Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Commuting Blues!

You have, of course, read the post that appears below this about the human traffic jam. Today’s experience was equally weird. Now I am working in Andheri which is one and a half hour commute from home, and on the other side of Bombay. I commute to Kurla by train and then board a rickshaw, the ingenious creation of the Indian mind, to Andheri East.Now, Kurla is always, has always been a crowded place, from as long as I can remember (that is from the age of eight, when I came to live in Bombay). Rickshaws, people, beggars, cars, buses, handcarts, hawkers, anything and everything can be found there. The result is a traffic jam that would boggle the mind every time a bus overtakes another, or, a rickshaw turns turtle (yes, they do sometimes!). I was in the midst of such a mess up, rickshaws, cars, buses all lined along the road in one unyielding, roaring, mass of steel. Indian vehicles, I mean, all Indian vehicles, make a lot of noise. Their engines aren’t efficient enough to run smoothly, may be, my biased opinion. This is considering I have lived abroad and know that their engines make less noise. I was sitting in this huge roar that issued from rickshaws from all sides, and some drivers were merrily leaning on their horns, some were cursing and some were yelling at the top of their voices, yes, as much as they could raise their naturally loud voices. Deafening, maddening, vicious and inconsiderate, that’s what I thought of all the noises virtually deafening my ears. In the midst of it all was a cute girl, totally lost to the world, listening to FM radio stations on her mobile phone. Why do we love noise so much? We are a noisy people. Without noise we feel lost and at a loss. We are loud, our music is loud (anyone who has heard Himesh Reshamiya would attest to this) and we are a nation of talkers. Or, would you agree, considering HR is such a rage these days?Another scary thing happened, this time, on Saturday. I was wearing my salvar-kurta for the office lunch party at Rodas Hotel in Powai. I was returning after a hard day of work and as I entered the train at Kurla, people stared, yes, they actually stared at me. A man refused to budge when I requested to be let into the seating area, another preferred to offer a seat to another man, though I was standing near him, another gave me a look – the sort people give suspicious ones, supercilious, mouth curled and all that – from the head to the toes. Profiling! They were profiling me, and that was a scary thought. What were they thinking? The Bombay bomb blast has made a lot of train commuters rather finicky, I think. But this was over-reacting, wasn’t it?

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