Friday, 12 September 2008

A Great Maroon and Yellow Snake

There's something to be said for the Mumbai Local. Within a month of everyday commute you realise what a pain life would be without it. As you get on and get off the train twice a day, you also begin to realise what a microcosm of Mumbai each compartment is. Each journey affords you a peek into how the people of the city live their lives.

The platforms. People hurrying hither and tither; people sleeping on the benches; people waiting for other people. Buzzing, moving and always crowded. Standing on the platform and looking around, I realised that that piece of concrete was not just a boarding point for the locals but a place where people live a part of their lives - eating breakfast, catching up with friends and loved ones, listening to music or just reading. The slush and muck of the Mumbai monsoon that makes me screw up my face in disgust is not even noticed by most of them as they walk on casually.

Compartments with people packed in as tight as is humanly possible, with people hanging out of the door and hanging on to dear life, as the maroon and yellow snake makes its way across the metropolis delivering people to their destinations. In that little compartment, you can make out whose had a bad day at office (or at home depending on the time of the day), who is new to the city, who has lived here forever. Regulars smile at each other in anonymous greeting, never knowing each others names, only recognising faces. 

Standing at the door with the wind blowing at me, I see a multitude of images. Green grass and pretty yellow and red flowers alternate with drains, garbage and refuse generated by an over populated city. Scenic views of the city's skyscrapers are punctuated with peeks into the windows of chawls that line the track side - a woman hurrying on with her daily chores, boxes piled up, beds laid in a row, one against the other, all shaking as the train rumbles on. The air is sweet and fresh with the smells of the morning one minute and acrid with the smells of pollution and waste the next, the tracksides lined with people performing their morning ablutions, finding anonymity in the very public nature of their actions. 

As I alight at my destination, I too join the swarm of people heading out on to the roads. I often look back at the train pulling out of the station and shake my head in wonderment at that snake that makes life in this dense city possible.

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