Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Going home

Its been a long day, and I drag myself to the station for part of the task which takes up 1/12th of my day - commuting.

I've always been fascinated by the culture quirks of people who travel by local trains. Somehow I am unable to give it so much of importance. For me its just getting into the train and getting off without getting anything stolen in between. I have also come to the conclusion that I am a rather stupid train traveller.

I often walk onto platforms, noting that my next train is in 6 minutes. So I wait, and the platform is empty. But as the six minutes pass, and particularly in the 5th minute, people begin swarming the platform, materializing from nowhere, as it seems. So by the time the 9:35 CST Train chugs into the station, everyone's all set and have made constructive use of the six minutes that I have wasted, just sitting around waiting for the train. People know their means of commuting very well. They live it, they breathe it. They know it intimately, its flaws and its vulnerabilities. They know that the 9:26 Andheri Churchgate train stops for 5 and a half minutes at Khar Station, which is why they avoid it. They have their friends circle in the Train, and revel in the feeling of togetherness and even host little parties in the train, where paper plates and kachori samosa with mysore pak emerge from shopping bags which say "Akbarally's" which invite curious looks and watering mouths from the others. They discuss in-laws, Abhishek-Aishwarya and Nach Baliye.

The first class compartment reeks of snobbery, and women do little to conceal their distaste at the not-so-fair women who step onto the train wearing orange flowers in their hair and synthetic material salwar suits, who obviously aren't the first class type. Some women just sneer and hope a TC will step onto the train and fine this intruder, and others feel duty bound to suggest that this is a first class compartment to those who don't look like they can afford the two hundred bucks a month difference between the general and first class pass. I apparently look the first class type, so I have never been questioned.

So there I was, 17 minutes early for the 7:17 PM Andheri Bound Harbour Line Train, and everyone around me were obviously there for the 7:01 PM train to Panvel. As i furiously typed away at a message on my cellphone, I felt the familiar prick of the smallest noticeable particle which had wedged its way into my index finger, small enough to not be locatable, but large enough to irritate. Slipping my phone in my bag, I held my finger upto my eye and squeezed it in a feeble attempt to dislodge the splint. I thought I noticed a slight shimmer from the centre of my index finger. Could it be glass? If so, will it enter my arteries and into my heart and then kill me? I pressed my finger harder in morbid fear. What a terrible way to go, dropping dead on the CST platform, having been felled by a microscopic splint of glass. I focused my eye on whatever I could see. I noticed people looking at me, vaguely. I must look like one of those freaks on the roads of mumbai who talk to themselves, or those guys who scratch their armpits and chuckle. I dropped my hands to my sides and looked at the watch. 7:05. Damn.

A man walks by, muttering something under his breath while passing me. I have battled my raging curiosity for years now over this particular habit of men. Sometimes they swerve close to you and whisper something, anything, they call you a whore, they call you beautiful, they propose marriage to you, but they just walk on. If they have a bike, they scream out their assessment of you, or their desires, or even make an offer to drop you off. But never do they stop. They drive on. I remember walking on deserted streets with Aanchal, my roommate, and Meenakshi, on a girls trip to Goa, being subject to hoarse proclamations of love from guys zipping past us at supersonic speed on motorbikes.

"What's the point?", I said, exasperatedly, "If you don't stop, you can't even figure whether what you've yelled has yielded any benefits or not. So why scream at all?"

M snorted. "Of course they aren't going to stop. If they stop, chances are that they are going to get whacked, or, in the least, rejected. If they drive on, they have the satisfaction that perhaps we lay, overwhelmed with the emotions so openly and confidently placed before us, and are pining for them right now and have assigned our souls to them forever. Why on earth would they stop?"

As it turned out, a few guys decided to stop and see the effect of their invitations, and being about 10 men in a Qualis, it was highly discomforting. Confidently, we walked into a resort just off the road. The Guard followed us in.

"Yes Madam?"

A fills him up on the story so far. "We were walking back to our hotel when this Qualis of drunk men tried to pick us up."

The watchman looked perplexed.

A got the vibe. "We just want to stay here for a bit, that's all."

"Can you tell us when they are gone?"

The watchman was relieved. Apparently that was easier than saving us from them. "Okay."

On the way again, I was exasperated. "Why the hell would anyone do something like that? If a woman is walking on the road, and a bunch of drunk guys say 'Hey Baby, come here', how many women, if any at all, would fall for something like this?"

A shrugged. "Maybe some friend of theirs tried it, and it worked. Or maybe its an Urban Legend among men. Who knows? Who cares?"

7:10. Playing snake was a tempting option, but then that would involve taking my phone out of my bag and making it vulnerable for theft. The 10 rupee Femina guy came along. It was very fishy, the way mint condition current edition Feminas were being sold for 10 rupees instead of its cover price of 30 rupees. It was even fishier the way 50 rupee Cosmos were being sold for 20 rupees. And fishiest of all was the disappearance of the Cosmo guy. It was a great way to gain sex ed, even if they rehash the same hot sex tips every time. You just need to change the angle of your legs, use lace panties instead of satin, and replace honey with chocolate. And the positions. Creative but difficult in execution, visuals of me perched on the washing machine (the vibrations of the machine during the act having been highly recommended). balancing the magazine in my left hand and concentrating on making loud moany noises (also highly recommended) was anything but hot. A got the 10 rupee Femina guy the day before, however, so I just shook my head at the vendor.

The train pulls into the station, and suddenly I am surrounded by women all ready to pounce into the compartment. Everyone wants a place to sit. And then everyone wants a corner of the seat to park their ass. And then everyone wants a place to stand in the middle of the seating area so that when someone gets up, they can snatch their place. I find myself a place in the corner and open "High Fidelity" and wait for the train to start. It's only 7:15.

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