Rushing and pushing along the busy bridge over the station,poking our elbows into every possible flab around us, we made it to the overtly populated railway station. Scanning the train schedules on the indicator,she, my friend, yelled out to me a platform number. I was making my way through the crowd, trying to pace with her but at one point I halted going completely unbalanced on my feet. Oh ask me why! Because I was shaking with laughter at the sight my eyes could no longer behold. My hasty friend had, in all hastiness caught an old man’s hand and ran towards the platform thinking its me. Poor man couldn’t breath to signal her to stop. I stooped down to avoid cramps from laughter but couldn’t help the thought tickling my ribs. When I stretched up to breathe, there my friend was, standing in attention to the old man’s accusation. I could only choke with laughter at her state. She hung her head in anger and marched towards the platform. I tried apologizing clenching my laughter . She had her face swollen with rage. I was smiling but something else amused me .
When I looked around, every face had a different story to tell. Some had foreheads adorned with lines of anxiety. Some had faces that I could not read. Some were mentally calculating the distance, the shortcuts they could take or hire a rickshaw because back at home they had vegetables awaiting to be slaughtered. There were yet many who waited to get home and hit the bed, mothers took care of their domestic affairs. Yet, they all had in some way or the other distracted themselves on this journey to home together. Some plugged their ears with music while others discussed dress, jewellery or work with their train family. I was fascinated by the will power and the potential a young lady possessed. Amidst such a suffocating crowd, she was knitting. In no time I could see an intricate design forming out of a bundle of wool. With another halt, the train got reloaded with a new set of passengers. People had just begun to occupy spaces and re-settle themselves when a girl frantically started pushing people and making her way out.
Before she could make it to the door, the train started moving. She apparently hadnt noticed that her station had arrived because she was busy on the phone with her boyfriend. Her eyes had been moist, her voice, low. Her story, her plight, no one knew. By now, my friend had forgotten and forgiven. She handed me her bag and got up to offer her seat to an old lady, with loose skin and white hair.
We saw her everyday. At this age , managing to travel in locals and having to earn for a living, why, no one knew. There were so many faces that stood blank. There were so many masks I was eager to unveil. But, they all survived the blows of the hard city life. And they did not succumb to the blows but with love and compromise they made it their way of life. I wondered, If I could inculcate every passenger’s story into a book, it would be enthralling to read a story stuck in crazy labyrinths of different paradigms of social life. Mumbai, a training school where one learns to live life. You place a mumbaikar in any part of the world, he will survive. Not just survive but will color the canvas of life . This is a city that knows to burp with content having just a vadapav when the pockets are really low. But its the same city that knows to celebrate the joys of life with much zeal going completely ruthless on the pockets.
And yes, not to forget, Mumbai , its the city of dreams, where one dares to dream.
Leeba Thomas – Writer