Via the tracks

Pictured: acceptable form of 'safe' travel

Pictured: acceptable form of ‘safe’ travel

My office was shifted a while back from the Western Line to the Harbour Line – the stepchild of the Mumbai suburban railway system. Looking back though, the journey from Bandra to Churchgate during non-peak hours gives you interesting things to see if you are observant.

First up is Bandra station itself, the huge slum cluster next to the station had a party for a few days at one point. At 4:30 in the afternoon. Hats off to you gentlemen, for butchering both my ears and Bollywood songs in one go. As much as I admire you for the party spirit in midst of huge garbage mounds, Mika is not the choice of singer for ‘Dama Dam Mast Kalandar’. No, just no.

On the other end of my commute used to be Churchgate station, which during peak hours sees an improvised game of long jump as the train pulls into the station. Before it can stop, both the young and not-so-young men and women, make a direct jump from the platform to the window seat of the trains. I wonder why no one has thought of a pole to aid the jump and make the TrainOlympics complete.

When I first began taking the locals regularly, the vendors selling all sorts of knick-knacks led me on a mini-splurge. Among the mostly women vendors in the women’s compartment that I have seen has been one aggressive young saleswoman with the catchphrase ‘rozi ki kasam’! She was able to sell her mawa cake to people who just happened to look in her direction. Sadly, you don’t get that in MBA schools, only in the University of Hard Knocks that is this city.

Another enterprising vendor selling foldable hair clips had brought along a young model with long, flowing hair. The little girl, who must have been around 8 years of age, stood there patiently while the elder girl twisted and turned first her hair into the clip and then her neck from side to side to give a quick demonstration to spectators on all sides. Another business lesson – a good spectacle may not necessarily translate into sales.

The girl/woman vendor who got onto my facebook page though, was this homegrown beauty with caramel skin and nose held up haughtily. Her heart was clearly not into the bindi selling she was doing and she had an attitude you could sense even in her silence. She was a beauty, and she knew it. My afterthought on seeing her was a sadness that her lack of deference in this heartless city might just end up one day making her a tragic story in my newspaper.

Speaking of beauty and beauties, you find them in the most unexpected of places. On my post-midnight cab ride back, I have seen a spot that is probably a pick up point for transgender prostitutes, who I’ve only just realised I shouldn’t be staring at. The fact that they are in business shows the hypocrisy of a society that will have patrons of transgender commercial sex, but god forbid someone asks for recognition of different types of sexualities in the world.

Maybe I was looking around more when I first came to Mumbai, but it seems I find more transgenders in the suburban train system. From a statuesque hijra on an opposite platform who once caught my eye, to a transgender person dressed in feminine clothes whose sexy choice of outfit and hip-moving gait led to a rise in my own mood, and an eventual flip of my own hair — they will always stand out in the drab surroundings that the rest of the city and railway system is.
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