Bombay is known as the city that never sleeps. But still that doesn’t mean that one can feel safe at night, even if one is a male journalist. At times, this correspondent leaves his Nariman Point office close to midnight. On one such night last week, he could not get a cab to Churchgate and had to walk all the way. At Mantralaya, he saw the long shadow of three men, who seemed to trailing him. All sorts of questions popped up in his mind; `Will I be kidnapped for my kidneys or are they merely after my mobile and my wallet?’ The shadows vanished on reaching Oval bar and restaurant. On reaching Eros, he decided not to take the subway.
Only at the railway station did he feel safe with the hustle- bustle of the tea vendors, taxiwallas, etc. But the feeling of safety evaporated when he found that he was alone in the train compartment with a group of tipsy youngsters, who were in a playful mood. Two of them sat next to him, as if to play a prank. It was an uneasy 20 minutes till he got off at Dadar. Fortunately, there were no long shadows on the home stretch.
Last Saturday, in the second class ladies compartment of a Panvel-bound local train, two Indian girl students were talking about their likes and dislikes. Both were criticising India. “We are so unfortunate that we were born in India. It’s a damn dirty place in terms of everything,’’ said one of them. The other agreed and said, “I just don’t believe in Indian culture and Indian system. I never vote. And, I just can’t understand why we have to stand for the national anthem in theatres.’’
Two foreigners were listening to them. “Are you Indians?” asked one of them. “Yes, unfortunately,” was the reply. “And you are criticising your own country? I am from Ireland and come to Indian to visit this holy and spiritual place. If you feel it is dirty, did you ever try to clean it? I saw you throwing an empty plastic packet out of the train. We were taught in school that India is the world’s biggest democracy.”
The foreigners asked them if they knew about the ancient university of Taxila and the republic of Vaishali. The Indian girls did not know about it. The foreigners told the girls that they should be ashamed. After they got down at Vadala, everyone was staring at the two Indian girls who kept mum.
In Good Form
A SYJC student had to call home anxiously one afternoon, to find out what her father’s caste was, their entire class was filling out a form for the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. Abroad, there was always that ubiquitous question about Race/ethnicity. Full name, father’s full name, mother’s full name, Aadhaar No., Minority Status, Gender and Caste Code along with date of birth and date of admission? Besides, doesn’t the college have the info already in its database? So what was the logic in wasting half-a-day’s worth of lectures, where students would have hopefully learnt something useful, which would have led to better answers in the exams and better results for the college. One really hopes there is a good explanation for this apart from compiling darned statistics. Or would one have to file an RTI petition to find out?
As ticket checkers are hardly seen on platforms or trains, second class pass holders travel by the first class, assuming it is ok to travel without a valid ticket.
One night in a Virar bound local, many women having second class ticket boarded the first class ladies compartment, from Dadar and were seen occupying the seats. This irked some first class pass holders who were not able to get a seat. And as the fares have increased immensely recently, they got even more furious. One lady who was in her late forties asked the police havaldar standing at the door to ask those women with second class ticket to get up from the seats and offer to those who are standing in spite of having a first pass or ticket.
The havldar responded saying that he was not authorised to check validity of their ticket.
This cold response did not deter the lady. Turing to commuters she asked everyone to show their tickets or pass to the police.
To which one lady stated arguing what if they have boarded the first class, even first class pass holders travel by second class so what if they don’t have valid ticket. She confessed to not having a first class ticket but was not ready to alight. There were so many who refused to get down.
But soon the first class pass holders showed their pass to the havaldar voluntarily.
And it was clear that half of the compartment was occupied by unauthorized commuters.
This forced the havaldar to take action.
The havaldar politely, yet firmly asked them to alight and warned if they don’t respond, he will pull the chain and gestured one lady to pull the chain.
His action deterred their arrogance and second class holders who were shouting that it was their right to travel in first class, since the adjoining ladies compartment had turned gents, suddenly became silent.
He ensured that they got down in batches and in consecutive stations.
All the first class holders were happy that their protests did not fell on deaf years and they could get result of their action.
By the time the train reached this reporter’s destination, the gangway was relatively empty, which was a rare experience.
Tiny, terrifying moments happen ever so often. Standing at the bus stop, it is the wrong side of 10 pm and just looking out for the bus, getting peculiar stares simply for being there. Then there was the passenger who got on the same bus to CST, took the same train as I did, got off at the same station and took the same bus back home. I jumped out of my skin when he stood right behind me as I was about to alight and said in a cheery sort of way, isn’t it strange we were travelling to the same place right from the starting point! All I could do was manage a weak smile and take off as fast as I could. The person in question seemed decent, but who could tell?
Getting on a bus fully populated with men, who are also occupying the ladies’ seats and thinking, thank God, this is Mumbai, not Delhi. Hah!
Waiting for one’s fast train to be announced, glancing at the indicator, only to have some hanger-on think you are interested in them, then they stand facing you as you wait for the train to pull in at the platform. Sitting on the train, looking out of the window, simply waiting for the journey to begin, till some male comes in your line of vision and stares back so hard that one shudders and simply looks in the back of the compartment to check if the cop is in and force oneself not to think what if…. Being told by a fellow passenger about the drug addict who one day got into the compartment and because she forced him off the ladies’ compartment, he kept getting out of the adjacent gents’ compartment at every station and muttered threats from the platform until Kurla or so. How for a few days, she cowered in fear each time she caught the train home.
Manmohan Singh to write autobiography titled, `Five mistakes of my life’: 2 G, 3 G, Sonia G, Rahul G and Rahul ke Jija G.
Contributed by Sujit Umadi, Sadhna Kumar, Geeta Bhagat and Chitra Sawant.
Compiled by Anil Singh