Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mumbai Local: Slow, Fast and Adventurous

Palak Singh

How many times has a taxi-walla refused you and went ahead to cater to another person with a better destination? Been brushed off in a sexual manner in a crowded bus? Marginally escaped an accident while sitting in an aggressive auto or been stepped on by a sandal on perfectly pedicured toes in a train?

I have, several times. If you’re a Mumbaikar who cannot afford to buy a car with the hiking petrol prices or even if you do, dodging pot holes seems like an annoying obstacle course. You’re not alone, we all are with you. 

I don’t mean to come across as a bitch but the black and yellow depilated pieces of junk roaming around town are a bit of an eyesore. Not to mention, once you enter the dingy vehicle your posterior is placed on rugged covers with years of experience when it comes to causing friction.

The drivers of the aging beauty seem to be perpetually agitated and the public hurls abuses at them for refusing further increasing the insanity on roads. But why do they refuse us at the first place? To go to the desired destination, probably where their house or stand is. Visit a mechanic to repair the overworked engines or to simply take a lunch break or a leak.

To be fair, taxis add to the beauty of imperfections in Mumbai. So the next time you get the dying urge to flash them your middle finger, think of all these reasons. Better still; don’t feel guilty of choosing a new taxi over the old ones. The ride is pleasant, drivers are sober, hardly any engine noise or body-dislocating bumps along the way. Everyone is happy. They also charge fairly all thanks to the digital meter. Unlike the one ones who pocket a little extra cash with tampered meters and do not have enough change early morning.

I got into a little chat with Rajesh Dubey, a taxi driver form Walada on my way to college and he told me things have not been the same since Raj Thakeray commented on north Indians. They get a lot of flank from policemen on minor issues and are harassed on their visits to the RTO.

Dubey he is a part of a work force along with thousands of people hailing from the north of India that run the city. Many people fail to understand that, and treat them with much disgrace.  We could try and appreciate their efforts as it is a challenge for them on a daily basis. One could argue that we have our own issues to sort. Correct. However, it is important to be aware.

What gives you your money’s worth especially if you’ve scored yourself a window seat, is a bus. Despite of being the big red bullies of the streets, buses are fairly amicable when it comes to being organized, clean and swift. But make sure that you know how to converse with the conductor in Marathi if you have a 100 rupee note or he will provide you with the change right when you’re about to get off struggling through the crowd.

Speaking of crowd, I’m sure everyone has stories of being partially molested sometime or another. Sticking extremely close to you, eye-raping you, trying to touch your breast oh so by mistake are common incidents. I usually create a scene and embarrass the hell out of them and there is nothing wrong with that. The least we can do is raise our voice which makes all of their sleazy excitement fizzle out.

On seeing a pregnant woman I usually give my seat to her. But lately I found myself drowning in self-pity hanging on to a handle in an over-crowded bus that was stuck in traffic at the same spot for 20 minutes straight. The reason being, she was not pregnant, she just had belly fat. Which I realized later, on seeing her wonderful fat tiers and it was finally confirmed when her friend asked me why I had given her a seat at the first place.

On local trains especially during peak hours, one has to mentally prepare oneself of entering the compartments. Being a woman, getting rubbed, smashed, grabbed on by another woman isn’t that appalling because not all of them are gay. If you get stuck in a mosh pit of sorts between Maharastrian women, you are going to hear some pretty amusing sentences. They love to argue and vent out their frustration, be it for the lack of space or your hair falling on their face due to the gushes of wind.

It’s all about “location, location, location” for illegal hawkers, ‘hijdas’ and beggars who strive on business in these local trains and get off on their station of choice. It’s amazing how fast local trains run, but If you happen to glance outside the window and see kids playing as well as butt naked doing what’s termed as natural, you’ll become desensitized to the vision after repeated such incidents. Travelling in trains is joyful when empty, during a pleasant weather.

Autos are as hazardous as mosquitos, they buzz around through thin spaces in a jiff and escape from getting slapped or crushed between hands or vehicles respectively. They are devious at the same. Most of them charge rupees ten each on a sharing basis. If you are alone, you can save upto a rupee for a minimum distance along with curbing pollution, but if there are two or three of you, you end up paying for more than the actual amount.

However I consider this city progressive in terms of local transportation as compared to those places where hopping on a train or a bus is not even an option. Where you would rather own a scooty and drive it yourself. If someone refuses you a ride in Mumbai, be thankful to have more options lined your way.  

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