Call it the city of dreams or the one that only seems,
The city that never sleeps or the one that makes you weep!
Surrounded with filth it makes a lot of noise,
Bombay- is perpetually moist!
I came to Bombay in 2005,
Not knowing I would become a part of this hive.
Travelling by its local trains can be
Worse than having to face the Bombay rains!
The crowds are indeed overwhelming
Pushing and pulling, snapping and yelling.
Getting pushed this way and that,
I feel almost like a rat!
With difficulty I breathe,
As I get in and look around for a seat.
If you look closely at the inside of a local train compartment you will find a medley of arms, legs and heads sticking out of the doors. If you manage to move in deeper you will see a medley of heads, hands and shoulders squashed together swaying with the movement of the train. If you manage to move further inside you see bright blue seats almost like benches in a park only less inviting, which have the capacity to fit three people comfortably.
Now it is a written rule in the imaginary book “Travel rules: Bombay locals” that three people cannot sit on a seat comfortably. There has to be a 4th person jutting out of the little space that remains, after having asked the others to stick together and squeeze in. (Note: Stick together here means to be able to feel the drops of sweat on your neighbors arms and in case of overweight people, bear half their body weight since they sit (almost) on your lap)
When I first encountered this 4th person system seven years ago, I failed to understand it. I swore to myself I will never look like that! I didn’t want to jut out like an extension of someone else’s body! Every single day I watched with disgust as people tried to stuff their humungous butts in places where there was no space, and thought to myself “I will never do this!” I preferred to stand by the door getting my foot stamped by rowdy ladies that flew into the compartment, much before the train came to a complete halt. Not to forget the threat to my life when I was literally hanging out of the compartment and reasonably big ladies decided to throw their weight around! Or the times when I almost got humped because there were so many of us trying to fit in a tin sized place. Or the times when I’d get my ribs elbowed by some moron who decided to pull things out of her bag in a train that resembled a swarm of ants.
Gradually, I became tired of my spot at the door and really wished I could just sit. I don’t exactly remember the first time I sat where I thought I’ll never sit, but I do remember feeling relief when I did. I think it’s important to mention here that I did not sit on my neighbors lap or nudge/ push her to make place for myself. I tried to be as nice as I could and cause as little inconvenience as possible. And in that moment all my ill feelings and anger for this 4th person vanished. I suddenly realized maybe they don’t intentionally like to sit on your lap or make you realize how sweaty they are. Maybe some of them are just tired after a hard day’s work in this mad city and want nothing more than to rest before its time to run again.
I don’t know if having a reason to be uncouth makes us any less unbearable but it does help let go. What I really haven’t, can’t and won’t let go is the obnoxious behavior of those who are habitually rude an uncivilized. They believe pouncing on a seat is what they were born to do and won’t stop even if only a millimeter of their large butt can fit somewhere! It’s these people who have ruined the meaning of ‘being accommodating’, made the trains unpleasant and don’t deserve an ounce of kindness.
In conclusion to my 4th person analysis I am going to say, I know traveling by trains can be miserable and I HATE IT but for whatever its worth, it is the fastest way to move around in Bombay. Unfortunately my pop doesn’t own the railways and I can’t be sure if things will ever change but until then let us not make it any worse than it already is.