Saturday, December 10, 2005

a coward's salutation to the brave!

yes, i'm a coward when it comes to the perils of commuting via public transport. now, before you start sniggering at me i would suggest a quick glance at a bombay local train during peak hour. it has to be the most quoted cliche in connection with them, but 'packed like sardines' just doesnt do justice to the everyday commuter.

the jews were less densely packed when they were carted off to prison camps by the nazis. in keeping with the tradition of discrimination against brown-skinned people everywhere, the european jews got the holocaust memorial and reams of paper filled with their trials and tribulations, the bombay commuter doesn't even get his trains running on time(over a long enough time frame the death toll is beginning to catch up).

a regular traveller will know what i'm talking about here. when i took the trains i actually felt like it was a history lesson. as the train pulls into dadar its akin to a mongol invasion and at kurla/andheri is where the huns get in.

don't know about you but as far as i'm concerned it can't possibly be the best way to start the day by seeing hordes of humanity lining up to defecate.

i managed to survive the trains for exactly 2 weeks before i caved in and got my motorcycle from home in pune. i figured i'd take my chances on the road. the extreme duress one experiences in the local train can't be put into words very easily. there's pretty much no point to ironing your clothes, polishing your shoes or combing your hair when you leave home. the shoe-shine boys at the stations run a roaring business, i hear there's a substantial 'hafta' to be paid for the right to park one's shoe-shine box at the main terminus.

i suppose eventually everyone gets inured to the painful gig but its the getting used to it period thats the problem. by the time you get home in the evening your body is racked by pains in various places. i can't understand why they have two separate grades of coaches since the only perceptible difference in the first class is that the fights are in english.i hear things are much worse in the women's section, i wouldn't know. i have to rely on second hand information in this regard.

the mortality rates are pretty good too. if you restrict yourself to reported casualty numbers, statistically theres a slightly better chance of getting yourself knocked out in the trains. there are options to choose from too, you could fall off, get pushed, get hit by a stone thrown from the ubiquitous slums adjoining the tracks, you can also hit some of the pylons that are real close to the tracks. whereas if you are on the road, its usually the pedestrians who get bumped off which doesnt really concern you unless its your vehicle that runs them over. which reminds me that you could also get chopped at a railway crossing if you're a train commuter.

in the face of such brutality, to do this day-after-day for years regularly makes each one of them a deserving recepient of a bravery award. at the very least we should applaud them.

so lets hear it for our faceless commuter, the 12-coach warrior, the dutiful tax-payer who accepts his fate in the knowledge that none in the corridors that matter really care for his comfort, his existence or even the lack of it.

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