An eyewitness account of a recurring nightmare, otherwise known as a Mumbai local.
You wait on the platform, in anticipation, like a paparazzo waiting for Britney Spears to step out of a limo. You are not alone. There are 15,576 others, with their fists clenched and backs hunched, like those Kenyan athletes at the start of a marathon. The Train arrives. The hustling and bustling begins. But wait, that’s just the warm up. The hustling soon turns into a full-fledged stampede, and the sounds of footsteps and expletives like “abey ch*#?ye aage badh!” fill the air. Within seconds, all the 15,576 are packed inside the same compartment that you’re in. After taking a few moments to come out of the shock, you silently thank God for keeping all your bones intact, and still within your body. You are also thankful that you have Mediclaim, just in case.
The train starts moving. You start planning your exit strategy. You realize the strategic importance of standing behind a big, fat guy who can act as your ‘shield’ against the incoming public. As the next station arrives, you and your co-passengers plot and scheme against those who are getting on, just like the bitchy contestants of a reality show (I’m sorry, I’m no good with analogies).
Two stations pass and your posture has changed dramatically. You are now standing on the big toe of your left foot, which is bearing all your body weight. You can’t feel your right leg. Your hands are strewn apart, and you are holding on to a handle with only your pinky (pinky, as in little finger. As in the one which is on your hand). From a distance, you actually look like a very clumsy ballerina. To make matters worse, you have to wriggle away from the guy standing behind you, because you realize(from his not-so-subtle actions) that he’s either a pickpocket or just openly gay. You turn around and glare at him. He smiles coyly and flutters his eyelashes. You wish he was a pickpocket.
As more and more people pile in, you get wedged into the big, fat guy’s ass. You can actually hear your spine creaking. The straps of your bag form a noose around your neck, choking the life out of you. Now you know how Saddam must have felt. Still more people push in, but now something magical happens. You don’t feel any pressure at all. You start wondering whether that was because of quadriplegia or due to some other reason. But your scientific mind soon comes up with the explanation: When there are many forces acting on a body from all directions, there comes a point in time when all the forces cancel each other out, so that the body feels no pressure(In this case, the body is yours). Voila! All the laws of Mechanics seem clearer now. You have achieved Train Equilibrium or Trainirvana. The thought is so comforting that you drift off into sleep.
You are lying on soft, green grass under the vast blue sky. Beautiful wispy clouds float overhead. The stream which is flowing beside you sprays a few drops of salty water on your face. You wake up from that little reverie. You realize that the water droplets are still on your face. Damn! The big, fat guy’s armpit’s leaking. As you’re fidgeting around to wipe your face, the corner of Economic Times that someone is pretending to read gets into your eye. “Don’t worry, Mediclaim will cover that one”, he says reassuringly.
You forget the pain for a moment when you realize that you have to get down at the next station. The train slows down at the platform. You prepare to step out of the train feeling very relieved. Just about then, the knee of an incoming passenger meets your crotch with a dull thud. Your lungs deflate. You see stars, then darkness and then some assorted psychedelic colours. You might hear music too, but that depends on your personality. Your entire life flashes in front of you. You collapse on the platform with tears in your eyes. People walk around you. Some kind aunties throw loose change at you. You are thinking, “This cannot get any worse”. And then, your girlfriend, who was in the adjoining compartment, sees you lying on the platform.
The first thing that you do on reaching home is start cleaning your old bicycle.