“Pudhil Station Dadar… Krupaya paydaan va falatavaril antara var lakshya dya…” *said the woman on the comms in an all-too-familiar voice. I wondered why the announcement was referring to the next station as Dadar, even when the train was nearly approaching the station already. We were already at Dadar, and yet the announcement was lacking behind. It made me smile.
God must have seen it and hatched a plan to make me frown. Realisation swept over me like the windy drizzle outside: I was approaching Dadar station! One of the busiest platforms in the fudging Universe!
As the train seemed to slow down, it still seemed to be too fast. I clutched the hanging arm-resting thingy with my dear life, trying not to be squished into a dosa by the surrounding crowd. Having lesser experience in train travelling, my heart pounded in my chest. This was it. I had to get down at Dadar, by hook or by crook.
I could see double the size of the crowd inside the train on the platform, ready to shoot themselves inside the train like bullets. I had seen that before. I wondered how on earth I would get out of the more-than-overcrowded train. I kept wondering. Meanwhile, people were shouting.
I don’t know what it is with the shouting. Will the shouting make the transition process any easier? NO! Will the pushing, yelling and mercilessly head-butting an innocent young-adult’s back make the train stop faster? NO! SO WHY THE FUDGE BE IN SUCH A HURRY?
Impatience swelled inside my compartment. The people who were shouting were pushing others who stood near the exit like bulls. They fell onto the platform, pouring out like an army of ants from a crack in the summer. And like ants, they were trained. All of them, the ones who were gushing out of the train, were ready and had landed themselves stably onto the platform. They were walking on calmly, as if nothing big had happened.
I heard a hypothetical sound of my underwear tearing into a million pieces. How the hell was I supposed to land myself perfectly onto the platform without falling out of a moving train? I sighed.
This was it, I told myself. This was my ‘pariksha’ for real. This was the test of my life.
I cursed in my mind. Who? I do not know. Perhaps the education system for not teaching me the basics of how to travel in train? Or perhaps my luck for having gotten admission into colleges and schools nearby so that buses were easier for me to travel in than trains? Heck, I didn’t even have time to think who. I just whispered something negligible to myself and took a deep breath.
The train halted. Even after 3o seconds of the shouting, there were still people inside the train who wanted to get out. I was one of them. A fleck of atomic glass particle in a sea of sand. Like others, I was being pushed out of the train like air in space. It was physics. The people at the very back of the exit, were pushing the people in the front.
As I was being pushed out, the millisecond was enough for my brain to overthink as per usual. That stupid comm-woman had said something along the lines of “Please take care of the distance between the platform and the train, you might fall in.” Or at least, she may as well have said that. Immediately, my grandmother’s voice filled my head: “Kunal, do you know what I just read? A small child fell through the crack between the train and the platform and was killed when the train started moving! Please take care!”
Yes, I remembered this fun piece of trivia from a year back (or maybe two) in that millisecond. Immediately, I also thought about the possibility that I might fall through the crack. Without even thinking about my size and the crack’s!
It was one of those things – one second, I was scared shitless for my life; the next, I was already on the platform, still being pushed towards the stairs.
I sighed in relief. But not for long.
The wave of people continued to push me around, so that I was carried from the train to the lower end of the stairs automatically. Somewhere behind me, a few people were screaming… An altercation! Someone was fighting!
The usual Indian inside me awoke. I turned on the spot, mimicking others around me. We all wanted to see what was going on. If there was something like a fight going on somewhere, I definitely did not want to miss it! I stopped in my spot, while others dodged me.
Of course, all I could see was a bunch of bobbing heads. I sighed once more, just as the crowd suddenly cleared away. Woah, Mumbaikars were quick! Wait, wasn’t I a Mumbaikar too?
I walked on, deciding to take the stairs at the other end of the platform, since that was more convenient. I saw a couple fight in a corner of the platform. Curiosity and interest shot high. I stopped once more in in my tracks once more. I watched the free entertainment. The girl was accusing the guy loudly. The guy looked ashamed and embarrassed. For the next five minutes, I thought of all the scenarios under which this was happening. Had he cheated on her? Was she breaking up with him? Had he been caught watching porn? Had she accused him of being “not fancy” like she was? Or was it just some other school drama?
I pondered that for a while, feeling better about my own single-dom, turning back, when I bumped into someone.
The man wore a neat coat, and had extended his arm to block my way. In his hands were tickets. He shook his arm repeatedly, a grumpy expression accompanying this action. Stupidity has never been experienced in this form on this earth, but it did then and there: I grabbed the ticket from his hand. Why? Because I thought it was a flyer or poster or something. He shouted at me and snatched it back. He spoke so fast that words combined into one single word. My hopefully apologetic expression did nothing to calm him.
Now, I was the center of attraction. I felt like I was on a display in a museum while others ogled freely. The man continued to shout at me. He pointed to his chest which had a shiny badge. It read the most logical thing I should have considered: Ticket Collector. But I didn’t. Not until he said it multiple times.
The train was gone, by then. The platform was clearer. However the noise was still there. I put my hand in the pocket, searching furiously for my ticket. As I searched, and as the Ticket Collector man waited in fury, it started to rain harshly. Not like cats and dogs. More like furiously annoying tigers and wild rabid dogs. And I just happened to stand on that place where there was no roof.
I was drenched in minutes.
At first, I felt amused. I kept on searching for the ticket as the TC stepped a few paces back, to a place where there was a roof. However, he kept his arm up and his gaze transfixed on me. He did not bother with the other passengers at all. His eyes, although angry, were glowing. Was it his lucky day? Was he going to finally get to fine someone?
Panic set in and (again, stupidly) extracted my belongings from my pockets. Wallet, cellphone, keys etc were in one hand while the other searched longingly for the darned ticket. I found the ticket and showed it to the TC. He finally let me reluctantly. I apologized as he started to turn, but he did not look back.
I fist-pumped the air in joy. I had survived. I had been nearly caught by a TC. I had been let go by him. I had seen a commotion. A typical Mumbai commotion at that. And I felt elated. A tiring day had come to an end, and I was ready to head home from the station, finally.
I was near the exit. The station was behind me, and the people too. Trains ran by, making their characteristic sounds. A smile on my face, after a tiring day, I walked out of the station, taking care of the puddles. I opened my umbrella, trying not to get wet. My mind was still rejoicing. What an interesting day, I thought.
The initial excitement was subsiding. But the elation was so much that it drove me to grin widely to myself and fist-pump the air once more. And guess what happened?
My belongings toppled over from my hand. Wallet which had money and important receipts. An extremely delicate and water-proof-less (I just made that word, yeah) cell phone. A few other receipts. And it all fell over.
Into the puddle of murky water around my feet.
Sigh. Fuck me.
The monsoon chronicles continue. Today, I had an interesting situation while travelling in the fabled Central Railway. On Dadar Station. Thought I would share it with you. Although nothing ordinary, for me, it was quite an experience.
Tell me what you think about it. Comment down below with your experiences of monsoon railway travelling.
* Next Station Dadar, please take care of the gap between the platform and the compartment’s leg rest.
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