Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Bombay Local Commuter's Nightmare

Yesterday’s commuting was bad. A man next to me was shouting into his phone and that was irritating me, already at my tether’s end after a hard day at the office. Feeling cooped and oppressed like a hen in a chicken coop, sitting beside this fat slithering slob of a man who had difficulty keeping his mouth shut, I went to stand near the entrance to get a bit of air. Big mistake. Another man came and stood in front of me as if I didn’t exist.

I could see the pores on his face; big round holes through which sweat was oozing and his armpit was giving the peculiar smell armpits give in summer. Instantly I felt murderous. I wanted to kill him, the animal. The way he stood, the way he breathed, the way he smelled all seemed repugnant to me. How could people be such animals? Suddenly it all came to me, a country that couldn’t give its citizens a mode of comfortable travel, an education system that didn’t prepare them for their roles in society, much less their roles in a corporate organisation, a muddled system through which we all blundered not knowing where we are headed. Whoever elbowed their way into a train first had the right to a seat, not the old, the infirm, the sick, or (god forbid if they were compelled to travel in peak rush hour) women.

I felt murderous and foul. I was virtually shaking with indignation at the man in front of me, who seemed unaware of my ire, or didn’t care. Animal he is, sweating so freely, no thought of me as I cowered away from the smelly area around the joint of his hand, his gaping pores like craters on his face.

Murder is foul, murder is a crime, but in Bombay trains it seemed like the only alternative. On most days murder is obviated by the fact that it is only for a short while that we are commuting and the feeling will pass. I felt like a martyr, sacrificing my freedom, my right to inhaling and exhaling freely in a free country, so that by the end of the year I can pay my taxes and the government can do what they want with it.

Thinking that the uncouth shouting guy was better this smelly armpit, I went and stood near the seat I had just vacated. As I type this into my mobile phone, the obnoxious man is shouting into his phone, “the easy bit has been done, sir, and only the strategic hard part remains.” Come on, give me a break, its always the easy part that gets done first. And what’s “strategic hard part”? Next he says, “kya ho gaya aachanak?” at the top of his lungs. If you sit next to a man such as this specimen you would be wondering what this “achanak” meant for the entire day. He is gesturing too as he talks, making sweeping motions with his hands. The animal.

‘Woh tho jindagi me challenge nahi tho kya,’ he says next. God, this insufferable man, if only I had something sharp, a Mauser pistol would do fine, thank you.

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