', I thought. It might have fallen off. Gosh!! I could not stand the thought of getting down with one shoe. I was totally baffled and at loss, it being my favourite pair of bellies! I had not given up, so decided to give it a last try. I pushed with all my energy to turn to a side to ask the girl next to me clinging to one of the hooks, if there's a black shoe at her feet and told her to ask the same to the ladies beside her. There was no shoe near her or anybody she had asked. So I was sad again, unthinkable was happening to me. Chain of dreadful thoughts broke down, as the local stopped at the next station. A bunch of overexcited women entered the bogie. As the pressure increased, pushing me far inside the bogie at the sitting area, I could no longer stand properly. The lady sitting at the edge of the seat shouted at me loudly since I was standing on her toes. Oops!!
So I had given up hope and was mourning over loss of a footware. To my surprise, the same girl I had asked earlier, the same girl clinging on the hook, aimed at my shoulder and called me. I turned around to hear the best news that my shoe was there at the gate opposite to the one I had climbed in, rather pushed through. My happiness knew no bounds and I started moving across the flood of bodies coming in my way, hearing them swear loudly. Once I found my shoe, I ,like, had tears in my eyes. Knowing that I owed the girl a big thanks, for saving me from an embarassment, I shouted 'Thank you!' in air.
So finally I got a seat to rest my butt, after the flock of ladies had got down at one of the stations. Relaxing, I closed my eyes, opened them again and looked around me. They were women of different age groups. College girls, working ladies and even grannies. I wondered how one can get used to such a hectic, unpredictable life. Many mothers were carrying their babies. How could they manage to survive in such a crushing crowd with children in their hands. I saluted these miraculous ladies silently, knowing that they had no choice but doing it. It was like their 'majboori'. Then I looked at the burkha clad, big, fat lady, calming her adolscent weeping daughter, someone must had pinched her while her mother pushed her way through pool of bodies.
A voice caught my attention and I looked at a frail looking woman with dark complexion and equally dark, oiled hair. She was moving through the bogie with two trays, full of girlish items, like earrings, rubberbands and other stuff, in her hands. She was chanting something like 'Dus rupaye me', continuosly. I watched the goods in one of her trays and disagreed to believe that she was selling those for mere five-ten rupees. Would she be making any profit? She sure would, otherwise roaming in these always-full-of-people locals was unworthy. I could never understand how she did the balancing act of taking the money, giving the change back to the customer and at the same time handling the trays too. Sometimes on her head, sometimes she would circulate it among the ladies sitting.
I came across different genres of womanhood, during the local train tour of around forty minutes. Some rushing to work, some getting late for college, some talking on phones, some with headphones in their ears listening to radio, some calming their kids, some, like me, observing others. Many of these would go home and cook for their families and get up early next morning to catch the local in time. I was amazed by the spirit of these women and spirit of Aamchi Mumbai with locals being the pulse of the city.
Amidst the chaos, I found peace. And I was proud to be a woman myself.