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Study life, study literature. Eat food. Lots of it.
Also, I use a lot of adjectives- working on that, so bear with me.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Yeh Gaadi 12 Coach Tej Local Hai

No matter what city you live in, there are some things about each city that you cannot escape. 

If you live in Ahmedabad, there is no way to ignore the teeming groups of under-age school kids driving bikes like they're starring in the Gujarati sequel to Dhoom 3. 
If you live in Delhi, your vocabulary cannot shade itself from the rather colourful terms for female genitalia.
If you're in Bombay, there is no chance that you haven't experienced its bloodline, the local trains. 

I've realised that Delhi has a lot of songs about itself, Mumbai has significantly lesser. Think about it. Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan. Bambai Nagaria. How many more can you remember? I was beginning to feel a bit cheated, but then recently it dawned on me that Bombay makes up its own soundtrack. Close your eyes and picture it: The vocals from the hawkers, the strings of the Sea Link, the percussion of hundreds of thousands of feet, the rhythm of the waves, and oh do you hear that? The steady beat cycle of the local trains, on those weather-beaten tracks. 

I've always been a bit of a voyeur, but the trains make it easy for everyone to be one, whether or not you have kinks in your head.  You know somewhere just past the half-way mark in Hindi films based in Bombay, there is a sad song? You know how many of these sad songs are framed around the mellow young protagonist or their love interest seated against a window seat, the city whooshing past them, wind in their hair? In essence, that is the perfect encapsulation of the local train experience. Except for a few tiny details, that is. One, there's never an empty window seat unless it is raining, and if there was, there sure as hell isn't enough space to fit in a camera there. Oh also, try singing in a Virar fast, I bet you, please. However, during those rare off hours, if you do manage to snag a window seat and let a tune play in your head (or through the headphones, put away that Candy Crush, will you?) and feel the wind in your hair, it really is worth the film reel.

Most days when I travel by train and if ever I manage to get the above mentioned prime real estate, I like to picture myself in a music video. And it is exhilarating. However, if you don't find the drama in the wind tousling your hair, do turn inwards. (Towards the inside of compartment, the introspection can wait a minute.) You know how they say Bombay is a city of a million dreams? It is also the city of a million stories, and a few thousand of them fly past you in the locals every single day. Honestly, just look around, and stop the music on your phone for just a while and listen. See that mother who is smiling at the child who wants to use the bar as a stool? See that other woman grumbling because the same child is squashing her bag? Look at that woman who is munching ceaselessly on that pack of potato chips in her hand. She knows that this is the only time she gets to eat in peace without worrying about work or cooking for her family. Look at aunty there furiously chanting the Gayatri Mantra as she turns the pages of a holy book. Look at that girl with the pretty nails giggling quietly into her phone while her friend anxiously memorizes those last two formulas from her notes. Look at the ads for the all-capable jyotish who claims to solve all your problems, plastered across the walls of the train. Look at the experts who reserve your seat even before you get up to go to the door next to your station. Look at the woman sitting on the floor near the door, counting how many aam-papads she has sold so far, and look at the hair-clip vendor who's haggling with her. Look at amma, fumbling with her umbrella while her neighbour aimlessly watches the latest film that her son loaded onto her mobile. Look at the bunch of women waiting at the platform with bated breath and bhel packets, never once contemplating taking the next train because this one is too full. Look at that girl, standing by the door, weeping while on call, unaware of who heard her, distraught (If you actually do ever come across this post, I hope you're doing better now, and I'm sorry I couldn't muster up the courage to give you a hug and tell you that it's going to be okay.) Look at me, staring hungrily at the imprints of so many lives, while trying to figure out how to get to my destination once I get off at the station. Look at us, look at our multitude of stories, all bundled up, hurtling towards Borivali and towards Churchgate. Some of these stories culminate in a bunch of discarded tickets inside the dustbins at the platform, some stay with you till you come home and wash the trains away from your scratched bodies. If the lifeline keeps going, the stories keep going. And I keep going.


While I'm aware that all my instances and observations come from the Ladies Compartment, I do know that the stories extend to the rest of the 9 compartments on the train just as much, if not more, but I'm not experienced enough at those to churn them out as passionately as I can write about the women who sit across from me so often, whose lives temporarily cross tracks (see what I did there?) with mine.  Those smiles, those grumbles and those voices are the heartbeat of this city, much more than any film or any trade can be.

If you are in Bombay, get up, go out and get a ticket to the farthest station on your line. Sit back (if you find a seat), relax (if you can), and let the Great Mumbai Talkies begin (they will, whether you like it or not.) 

17 comments:

  1. I love the last line. I did the same once I got comfortable in the locals

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    1. I do it often too! Need to try the trip to Panvel once :)

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    2. Superb Farheen. This is so true! I have always felt connected to the local. I'll do it someday..! (last line)

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  2. super stuff...very well expressed farheen...try the same on a double decker BEST bus townside (preferably on a Sunday)...i bet u wont regret...bombay continues to surprise a hardcore bombayiite like me too...

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    1. Thank you so much!
      Will do, for sure!

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  3. Oh ! That music video thing... I ve choreographed it so often in my mind.... !

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  4. Beautifully crafted !

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  5. I always love to read what you write. I really look up to your articles and this one is as amazing as the others. :)

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    1. Thanks a ton, Saniya! Hope to write more soon :D

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  6. Nicely expressed through words farheen
    Try to write for BRTS also.....

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    1. Thanks!
      I don't have enough experience with the BRTS, but once I travel a bit more, sure!

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