Friday, July 25, 2008

Andheri - an Area of Darkness - Part I

If you ever want to see an example of chaotic development in Mumbai, take a train on the Western Railway, get down at the station named Andheri (which, by the by means “a state of darkness”) and get down on the east side.

First of all to go to the east side you have to walk along a railway platform that is below street level, and if it rains, that means you are wading through ankle-length smelly water of dubious origin. If you pass this gauntlet, you are crammed into what is called a “foot over bridge” in several parallel single files wherein you see only the back and hind parts of the person in front. Well, a bit of leg too if you crane your neck, but that’s another matter.

Then if you are on the bridge there are a dozen ticket checkers stopping everyone and checking tickets. And if the checker happens to be a male he will stop a fashionable girl wearing low-waist jeans just for the odd chance that she doesn’t have a ticket and will be at his mercy. See how cunning and calculating these people are. These men do their utmost to discomfort passengers by standing right in their paths.

Several times when my railway pass had expired I walked past them not making eye contact at all and they never stopped me, but if I was a girl (god, in all kindness, you mercifully didn’t make me a girl, what with ticket checkers, eve teasers, body slammers, low-waist jeans and all) I couldn’t have done that. Hallelujah! Anthonybhai tells me, “No shame, no frigging shame, men, all these bekar people, no, they are so frigging frustrated they will sell their own mothers, men.”

Then comes an even narrow bottleneck where once again you are stuck staring ahead at the cleavage showing through low-waist jeans, or staring at a rump of a “mausi” or an “auntie” who hauled herself off the 8.45 local from Virar with handbag, and big plastic bag saying “Buy Dubai,” a gift from “amcho” nephew working as mechanic in the Persian Gulf.

When you are through with this you walk on a very narrow gully, full of broken tiles sticking out, and long slabs laid, just laid diagonally, without a care for several blind people use this passage regularly. Though the neighbouring shopkeepers shout to attract customers, they never even bother to repair the goddamn path on which their clients stand to buy their banana chips and batata vadas. This very ugly area that sport crude displays of food, underwears, mobile covers, sugarcane juice and even newspaper stalls is never cleaned, and if you dig this area you will get chocolate wrappers of two decades ago.

To be continued….

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