The third class conduct of a first class Mumbai local compartment
“Get out of the train! We’ll push you out! Don’t make place for this dumb fool!”
Ever found yourself in the same scenario where abuses were hurled at you? Albeit without a fault of your own? An early bird catches the worm, but a late worm is pelted with abuses and threats. That’s how you go about a Mumbai local that leaves you aghast and terrified, feeling awed and flawed, all at once.
So I flitted, from a second class compartment to the first. Wrong in my established idea of being better treated in a first class compartment, in false hopes of being able to breathe in an otherwise claustrophobic environment.
Brought up in households where you sit poised and smile through gritted teeth and never back-answer; where lisps and slurred speech is only a result of contempt of a court-like atmosphere at home when relatives and elderly people talk to you, respect spews and stains our mouths. The train-ride of my life began in a similar manner, with me getting into a Dombivli-bound fast local, deforming myself to fill spaces that people would otherwise stick bags and elbows in. All smiles through the adjustments, through varied smells of sweat mixed with exhaustion and apathy at their possibly horrid work lives, women tumble all over each other to somehow make it into a train since the cancellation of two previous ones. Snatching whatever they can get their hands on, through nails and flowy, grisly, untamed hair, they make their way into the comparatively smaller, through heart and space, first class compartment.
‘Where do you want to get off?’ ‘Thane.’ ‘But you got in at Ghatkopar’ ‘Yes and we only just crossed it.’
‘Do not let her through!’ They scream in unison. One woman understands my urgency and takes a stand for me against the women that otherwise plot to push me out of the train. Horrified, I stare aghast at the women that won’t budge but were quick to call me out on my ‘audacity’ to get into a Dombivli-bound train. My ‘foolish’ self regains composure to question the halt at Thane station to which I am met with jeers and more ‘pressure’ as they call it. Frantically, I struggle ahead with the next stop after Thane being Kalyan. Apologising all the way for the inconvenience I was causing, and mentally imagining myself in a comic situation where people screamed ‘Push’ like they did to a woman delivering a child to cope with the abuses being hurled in the most unperceivable manner. The only difference being that the baby would slide into safety, whereas I would fall onto the tracks, unaccounted for and dismembered.
Trapped in the middle with a bag on my head and my feet halfway in the air, I struggle past women that disapprove of my existence in a way that they curse the day I was born. I wade through the crowd, receiving blows to my sides, elbows, bags and umbrellas and look past the heads that stop me from moving. The only people getting off at Thane hang at the door, on their toes, in an unparalleled dilemma of being outcasts. I beg and plead only to be met with the resonating chant of ‘Get off at Kalyan! Use trains meant for you! Go by slow trains! Who asked you to get into a fast train!’ I timidly question why the train would stop at Thane in the first place if it wasn’t meant for people to get off and assert that I was unaware of any such rule that exempted me from boarding the train.
I still haven’t reached the two people who want to get off at Thane when the bag on my head seems to imaginarily blind the people behind me from their scenic view and breeze. I gasp midway through the crowd, only to be pushed behind. I unsuccessfully grasp at the handlebars to apportion my body to reach the door as standing in the middle isn’t an option. I reach the women who want to get off at Thane where I’m still shouted at for inconveniencing everyone, still being threatened of not being allowed to get off. The women plead to let me stand, unsuccessfully, but I’m pushed and poked and budged at after which I scuttle through my last hurdles; two women. I reach the door at Mulund and grab the bar that separates me from the barrage of hot-tempered women, I try in vain to calm myself down at the horror and disgust for being in an iconic Mumbai local I once adored. Tears spill through the scent of unaccomplishment, instilled ethics that barred me from back-answering women twice my age.
My ordeal did not end there. As Thane arrived, I found my feet again but it wasn’t long before I was pushed. A crowd softened my blow and I hit the ground running. I was almost pushed back into the train because of the humongous amount of people pushing to get through me and onto the train. I gathered myself, too dumbstruck to go and lodge a complaint with the RPF, got into an auto and did not utter a word about the incident to anybody until two days later when I mustered the courage to admit that I was manhandled, bullied and almost thrown off a train.
Does it seem appropriate that humanity seems to have reached a cripple with misplaced anger and use of force being portrayed as a woman’s strength? Or does my ordeal account for an incident of mob lynching in a milder form?
(Special thanks to my editor for letting me voice my opinion and for giving me the courage and platform to do so)