Friday, September 14, 2007

My Train Rage, and Sridala’s Reading from “Reluctant Survivor”

The purpose of this blog is to look into everyday happenings in my life and relate it to people with a bit of frankness, thoughtfulness and rationality. Maybe, the visitor (such as you) would or could be tempted to come back to read more and enjoin in a friendly conversation of sorts, which can better be done through the “comments” interface. I am giving you, and your profile on Blogger, a bit of exposure, too, as you will appear in the “Recent Comments” box on the right hand side of this post.

So I am writing this with a bit of trepidation, because I want to be frank with you, my readers. Not that I want to be all goody, goody with you, I am human, I have my faults. And one of those faults surfaced very badly this morning.

Yesterday was a late night as I attended Sridala Swami’s poetry reading from her first book “Reluctant Survivor.” It was nice meeting Sridala and other poets at the PEN-sponsored reading at the Theosophy Hall in New Marine lines, near where my sister used to work, and near the US Information Service, which is now the American Center, a favorite haunt during my college days.

I met for the first time the well-known Rashid Irani (about whom Suketu Mehta has written one and a half pages in “Maximum City”), whose movie reviews I enjoyed in the Times of India. Later at the beer valedictory in his Irani restaurant Brabourne, near Metro Cinema, he refused to let us pay for the beer. Hehe, he would be out of business if he does that. But we prevailed over him and he reluctantly relented.

I digress. I will un-digress and come back to my Train Rage story. Usually, you see, I am a calm and collected person, easy on the draw, reluctant to take umbrage, make a scene, unless severely provoked. So even if there is provocation I am calm and dismissive, and a bit abstracted.

But I lost my cool this morning and badly at that. The reason: Train Rage. So picture this: the compartment is crowded, there’s not a centimeter space to move even to breathe. I am standing on my toes to get some fresh air and people around me have formed a tight knot of flesh.

I have heard people fighting loudly in the train compartment on the way to work. I have all these days nurtured contempt for the sort who can’t adjust their personal spaces for a few minutes considering that most of the others are also undergoing the same torture in Bombay’s crowded trains.

Usually from CBD station a tacit understanding is given that commuters getting down at Vashi (the major center in New Bombay) are given the area of the right side of the entrance. Now this area is sacrosanct for commuters to Vashi such as me, and we all know this as our territory. So this man gets into the train in the wrong side of the entrance (meant for us Vashi disembark-ers) and plants himself squarely in front of me.

Now, poor me! Vashi is fast approaching and I don’t have space to maneuver myself towards the door. Panic strikes! What if I have to go all the way to the next station which is around five kilometers away? Will I be late to work? I lose all self control, as if some infernal demons have been let loose.

That’s when the shouting match started, all of it in English:

“Will you go inside or not?” I asked.

“No, I will stand wherever I want.”

This is rudeness and stubbornness magnified. As 20-year resident of New Bombay I had got used to the easy-going nature of my co-passengers. But the old order has changed and I was now facing more aggressive new residents from far, far away with their sense of what is right and wrong. And, with their own rages, and provocations.

“I have to get down at Vashi and you are blocking my path.”

“Arre you are talking as if you own this train.”

“There is a rule [I don’t know what rule I am talking about] in these trains that states that people who disembark in Vashi occupy the right side of the entrance and those embarking should, through the left side. Don’t you know that?”

We were shouting by this time and I had lost it completely by then. Rage had taken over me, I was virtually, no, really shaking. The words of my rage came from my mouth without restraint. He called me names and I called him names and I thought it would end in a scuffle in the less than few inches boxing ring. Fed up of the whole thing I said:

“You don’t talk, just go in.”

He disregarded this and started off again. I shouted again:

“You don’t talk, okay, get inside or else…”

Then it went in the usual unending, “or else” and “or else, what?” dialog.

Mercifully it ended when the train stopped at Vashi station and I found myself still shaking with indignation. No, it didn’t go away, and stayed with me most of the morning, and only post-lunch did I find my hands stop shaking.

No, I am not justifying myself. On hindsight I was trying to enforce an unwritten rule that even I knew was tenuous. But how did it all happen to someone who is content to let things be, as I see myself mostly. But I must admit I have anger inside me, which must have been made obvious in my writing, my rants.

So here I am, helplessly ranting about my Train Rage.

Anthonybhai would have said: Why men, kalipili, khatkhat doing, no? Let it go like that only, kya men?

UPDATE: Rochelle writes: I think anger sometimes can't be helped. In spite of good sense and commonplace wisdom, we can react in a manner that is startling in hindsight.

...and when we go over this event like a scene in our heads to see if we could have acted it out differently, there may be no better way than the one we already chose.

I also think that uncontrollable situations like anger immediately expose well-concealed thinking patterns and self image.


MY REPLY:Thanks for being on my side in the scuffle. I had sort of polarized the compartment into supporters and opposers when the fight happened. Rage was in everyone and I could sense a riot-like situation happening. Actually what you say is right, I couldn't think of an alternative way I could have reacted in the situation.

Yes, anger can expose concealed thinking patterns and self image. Also, ahem, I don't know if it was the beer of the previous night, as I am drinking after a long time and had sort of forgotten what it means to be hung over. Yah, right, maaan, a hangover makes you very testy. What?


Today, another day, another fight in the compartment I was traveling. "Know who you are talking to, till date nobody has been born who can fight me," a man was saying to another in a filibustering voice. The thickly packed compartment broke into laughter as one, embarrassing the man. Subash Desai in his column in Times of India equates this with a class thing. No, it isn't. Everyone is equally vulnerable. Heard of road rage? That's what I mean. I blame technology. Technology has made us into furtive, impatient beings seeking instant solutions (even at the cost of others' freedom, like the blustering man who shouted "till date nobody has been born," et al) and gratifications instead of investing time in finding longer-lasting solutions that would be more permanent. Well, if New Bombay is bursting and we need more trains, it's the leaders we have to fight to provide us transport and not fellow travelers. Makes sense?

2 comments:

Rochelle Potkar said...

Hi John,

I think anger sometimes can't be helped. In spite of good sense and commonplace wisdom, we can react in a manner that is startling in hindsight.

...and when we go over this event like a scene in our heads to see if we could have acted it out differently, there may be no better way than the one we already chose.

I also think that uncontrollable situations like anger immediately expose well-concealed thinking patterns and self image.

John said...

Hi Rochelle,

Thanks for being on my side in the scuffle. I had sort of polarized the compartment into supporters and opposers when the fight happened. Rage was in everyone and I could sense a riot-like situation happening. Actually what you say is right, I couldn't think of an alternative way I could have reacted in the situation.

Yes, anger can expose concealed thinking patterns and self image. Also, ahem, I don't know if it was the beer of the previous night.

:)

J