Friday, 12 August 2005

Tales Of A Road weary Traveller

People say that I am, by nature, restless. When it comes to my academic career, I must say that I agree with them… I have done my schooling at Chembur, F.Y.J.C. at Matunga, and my S.Y.J.C from a college at V.T. Whenever I tell someone this they always ask me, “Why did you switch colleges in the 12th?” and then, before I can say a word, give me the answer themselves… “I’m sure you wanted better academics…” (yeah, right) or “Aah… better chicks…” (yeah baby!) The theories are varied… but this one takes the cake, by - no prizes for guessing - my loving mother, “My little baby’s going further and further away from home every year…” (I live in Govandi, and for those who don’t know that’s near Chembur). And here that little baby is now in F.Y.B.M.S. at N.M. College of Commerce and Economics (coincidentally even further away from home!!).

Travelling to school was never a problem (other than waking up at 6), the school bus would pick me up and I would be whisked off. After about 25 minutes of bumping away to glory (they should put some shock absorbers on those buses), I would reach school with a rather sore behind, that is, of course, assuming I found a place to sit in the first place…

Then came college in Matunga… at least 45 minutes, plus traffic. That meant having to endure Mumbai’s roads, coupled with the ‘comfort’ of B.E.S.T. buses (at 9.30 am). Travelling on Mumbai roads at 9.30 am does wonders for your sense of perspective. It is an ideal time to contemplate philosophy, and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything else, what with so much time on your hands… While crossing from under Sion flyover I would always end up thinking, “Man, I could get out and walk faster,” and I would have been right… A snail might have got out and walked faster… what with the bus trundling along at the roaring speed of three inches per minute… If and when the bus (finally!) reached my destination, I would have to push, squeeze and squirm to get out, meekly hearing abuses like, “Eh dekh ke chal na” followed by a hard shove in the small of my back as I step on a rather feisty gentleman’s toes, or “The youth of today… no shame at all…” when I trample an old aunty’s saree… Eventually if I was let out of the bus I would find myself drenched with sweat, and not all of it mine…

The next year I was supposed to get to V.T. Now only a fool like me would attempt such a journey by bus… an hour and a half plus traffic… Buses to this part of town from my area tend to look like buses on a pilgrimage… the only thing missing is the luggage tied to the top of the bus as people manage to find the smallest of places to sink their fingers into and hang onto the bus for dear life (literally).

Finally reason prevailed (or did it?), and I found myself graduating to train travel. Over the span of eighteen months, train travel has given me a few gems of wisdom (the hard way) that I would like to share with you.

i. Not every train goes to your house… especially if you are on the harbour line. I learnt this on my very first day of train travel. I got into a train and fell asleep… when I woke up, I found that I was in an Andheri-bound train at Mahim, instead of in a Vashi-bound train at Kurla. Hastily getting off at Bandra, I caught the ever-faithful crowded bus home.

ii. As long as you don’t step on anyone’s toes, you’re fine. Through months of practice at 9 am, I have discovered that no one minds how you stand, so long as it’s not on them. I remember once having about a square inch of floor space to myself at the door of a particularly crowded train. And although I was extremely uncomfortable, I had to make do simply because my co-passengers were enjoying it. On the other hand, if you do tread on someone, you have to bear them cribbing about it, not to you but to your neighbour, as if you don’t exist. “This is the problem today… nobody cares about anybody else…”

iii. A bag (more specifically a backpack) is probably the worst thing you can carry in a train. It is the equivalent of walking into a cage full of starving man-eating tigers drenched in blood. The number of abuses that you receive per day with the bag may exceed that in the most profane of Limp Bizkit songs.

iv. Crib about the population explosion, blame the government, and you’ll fit right in. People hate the government, so if you say something to the tune of, “The government can’t handle the infrastructure properly. This is all because of the population explosion.” you are, in the eyes of your co-passengers, a seasoned traveller, worthy of their company and deserving of your seat (or square inch).

These past few months I have had to travel the insane distance from Govandi to Vile Parle. By bus this takes close to two hours plus traffic. By train, switching at least once, it takes an hour at least. My first lecture being at 7 am, I have to leave my house at 5.30 to catch a train that will get me here a decent time before the lecture. Project work, Umang work, and a special someone have kept me back in college a long time after my lectures get over. So much so that I have reached home at 10 pm or later, regularly. The result? I have fallen asleep in trains every third or fourth day.

Once I woke up as the train was pulling out of a familiar-looking station. It took another two stations for me to realize that I had not just slept all the way to V.T. but halfway through the return journey as well!! Sleeping on the train has since become a habit… I regularly wake up only at V.T. And they call me restless… ha!