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Humidity, Change & Dialogue


If you've read my piece called 'Mumbai's Training Glory', you'll better understand where I'm coming from. I wrote this is in August of 2011. My wrath with Mumbai continued, and I wrote on about it but this time I  thought it would be interesting to chronicle my average day for my readers. So go on, read it...your time starts now!

That life in Mumbai is a struggle, is probably something you’ve heard way too often. Well it is true, oh so true. But mind you, I’m only part complaining. It’s bad, but you do feel a sense of pride at the end of the day for having lived through it. The city makes you hard. The city makes you strong. The city makes you a survivor. But this is not just another write up of my life in Mumbai. This is the story of my daily travails of getting to work from home and back each day. And I promise, each journey has been nothing short of eventful, to say the least!

From my home to the gate is a 7 minute walk. I then cross the road and usually, easily find an auto to take me to the station, a 6 minute ride away. Once I get there, I rush past the morning crowd to climb up and down the never-ending stairs of the station to get to my platform. A 5 to 10 minute wait for the train is inevitable and the humidity just does not make the waiting easier. The train arrives and a swarm of ladies of all proportions unleashes out of the ladies' compartment and you silently marvel at the huge numbers a little boogie can accomodate! Once the crowd disembarks, I get pushed on to the train by the restless sweaty ladies behind me and before I can say ‘phew’, I am entangled in hair of all lengths and shoved by bags of all sizes. Feet get stamped upon and the head gets bashed on. This makes for a queasy 35 minute scene until my station arrives and I’m, well, pushed out again!

Engulfed with fresh air (and traces of stench), once out of the train, I make my way out of the station which takes about another 4 minutes. This process is usually interrupted by ticket inspectors who on most days earn so much in fines when they catch quite a lot of ticket-less commuters. Moving on, I come to the toughest and the final of the 3-part journey to work – hailing a cab. I consider this my daily 10 minute fight. And I have the competitive company of so many other people fighting the same fight. Each one throws glares at those who successfully hail one. And I make no qualms about having snatched someone else’s cab on a few occasions. Don’t judge me, on most times, I have been on the receiving end and trust me, worse has happened!

Glad that I am finally in my rickety ‘kaali-peeli’ taxi, I look past all those people still waiting for their turn, as they continue sulking and hoping to strike it lucky. A short silent prayer for them is the most I can do. My cab-related happiness is short-lived and I stop gloating when after almost ramming into a bus, a cycle and a kid, I realize the driver is definitely on a suicide mission and has the intention of dragging me in with his plans! I pray, again and this time for myself. 7 minutes and my heart rate returns to normal when I ask him to stop by the side of the road near my office. The meter shows Rs.16 and I fetch my wallet to open it, only to find a Rs.100 note. Uh oh! No change! The adventurous journey to work is only just beginning.  I know what’s coming at me. The driver’s going to burst into a fit of rage that I am out of change and not handing him exactly Rs.16.

My heart beats faster, my blood pressure drops, sweat beads form up on my head, as I hand him the note. As expected, he gives me the most terrifying glare and yells to his heart’s content, “Madam, meter dekha aapne! Kya sola rupaye keliye sau de rahi hai ye ladki, subah subah change kaha se aayega mere pass, kahan kahan se aate hain log dimaag kharab karne keliye……..…”. In my head all I can hear is “yada yada yada, bla bla bla”. At this point my blood is almost at boiling point and please note I’m not one for losing my temper easily, but this one just cuts the bill! In my broken Hindi, I then yell back in full filmi style and ‘maaro’ an already rehearsed dialogue at the driver “Agar change nahi hai toh nahi hai kya karu, itna gussa hone ki kya zarurat hai, aise kisike upar kaise chilla sakte ho! Jaise tumhare pass change nahi hai, vaise bhi mere paas nahi hai, chillao mat! Yeh aankhen kya dikha rahen ho mujhe! Maine kya gunaa kiya hai? Aaj kal sau ka note dikhane main darr lagta hai! Change nahi hai, maaf kardo! Dimaag ka dahi bana diya!”

After delivering my Filmfare award-winning performance, I walk to the nearby bakery and get change from them and in the most vain fashion give it to the driver, of course I showed him ‘the eyes’ too! Having vented out my frustration on him, I feel just a little better that the journey is over and I am finally at work, safe and in one piece. I climb up the stairs and enter the office, only to find that there is some problem with the air conditioning. I sit on my seat with an FML-sigh. I've got 8 hours of work to do before I again embark on my journey back home which I don't think is necessary to write about...or is it?

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