Life Inside The Lifeline
Life Inside The Lifeline
It was a regular day. I walked back home from college dressed in sweat. Some of my own. Some gifted by that aunty who travels back from office on the same train as me. Unfortunately, every day at the same time. I always felt like asking her where she got that scent from but being a respectful and kind lass, I stitch my lips. Nevertheless, I did wish somebody had gifted her a perfume on that birthday she celebrated with her local train friends on the train. Yes, Mumbaikars do have a circle like that. These are the people you meet on the train while commuting daily and become friends. These are the ones who help you to get a seat on the train where even an ant has to struggle, play langdi to get in. Well, that was quite an exaggeration. But these groups are quite helpful, not just with seats but also if you get in a tiff with a fellow passenger. For the members of the group, they’re a blessing. For others, they may prove to be bullies.
Talking about her group, argh, that group! The fish market of Colaba is much more hushed than them. But you can easily find bliss in the chaos when you closely observe. The way their eyes shine on seeing each other. The smile their wrinkled foreheads wear. Their exhausted voices tuned in to play antakshari. My attempt to request them to lower their volume fade away as I watch them enjoy those little moments of joy. While their perspiration is the proof of their toil, their chortles speak of how sportingly they take life. It’s delightful to see how they share their worries and happiness. For once home, their lives entirely revolve around changing diapers, serving their families selflessly, bearing taunts and abuses, and a lot more.
Mumbai locals can easily defeat NDTV, LinkedIn, Facebook, shaadi.com, and other communication and networking platforms. Because you can make friends, receive the latest news, gossip, and updates, find jobs, and even a prospective partner here. And if that’s not enough, they offer the best of entertainment. Bhajan mandalis singing devotional songs, the jingle of vendors, child beggars crooning Pardesi Pardesi from the movie, Raja Hindustani with their harmonium. That’s a cult song. You would rarely hear any other being sung. Also, the best fights happen here. Creative directors of Bigg Boss, you need to watch out! Do whatever you want to do, man but do travel once in these trains, man!
The local trains are indeed a weird blessing. They are rightly called the lifeline of the city. I don’t go jogging. And why should I when I can race from one platform to another, galloping up and down the stairs early morning? They make you a pro at hurdle races. Gym memberships, I don’t need you.
Survival of the fittest. You hear it. We live it. Every day commuting via train. It’ll be a tough ride for someone new to Mumbai. However, with passing years, you’d know that what you need to master is just getting inside the train. Take your bag to the front. Don’t think of it as a bag for a while. Consider it a baby carrier (only if you want your belongings safe). Let both your hands be free: the left one to work like an oar to push people, the right one to quickly hold the grab bar as soon as the train arrives. And let your legs paddle through the invisible spaces. Whether first-class or second-class, this applies to both. In fact, the only reason why people buy first-class tickets is to get some breathing space. In that too, you can easily identify what the other person had had for their breakfast as they speak over their phone.
Getting off the train isn’t that of a task. People are quite supportive of Mumbai. All you have to do is stand at the footboard and leave the rest. They’ll apply all the forces in the world to help you reach your destination. And you think humanity is rare? But just be careful to stand at the right station or else you’ll be dumped at the wrong one.
Standing at the footboard is altogether a different adventure. You need to be sure which “queue” belongs to your destination. And once that’s done, you can stand there peacefully most of the time. I wonder why big brands waste their money on marketing their products on TV. I mean, Mumbaikars are the best source of advertisement. Just give out free samples to those who commute daily by train. For most of us, there’s no need to watch TV commercials. All you gotta do is simply stand at the footboard and observe each one, their hair, skin, etc. You don’t have to move closer to people to sniff what brand of shampoo they’re using for their long, silky strands. You are already close enough to share their sweats. Each head represents a brand. From what kind of hair care and skincare products to what brand of perfumes and other stuff they use, you can see the results and decide for yourself. No need for “Pehle istemaal kare phir vishwaas kare.”
Well, that was a lot about trains, isn’t it? Let’s get back. So, once home, I freshened up and threw myself on the bed. Thanks to the bhajan mandali in the adjacent general bogie, my head was heavy, the bells still jangling inside. The climate was as hot as a March in Mumbai could be. Despite all of this, I was glad that my project had finally kicked off after multiple delays and lengthy discussions with my guide. I began by washing bagasse and left it for incubation for 48 hours. Unaware of how long these 48 hours could be. Unaware it could mean forever. Or never.
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