I write a lot about the people and the sights I meet on train everyday. That's because for the past 31 years I have been commuting on the same route in Bombay - the Harbour Line that starts from Bombay V.T. and would end in Chembur, no; Mankhurd, no; Vashi, no; Belapur; no, Panvel. I remember times when the line used to end in Mankhurd. Then it gradually extended like the elongating man (Yes, there used to such a character in comic books) to Vashi and Belapur and Panvel in an act of expansion fueled by the population explosion. With this explosion commuting became an arduous task, cramming thousands into a few hundred square feet of space.
Most irritating of all is all sorts of people invading my personal space. I like some space around me. I no longer get any space in trains. Moreover, most people carry back-packs to office. It's frightening seeing all those formally dressed people with bulging back-packs on their backs, as if they were some alien with carapaces for backs. (Confession: I am one of this species of people.) They come in a variety of fabrics and designs. The advantage of a back-pack is that it leaves hands free for holding on to the stirrup-shaped metal holders inside the compartment. An important accoutrement, it is a vital prop that helps prevent me from falling when the train lurches.
In the 1980s when I first started commuting the trains were only modestly occupied. I could stand with comfort if I didn't get a seat. Nowadays people stand in the narrow space between two seats facing each other. The result is rather obscene. You have a man's derriere at eye- (and nose-) level.This gives rise to embarrassing situations. Suppose a guy wants to gas after a particularly gassy snack he has had on the way home. Then he is in a fix. So you can see guys contorting with pain this way and that way, not knowing how to let it go. Some even succumb to the temptation and the smell is awful, believe you me. Drat!
Well the population is increasing insidiously and there's no other alternative in sight. So, for the time being I will have to suffer the smell, the push, the awful contact with sweaty bodies in silence. How my city has changed!
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