Monday, 24 May 2010

Towards traffic, Mumbai Local

I am the beginner the title of the post refers to ( well the title was a beginner's guide to Mumbai Local trains but I kinda changed it but was not in the mood to change the start) and I must confess that over the last 2 months (nearly 2 months) I have had the fortune of travelling against traffic for 98% of the time.

This post would draw on my experiences from the 2% when I got to travel with the traffic. Only 4-5 times did I get to experience the Mumbai trains which are shown in all those photos showing Mumbai's resilience. The ones with all those people hanging out of the compartment. There was even a 3 minute movie which was shortlisted by BBC in one of their Talking Movies' contests which only showed people climbing in and out of Mumbai local trains for 3 minutes. This post draws from the insights captured from those 4-5 trips.

Entering a local train in Mumbai is quite easy actually. All you have to do is to ensure that you stand at least 2-3 feet close to the tracks and as the train enters into the station, the wisdom of the crowds will ensure that you are pushed into the nearest compartment.

And once you enter into the compartment, you may understand the inherent natural urge that makes sunflowers follow the sun when your brain commands you to crane your neck and turn your head in search of oxygen. That is if you are fortunate not to find your head nestling cosily in the armpit of a raunchy old man who ardently believes that the density of pubic hair is a sign of virility.

I am taking a horticultural diversion here. You know the whole sunflower following the sun thingy is flawed. As in I think it may not be true for all sunflowers cos the ones in my campus dont tend to face the sun through the course of the day. Now getting back to those trains.

After all the search for oxygen you find that perfect spot where the angle of the fan is perfectly in accordance with the aerodynamic principles of Bernoulli and you are definitely sure all the mathematical and geometric calculations have been made and like I have previously mentioned the spot you have nailed is perfect and you come against that most dreaded law... Not sure if it was Confucius or if it was one of the Marathikars who said it - "In local trains, when perfect spot found, beatific smiling old man or angelic smiling old lady suddenly comes around!" You just have to give way.

And through it all you hope that the person you stand next to has had time to clear his bowels because in your search for Oxygen the last thing you want to find is Methane or Hydrogen Sulphide. You hope not to stand next to someone who has had beef and mutton pulav to eat the previous day and not had the chance to go in the morning. In other words, you hope that you are not standing next to me!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Overbridge, Matunga Station

He is a blind beggar. This is not going to be one of those posts where the author tries real hard to capture the times in a truly eloquent and witty way and then stun the reader by springing a twist in the final line by declaring that the protagonist is blind using a very subtle and poetic sentence. Why? Firstly, I think that whole format has become quite stale. Jeffrey Archer has done it to death. Secondly, and probably more importantly, I am not that good a writer.

So the start pretty much puts it across in a straight not so subtle way. The protagonist is a beggar and he is blind. He is this blind beggar who stands at the end of the overbridge in Matunga station towards the East side - Kings Circle Side.

Over the last month and a half or so, I have walked past him almost on a daily basis and I admire the dignity with which he stands over there in that corner. He is either wearing a blue t shirt or a dark blue shirt and thats neatly tucked in to a terycot formal pair of pants which was the fashion of my father's generation but still continues to hold its own today. No formal shoes but a nice pair of leather sandals. And he doesn't make a sound. Singing is not his style. Nor does he plead or implore you to drop some coins. He just stands there, listening., in a corner, trying hard not to disturb or bother you.

I am not sure how much he collects daily and I haven't seen him around on Sundays. He puts in a 6 day or a 5 day week. And that overbridge is all his.

I am more interested to know what all he must be listening to during his 'office hours'. Has he picked up any Tamil from the Matunga crowd? Does he smile in embarrassment listening to teenagers sharing their newly discovered romance or does he nod in cognizance? Can he feel the madness and the rush of many trying to catch their morning commute to work? Does he empathise with the exhaustion of those returning home? Does he wish to see the joys of the kids who run to Shivaji Park for their daily dose of the gentleman's game at Shivaji Park? Was he standing there when the name of Sachin Tendulkar made the rounds around the park? Does he have friends whom he meets and shares a drink with at the end of the day or week? Does he recognise the sound that my bag makes and does he expect some coins in his palms every time the bag comes near?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The daily stroll home... till June

And the 19:53 Slow train to Churchgate brings me to the stop where I get off - Matunga Road. Start walking towards my right as I disembark from the train and stop at the refreshments stall to buy me a Lichika. It tastes a bit odd for a Litchi drink but its nice nevertheless. Climb up the ramp to reach the Matunga Z-bridge - an asbestos lined ramp which takes one from Western Railway halt (Matunga Road) to the Central line (Matunga) - that takes me over the Railway Coach factory. I think to myself that this a perfect place to have a chase sequence from an action movie, they should get some Vijay movie shot in Mumbai, with him being the gang lord at Dharavi or Sion or some slum or he can be a Dosa master at Ayyappa's road side dosa stall (more on this later)

The Z-bridge ends at the overbridge of Matunga station and I walk past the blind beggar wishing I had some change to give to him just to pay tribute to his presence at the end of the overbridge every single day of the week. As I get down to the roads I see people fervently looking at the lottery numbers on a small kiosk which has these screens flashing numbers. The kiosk stands next to a paper shop that sells Tamil and Malayalam magazines to what must be a regular South Indian clientele brought up in the shady (in terms of tree cover) locales of Matunga.

The Thandai shop and Vada pav try tempting me but I do not wilt. My mind is made and I walk past the shops selling "South Indian flower garlands" as my stomach is waiting for that Podi Dosa in what is arguably the Best Dosa Stall in Mumbai - Ayyapan dosa kada right next to Mani's Lunch Home (who serve unlimited Full Meals for Rs. 70/- with unlimited Pappadams) opposite to a mid-sized temple. The place is teeming with young and old alike. No doubt hooked by the awesome Dosas and Sambar. Pineapple Seera to round off my dinner and I walk out of the lane back to the main road.

Walk right past the old Mallu uncle selling pirated DVDs of the latest Tamil and Malayalam movies sitting right next to the entrance of the Kochu Guruvayoor temple and past Amba Bhavan coffee club where you can drink the closest resemblance to South Indian filter coffee Mumbai. Enter King's Circle and take a left towards Mysore Concerns - selling filter coffee powder and Coimbatore butter, walk past the Pulao/Pav Bajji wallah and the health juice shop, glance at the queue outside Madras Cafe, walk towards the New Punjab Restaurant thinking of the night I spent with 2 buddies eating pappad and drinking 7-Up while one of my friends tried hard to down that 2nd bottle of Beer.

Wonder how there is always a queue outisde Madras and Mysore Cafes and remember the great rasam that I tasted there last Sunday. Cross the road and remind myself to have the Summer Special Mango ice-cream with Malai the next weekend and also make a visit to Idli house to have their out of this world Jackfruit idli that reminds me of the Ella Appam that my grandma made the last time I saw her alive. Walk past the Kulfi wallah, telling myself all the time that I need to control the urge to have a mixed Kulfi plate as my pants are refusing to comply to the requests of my ever increasing waist size.

Decide to try out the cheese szchewan rolls opposite the Kulfi shop for dinner tomorrow and also decide to never step into the New Yorker and end up paying a bomb for vegetarian food. Must have breakfast at Koolar Irani Cafe on Sunday. Kheema with Bun Maska and Irani Tea. Also get some really strong ginger soda, odd tasting raspberry soda, nice spl tea with burun maska and some nice plum cakes.

Take a left now to enter the Adenwala road, which is all dug up and ready to be concretised, walk past the Khalsa college road and the AMP hostels to enter the gate of Belle Ville.

The dog, traumatised by guys when it was young according to the old aunty who owns the place, greets me with some noisy barking. Ha, I am home... at least after A. throws down the keys and I enter...