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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

You Know You're New To Mumbai When...

  • You are in a suburban train going to a suburb in the morning at around 8 a.m. and you dare to get down on the side where the platform is approaching, at either the last stop of the train, or any station starting three stops from the last. Most logical, right? What the **** else are you supposed to do? But here’s what happens - you are met by a seething, cursing mass of bodies that rushes into the train before it stops and starts boarding it with naked aggression straight out of a National Geographic TV special on elephants in ‘mast’. This is called the 'return maarna routine' where people from around three stations prior to the suburban terminus go there first, and then go back all the way downtown in the same train. All to get a seat, or a comfortable standing space, because the train gets lethally crowded from the suburban starting point. You are supposed to stand at the ‘far side’ so to speak…let the junta get in, writhe, abuse and manhandle their way to their seats and ‘stands’, and THEN it’s your turn in the writhing order, to somehow squiggle your way through to the ‘platform side’. If you are lucky, you get to alight; else it’s back to where you came from sonny. It’s that simple. And cruel.

  • You catch the last train of the night a couple of stations from the origin, and actually expect to get a comfortable entry, seat and exit. Har-Dee-Har-Har. (That evil laugh is amplified a million-fold if the station is Dadar…)


  • You never stop marvelling at the subtle class distinction inherent in our local trains here, where the second class (where the proletariat travels) has the concept of the ‘fourth seat’. The Spartan wooden benches in these compartments are meant to seat 3 people, but thanks to the adjusting factor of the Mumbai Manoos, people are obliged to huddle together and accommodate 4 people. It doesn’t matter that the fourth sitter can accommodate just one butt-cheek. All that matters is that he’s got a seat on the wonderful journey home. It takes just five minutes of walking to get the circulation back…contrast that with what maybe an hour’s worth of homo-erotic rubbing and jostling would do to you. Scary. However, this fourth seat funda fails when there is a ‘ladies’ sitting. (“Arre kaisa sarkega? Ladies log hai ladies…”). All this is just not observed in the snooty, white-collar dominated first class. Three means three. Period. I have a feeling this ‘rule’ might not last for long though…just a matter of time.

  • You actually ask people how many kms is place B from place A. You are usually met with a brusque, flat answer in terms of time – “20 Minutes” for example. NO Mumbaikar I know has EVER answered back in terms of kilometers, meters or furlongs(yes…they use that term in Bangalore. Quaint, what?). It’s ALWAYS in terms of time here.

  • You actually get affected by the poverty and the sheer number of beggars, lepers, handicapped people and street urchins. Also, you believe that the women begging at signals and the infants that they brandish to tug at your purse strings are actually related to each other.

  • You are catching a train late-ish at night, and you are surprised to see well made up, middle-aged and young women in bright outfits and sarees waiting around the ticket counter and the footbridge. The first thought that pops up is that it’s a marriage party returning from somewhere, waiting to buy tickets or to catch up with the rest of the company which might be en route. It’s only when a middle-aged one smiles foxily at you, and maybe sticks out her tongue for a fraction of a second, that you realize that that’s really not the case… (The same applies to well-dressed males standing underneath bus stops late at night, who slide up to cars which slow by, and ask people whether they can help them with something…)

  • You just can’t believe that you’ll get something to eat at 3 a.m. at practically every place in the city. And it’s not just like one lonely street vendor; you will have a proper, proverbial smorgasbord to choose from. Granted, the grub won’t be exactly hygienic, healthy or haute, but it will do what it’s supposed to do – give your stomach something to mull over for the next 8 hours or so. Add cigarettes, tea, coffee (courtesy the cycle-waala dudes of Tamil origin or ‘Annas’ as they are called) and booze to the list too.

  • You find it blindingly ironic that the miserable people selling ‘the apparatus that wards off the evil eye’, consisting of a lemon, a couple of chillies, and a piece of coal all connected by a bit of tin wire, themselves could do with a little bit of ‘bura nazar’ alleviation in their lives…

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12:36 PM, April 10, 2006
Blogger Anand said...

Ah! the burji pav at Dadar Station at 2:30 am during the break of a Farukh Qazi Mew Pee 3 Crash course from 12 to 4 (AM) :)) 40 bucks!! Premium of a 100% due to the unearthly hour but worth every single extra naya paisa we paid :)) To Bombay!! Cheers!    



12:53 PM, April 10, 2006
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bombay is the best ...!!
A mystery that non bombayites would never quite unravel but also not accept ...
~Jimit    



7:55 PM, April 10, 2006
Blogger Venkat Narayan said...

feeling pretty nostalgic sirjee after reading this snippet.
nice work as usual, urges on to come out there and experience it.    



11:32 PM, April 10, 2006
Blogger AJ said...

How do you know about the 4th seat tradition in the ladies compartment?    



11:34 PM, April 10, 2006
Blogger AJ said...

Oh, one more thing:
You catch the train late at night and see a bunch of drunk college kids returning home from Horizons!!    



1:09 AM, April 11, 2006
Blogger SEV said...

As far as eating at 3 am goes, true Mumbaikars would always know that you might actually get better food at the time. And here I am, where beyond 9 pm.. the guy looks at you as thought you're crazy.
The sad part of the poverty is that eventually.. you get so inured that you just can't react to it anymore. Even if half the cases are crap.. the other half really do suffer. Maybe thats what the reservation is all about.. we realise, metaphorically, how they suffer in real life by suffering through admissions ?

p.s. I thought I posted a comment here yesterday...? Oh well. Golden words :)    



10:07 PM, April 11, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

andy,
12-4 am? WTF? We never studied so hard man... all you industrious young people. The future of the country's bright.

Jimit bhai,
Mumbai's the best... everyplace except Andheri(E) though.

Venky,
Thanx...

Banjo,
That was about a 'ladies' sitting in the gents dabba. Not the ladies compartment :)

Satish,
That's true dude... the food factor is unrivalled here. Bangalore for instance just 'ctr-alt-delete-lock workstation's at 9 pm. It's really eerie searching for a quick bite to eat at night there.
About the poverty, it's sickening to the point where you are numb to it...    



9:22 AM, April 17, 2006
Blogger silbil said...

still consider myself 'new' to mumbai so your post me laugh and smile and sigh....
when i was totally fresh out of the oven 'new' to mumbai i asked a cobbler once the directions to a buidlding at 4 bunglows...
i asked him ' kitna door hai, auto lena padega kya' and he said ' zyada door nahin hai madam, aap mumbai ke ho ho to 5 min ka raasta hai aur dilli gaon ke ho to 20 min ka'
i was a little taken aback by the cheeky comment then but 3 months later when i came to delhi i was frazzled to see how slowly people walk and how much space they waste...    



3:08 PM, April 17, 2006
Anonymous raghu said...

reminded me of my first trip to churchgate from kandivili...somebody told me to catch a 'fast train'..i ended up getting down at andheri, buying another ticket , getting down at bandra,etc all in search of the elusive 'fast'...bought a ticket in both the stations...i got a total of seven tickets for the total journey..(never knew you could use the same ticket and get down at any intermediate station and board again...:)) )    



10:22 PM, April 18, 2006
Blogger Tapan said...

Silbil,
That cobbler was right on the money. It couldn't get truer. I can vouch for the 'Delhi relaxed life' part too... have heard a lot of horror stories about offices in Noida/Gurgaon/Delhi offices (even IT ones) which just shut shop at 6.30 pm. Which actually is a good thing if you think about it...

Raghu,
It takes guts to admit what you have just have. REAL guts. Happens to the best, as I always say... :)    



11:33 PM, April 30, 2006
Anonymous Sudharshan said...

Good one !! Don't experience it daily though. The "ladies" sitting was a very fine piece of observation !!    



11:54 AM, June 26, 2006
Blogger GuNs said...

Anderi SEEPZ. Me was there. HARROWING.

Will be coming back to Mumbai for 3 months odd on July 1st. Thankfully, this time, I'm in Mahape.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs    



10:56 PM, October 09, 2006
Blogger Santosh said...

Ah! the burji pav at Dadar Station at 2:30 am during the break of a Farukh Qazi Mew Pee 3 Crash course from 12 to 4 (AM) :)) 40 bucks I ve found it hard to explain the engineers from "else where" that a single semesters course can be crammed into 7 session of 6 hours each, that ran from 12 AM to 6 AM in morning; and that you have breaks in between, when you an have 'food'! I am always met with "Stop braggin" or "F*** off" look!
I miss all these little unique things and more....Mumbai Rocks!    



7:09 PM, June 22, 2007
Blogger Tapan said...

Santosh,

Say that again, and again, and again.... :)    



2:05 PM, August 23, 2007
Anonymous 19eggs said...

Thanks mate. Took me back to when I was a teenager..;o)    



11:16 PM, November 12, 2007
Blogger Tapan said...

19eggs,
You're more than welcome...    



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