Livin’ da Virar Local

Posted on May 13, 2013. Filed under: Essay, Funny, Short Story | Tags: , , |

“Where are you going?” Aai asked her. She did not reply.

“Tyala bhetayla? (To meet him?)“. Again no reply.

Aai resignedly said, “Will tell the driver to get ready ..”

She said, “Nako (Don’t)! Will take the train..”

Her mom looked as though she was about to say something, but changed her mind at the last minute. She scowled at her mom’s omniscience and shut the door behind her.

Rain was lashing Mumbai. She almost cancelled her plan, but decided against it. She had left things languishing for far too long. She waited on the street for the bus to Dadar station. The bus when it came, was relatively empty. She got in and saw a ladies seat empty. She plopped herself down on it. The window was down because of the rain. Through the dirt smeared plastic, she saw the sea. Haji Ali mosque stood like a lone figure enduring the swell of the enraged waves around it. The skies were grey. She lifted the window and felt the wind on her face. She breathed in lungfuls of it. Despite the unpleasant task lying ahead of her, a small smile played on her lips. Every day of her 28 year old life, she had been filled by joy after glimpsing the sea just outside her window.The bus took a turn. The view of the sea was lost. She became aware that her lap had become damp because of the rain water. She pushed down her window and immediately regretted it. With the monsoon breeze shut out, she felt claustrophobic. The bus trundled on towards Dadar. She felt irritated, the best part of her journey was over and the worst awaited her.

********

She stood on the platform at Dadar station. The downpour continued. A huge crowd of commuters milled around her.She felt good that she had a first class ticket. She saw the train pull into the station. To her dismay, the first class ladies compartment was overflowing! She barely made it into the train. As she got in, she got the wind knocked out of her by an umbrella. When someone stamped on her toe, her flimsy but fashionable sandals did not offer any protection. She stood awkwardly, in the throng of women getting squelched from all sides, her foot smarting. “This must be hell!” She thought. Stench of sweat made more putrid by being soaked in rain, seemed all pervading. She swore to herself, this was the last time.

Why had she liked him in the first place? Was it the good looks. Maybe. Was it to rebel against her mom? She remembered her mom’s words,

“Had he been living in Andheri, Vile Parle would’ve been acceptable. But he stays in god forsaken Virar!! How are we supposed to go there? You have grown up all your life in the town side and are used to a certain level of sophistication. Do you think you can adjust … there?”

How she hated it, her mom had been proven right. The worst part of the relationship, was the sickening commute. And 3 months ago, he had gone and gotten his foot broken playing gully cricket. (Her mom – “30 yr old man playing gully cricket?! How very LS.”) The last many Saturdays, she had been going through this gut wrenching commute, to spend a few minutes with him. Things had started to go downhill. The last few times, they always had had a fight, since she would always be in a foul temper after the horrendous train ride. Yet she had avoided taking her father’s car and chauffeur lest he feel insecure. Despite her attempts to make it work, she had failed, the relationship was a disaster. Today’s rain soaked journey was the last straw. She had to break up with him.

********

She jogged to the extent her flimsy shoes and umbrella allowed. She had to make it back by the 6:14 train and she was already late. She was angry.Their meeting had gone just as she had expected. There had been resentful words punctuated by hateful silences. But now she ran to catch the train that would take her away from Virar, for good, forever. Aghast, she saw the train beginning to pull away when she reached the platform. The ladies dabba was far away, she was going to miss the train!! Just then she had a brain wave, she hopped into the gents 1st class bogey. It was the opposite direction so there was little crowd. She stood a little inwards, to avoid the spray of the rain but outside enough to feel the wind in her hair. She was relieved that she had made it and her return had begun. A bespectacled man, stood facing her immersed in his phone humming a dated tune to himself. To her annoyance it sounded like a 90s Ricky Martin track.

Just then her own phone buzzed. Aai calling.

“Where have you been?” her mom began shrilly. “Do you have no sense of time? We have been worried sick. The train service is about to get cancelled! You have always been so irresponsible..”

She barked into the phone – “Aai, mi kukkula baal nahiye. I am not a baby anymore” and hung up.

Angry tears were flowing down her cheeks. The emotion of the day overwhelmed her, and she began sobbing uncontrollably. The more she tried to control the sobs, the harder she cried. The man in front of her looked alarmed. Through her sobs, she waved to him dismissively.

“Sorry, do not mind me, Just having a bad day, you know commuting to Virar during peak hours.”

He replied, “Aah! Livin’ da Virar local!”

“Sorry?!”

He laughed sheepishly. “Just a forward I got in email. You remember the old Ricky Martin song Livin’ la vida loca? Someone has made a clever little play on it – Livin da Virar local” 

Despite herself, she smiled.

********

The train came to a grinding halt at Andheri. The rain had abated, however the train service had stopped until the water receded from the tracks.

“Looks like we are stuck in Andheri for a while”The bespectacled man said. “Ithe ek McDonalds aahe. Softie?”

She knew that he had overheard her conversation with her mom and so was talking to her in the same language that she spoke.

She mulled it over, then finally shrugged and said“Ho Chaalel.(Yes, will do)” She hesitated then. “Umm. Aapla naav? (Your name?)”

He smiled and said, “Oh sorry, mi Shrinivasan Mulye.”

“Shrinivasan Mulye??”

“Ho Baba Kobra. Aai Tamil. Matunga (Dad is Kokanastha brahmin, Mom Tamil)”

She laughed at that, and suddenly felt light and relaxed. Funny how a small but genuine laugh can brighten your day!

 ********

She enjoyed that evening with Shri. Strangely, she did not realize when she started calling him that. He was smart and funny. She smiled to herself when she thought about what her mom would say about him, probably would not be too happy about his Tamil mom and dark complexion. And Matunga, that was a stone’s throw away from where she lived. A very very convenient commute! She felt amazed at how well the day was about to end. The train service started. They got into the gents first dabba again to continue their conversation.

She asked him, “So are you getting off at Matunga?”

He said, “Oh we no longer stay in Matunga. I am just here visiting a few friends. We moved a long time back. I am getting off at Santa Cruz, to catch a flight back home. Hope its not cancelled in this dreadful weather. Had forgotten how Mumbai rains can be!”

She felt her heart sink. She asked him, her voice shaking, “So where do you stay?”

He replied brightly “In a town called Mysore in Karnataka. You should come visit sometime. There’s a beautiful palace there.”

********
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Mujhe In Aaropiyon Se Bachaoooo

Posted on May 7, 2010. Filed under: Funny | Tags: , , , |


07 50, 11 10, 1 40, 5 55 – I am not making up some mystical numbers a la Lost. Such numbers are important to each Mumbaikar. Yes, these are train timings. Only Mumbaikars have a special set of friends called train friends. Often I have heard ladies gossiping thus, “Tya 4:37 vaalya Joshi aahet na …” (Translation: “That Mrs. Joshi who travels in the 4:37 train …” I have generously used Hindi in this post, and wherever required provided translations, in italics).

Mumbai local trains have been called iconic, efficient, the lifeline of Mumbai etc. They are the butt of many jokes and were at the receiving end of one of the cities more gruesome terrorist attacks. Every Mumbaikar has travelled by these trains at some point in their lives. Disembarking from a train during peak hours is a sublime mixture of art and science. You need scientific precision and divine intervention to jump off at the right moment. If you jump early you may fall on the platform and break your neck. If you show a moment’s hesitation, off you go to the next station. It is a matter of practice, but definitely not for the faint hearted. My mom has thus given up. She’d rather be called a coward than travel by a train.

But I digress. The local trains are such a melting pot that you are bound to meet some ‘strange’ people if you travel in them daily. So, here is one of the strangest incidents that I witnessed during my train sojourns

It was a sultry afternoon (as most afternoons in Mumbai are) around 9-10 years ago. It was the Ladies 1st class (With college concession, traveling in 1st was quite cheap). A handful of women were present in the compartment. A Christian lady was horizontal on one of the seats and was enjoying a nice siesta.

The train stopped at Bandra station, in came a policeman. He was not alone, he entered with 2 men. Soon, we that that their hands were bound to each other with rope. We all looked at each other aghast, unsure of what to do.

A bit of background here about the protocol regarding gents admissible in the ladies compartment-

  • Son/brother of 1 of the passengers less than 15 years of age (at least who looks like it) – Allowed.
  • A man selling useful trinkets such as earrings, combs, purses – Allowed.
  • Old beggar man above 60 years of age (at least who looks like it) – Allowed.
  • Blind men – Allowed.
  • Police – Allowed.
  • All others – Not Allowed. (Includes men between ages of 15 and 60, maimed, burnt, injured not withstanding)

Coming back to our story, we were all aghast, unsure of what to do. A policeman for protection, allowed. A policeman along with two bound criminals? Apparently, this was a grey area in our protocol. We all kept mum for the time being.

The erstwhile dozing Christian lady had by then assumed an upright position, having been awoken by these new entrants. She started speaking:

Lady: Inspector saab, aap in aaropiyon ko leke utar jaao (Inspector, please get off with these ‘accused’).

I realized that this lady had recently watched one of those 70s-80s Hindi movies, in which the judge will proclaim a sentence on the villain in the last scene – “Sabhi gawahon aur sabooton ko madde nazar rakhte hue, adaalat aaropi ko saza-e-maut dene ka hukm karti hai . He shall be hanged until deathhhhh!” (Translation: In the light of the witnesses and the evidence, the accused shall be given the punishment of death) One more reason why I suspect so, is that she directly called the cop an inspector.

Then Inspector saab, began to talk:

Inspector: Madam, baaki dabbon mein jaam gardi hai, main aaropi ko udhar leke jaaunga to yeh bhaag jaayenge. (Other compartments are crowded, if I take the accused there, they may flee)

I do not know, if the Inspector had himself seen the same genre of movies or was merely trying to use the same terminology as her.

Lady: Arre aise kaise? Aaropi bhaag jaayega is dabbe se aur humko gun dikhayega to? Humko yeh sab tension nahin mangta hai. (What if the ‘accused’ decides to flee here and holds us hostage with a gun? We do not want these hassles).

Inspector: Arre Madam, Inke paas nahin hai bandook. Aap chaahiye to inke jeb check karo. Kuch tension nahin hai! (They don’t have a gun, if you want check their pockets)

Lady: Arre aise kaise check karo?!! I will not touch them, I only touch my husband.

At this I had to burst out laughing. What more, even the aaropis started smiling to each other.
Some other concerned ladies started supporting the original lady, the instigator of the argument. Murmurs of “Haan barobar hai, Kaayko tension” started echoing in the compartment. The final straw came when the lady said,

Lady: Yeh ladkiyon ka compartment hai, aaropi ladki nahin hai! Ladies aaropi hota to hum log allow karte. (The accused are not girls. Had they been, we would have allowed them).

The inspector was flummoxed at this rhetoric and decided to wave the white flag. He got off at the next station (Dadar) with aaropis in tow. I also got off at the same station and saw him ushering the two in the ever crowded gents 1st.

I shall stop myself here, because I want to desist from making any politically charged comments about women or cops. This is a long enough post already.

Do you have a funny story that happened to you or someone else in the train or elsewhere? Do share it with me, I would love to have guest bloggers here. Also, if you like this post do consider sharing it with others using this handy link Bookmark/share a post or other gadgets in the sidebar.

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