Any and every woman who has traveled by a train in Bombay (a.k.a Mumbai as per MNS standards) would have a story to tell. There is one peculiar breed of women (and men) that are exclusive to Bombay; they are your train friends. Beware, however, that this post isn’t about train friends. This post is about anyone and everyone who has a train story to tell.
Why I Hate Kanjivaram Saris!!!
Christine (my pal from college) and I would take the same train to college every morning. I have always called the first class ladies’ compartments on the Central Railway line as being ‘anorexic compartments’; this owing to the fact that they are as tiny as can be. Given the fact that we little children (we were about 16 or 17 then) would have to travel during peak hours, we preferred getting off the train at Vidyavihar station and then boarding the following train which was a Ghatkopar to CST train. One morning, while Christine and I were on our usual trip of getting off the train at Ghatkopar, this incident happened. This elderly lady standing near the door was draped in a pretty kanjivaram sari which had tassels on her paloo and it so happened that these very tassels got entangled on my bag. I didn’t want her sari to tear, and so I promptly jumped back into the moving train; and following my action, so did Christine. Once I was back inside, I hurriedly tried to free her sari from my bag, so that we could get off at the next station i.e. Kurla. When I’d finally managed to detangle the tassels, the woman looks at me and says “Can’t you college kids handle a small bag?”
I didn’t say anything, for I wanted to get off at the next station; and getting into an argument at that point in time wouldn’t help me. The next statement she made, however, changed my mind. She began an age old argument that had always been capable of making my blood boil. She began harping about ‘How college kids with their concessional season passes were cramping the first class compartments’. Something exploded inside me. I turn to her and look and say “Even if it hadn’t been for the concessions, almost all of our parents could afford the money for our seasonal passes. Concession or no concession, we’d have still been traveling first class!”
She was taken aback. She hadn’t expected me to counter-argue with her. To my surprise, all the college kids in that compartment stood up to support me; and when I say ‘stood up’, I mean it literally. They all came and stood behind me in a semi-circular formation of sorts. Suddenly, the anorexic compartment had turned into a war ground.
I continued “Are you trying to tell me that your kids/grandkids aren’t availing of concessions in any form? Or perhaps, you expect me to believe that you never bought anything at subsidized rates ever in your life?”
The kanjivaram clad lady was zapped. She didn’t know what to say. The college kids cheered. They’d found a voice in ‘frustrated’ me. I ended up traveling on the same train, all the way to CST (which was my intended destination).
When it was time for us to get off the train, I looked at her and uttered my parting words; “And yes, we ‘college kids’ wouldn’t mind taking care of our rather SMALL bags if only you could take care of your smaller wayward tassels”. My job was done!
Who said traveling in Bombay was easy?
(Watch out for more traveling stories sometime in the future.)