Thursday, August 25, 2005

A day in Mumbai Local trains

What do you imagine when you hear the word "Mumbai"? Preity Zinta, Hrithik Roshan, Sharukh Khan or BIG shopping malls, Mercedes, Skoda or sea, beaches and babes.

Well they are a part of Mumbai. But if you ask the same question to a person who has been living and working in Mumbai, you will get a different answer. The answer will be - Local trains, Local Buses, traffic police (mamu to be more precise) and beggars.

One weekend in Mumbai is enough to know how local trains work. Though it takes 1 hr for me to travel to town side but I never realize how the time passes. The journey starts at the ticket counter.The moment I enter the area where tickets are avaible the first thing that comes into my mind is, can I go back? Seeing the long line of people makes me wonder from where do all these people come from? With a heavy heart I join the long queue of people waiting to get a ticket. The moment I stand in line, there comes a small hand poking me. I look down and I realise a small child is begging. I try to shoo the child off but it keeps pestering. I try to ignore and to do time pass I look around and i see a big board with numbers on it and after looking at it for a long time and I realise its a list of ticket rates from various stations. By looking at it I try to figure out what amount i would be required to pay. But before i could figure that out, I land up on window and when the questions about my destination are shot back, I am totally confused!!! "Ticket for Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus"...single or return...chuta the time I get out of the line I don't even know whether its the right ticket or did I get the proper amount. But when I look back I realize its more trouble to ask than to move on. Hoping that everything I have in my hand is correct I proceed to platform.

There is separate compartment for ladies. One time the eunuchs in Mumbai wanted a separate compartment coz they felt they couldn’t decide which one to take, ladies or gents. Locating a ladies compartment is little tricky. You have to rely on your animal instinct. Search for a similar looking species group and silently join it. The major tussle starts when the trains comes on platform. The dupattas are tight around the waist and the purses hung crossly and I suddenly feel what would happen if someone started playing a trumpet and shouted "Dhava Booolllll". Well, if that's not going to happen, some tricks come in handy like , to stand right in front of the crowd. The crowd will push you forward and in no time you'l be inside trying to search a place, not to sit but to stand. Its amazing to see so many ladies inside one small compartment.

Once a local newspaper did a research on the noise level in ladies compartment in local trains in Mumbai. They said its much higher than the safe decibel level for normal human ear and then i wonder what if Supreme Court set a noise level limit in ladies compartment. All ladies will die of suffocation. There is all kind of noise there. Someone is selling toys, edibles, clothes and someone if the far corner will shut "foreign chocolates" and every head will turn in that direction. You can find anything in local train. You want to dress up for an evening party you can get lovely earning, nail paints, lip liners and combs. Well, you cant be brand choosy in there, can you? Once I saw two friends talking among themselves. Looking at them i forgot all the noises that were surrounding me. They were deaf and dumb. They were talking through sign language. They laughed from heart but no one could listen. Suddenly, there is a high pitch noise singing the famous song of not so famous film and I am brought back to reality of my capability to hear. Small children singing, elder one playing harmonium and you wonder what life do they have? Their age is play in dusty grounds but for their parents that’s the age when they can earn the most. At times I really want to help a kid and give him money but then I seen young kids doing drugs and I restrain myself. I would rather prefer to give something to eat than to give money.

As stations pass, the train becomes less crowded. I do then what I love to do best. I stand on the door. I can see where the train turns like a snake in a dessert. I can see rows of houses passing so fast that I can just make out through colored lines. Makes me feel as if I am flying and free to go where ever I want to. The wind pushing through my hair, tears flying out from the corner of my eyes due to the force of wind on my face. I love it all. As the train picks up the speed, I sway a little with the motion of the train and i am detached from the world that is around me. I start thinking about various issues of life. The train pass a over-head bridge and I can't avoid looking at people living under it. With whatever little space that is available they have made a home for themselves. Children are playing on tracks, far in the corner someone is taking drugs trying to forget hunger. Seeing all this makes me wonder what forces them to stay and live such kind of life. Can't they take a decision to lead a better life and move on to some other place? What makes them stay here? What makes them happy even though they are not living a life worth living? At those moments I thank God for whatever I have and thank God for such caring and loving parents who took some right decisions in life and made our lives worth living.

Slowly and slowly the train reaches its destination and I didn't even realize that 1-hour has passed since I had climbed into this train. I get down and I realize my hair on head is standing, my dress is all ruffled up with the crowd in the train, and I might not be looking my best, but in the end I loved it. In the end I always learn something when I come out of the local train.

Local Trains which is famously called - Lifeline of Mumbai.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Happy Independence Day

Do we really need 15th August?

Today i was going through an article on the Nanavati report for riots that took place during 1984 when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. The way the writer wrote the article was very expressive but the most haunting line that caught me was the line with which he ended his article. Justice delayed is justice denied; and justice denied is a recruitment notice for separatism. This line made me think where does separatism fit in our country because don't we claim to the largest democracy of world?

India the largest democracy in the world is going to celebrate Independence Day just 3 days from today. India, which had become a symbol for "Non-Violence fight for Independence" for most of the countries that were under the British raj nearly 58 years ago. India's most important foreign policy is that of non-violence. But the same country has a history of 3 major riots that had ripped the country apart. The first was in 1984 in Delhi (capitol of India), second one in 1992-1993 in Mumbai (capitol of Maharashtra) and the third one just 3 years back in ahemdabad (capitol of Gujarat). Do we really believe in what we fought for? Where are going from here, post godhra, post black Friday (Mumbai riots) and post Nanavati Report?

How many of us are ready to stand when we hear our national anthem playing? When asked what caste, how many of us answer "Indian"? How many of us don't smirk at Muslims? How many of us eligible Indians vote? We as Indian have done nothing for our country. Whatever we have today was given to us who fought for independence and yet whenever we hear of such riots, we stand up immediately and blame govt. of India for it. No, the govt. is not wrong anywhere. It's us who stand wrong here. Who elected the govt.? We did. Those who are sitting on that chair are from among us. They reflect what we think, and the world is seeing what they have to show. We have done more harm to our country than those could do. We have stopped believing in our self. We have our self have divided our own country in the name of religion, in the name of minority and majority.

Of course, it's more convenient to be Indian when we are in USA rather than when we are in India. A person in USA would search for a dustbin to throw a piece of garbage, but the same person moving in Mercedes in India would just roll down the window and throw out garbage. A person USA would easily laugh at his country. What they forget is that they are laughing at themselves.

As the youth of India, it's our responsibility to stand up and say no to violence in the name of religion. Justice should be given to those who thought themselves to be God and took the decision of who should live and who should not. We should start respecting our country, our religion. We should start taking responsibility of our own actions. Its time to stand up whenever we hear "Jan Gan Man".... because blood doesn't come cheap nor does Independence. Happy Independence Day.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Happy Friendship Day

"Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget." - G. Randolf

When we are born, we don't know anything. Whatever we know today, its foundation was laid by our own parents. Though the word "Friendship" was taught by my parents, its meaning was taught by my friends.

The joy of getting to know people other than our family starts when we enter school. There for the first time in our lives we make friends. The meaning of friendship at that time means sharing tiffin, sharing notes, holding hands, distrubuting sweets together in school on b'days. Those are innocent days when we dont think of future and leave in present.Those were the days when if our friends won we were happy for them. Those days, the meaning of friendship was simple.

Life never stops, and hence we move on from being little childern, to grown ups. The meaning of friendship changes from being simple to being possesive. The meaning of friendship changes to sharing secrets, infactutaions, clothes. We cocon out of the shelter of our parents and friends hold our hands n help us to see the world and handle little heart breaks, first valintines and first drive on vehical. We step out to experiment with life and the main indegrent are friends. We learn to laugh together, save 10 bucks to go out and njoy a tea on a wetty rainy day on street near your house. We learn that to enjoy life you don't need money, big flashy cars. What you need is a true friend!!! But then at this stage we also realise that if our friends won, we are not happy. We also want to win. This gives us ambitions in life and without realising we have learnt to fly with the help of our friends.

Our amibition takes us to new places. We meet new people and make new friends. Those who showed us the world, are left behind. Friends who walked beside us each day, who taught us to face the world, who taught us to fly are soon forgotten. New friends take their place. Sometimes we do miss those innocent days but soon learn to live with memories. This new world of ours include so many people. Some who are more than friends, some who become love of our lives but can never be friends, some are lucky to get love and friend in same person. Life is no longer simple. We learn to become diplomatic. Friendship is more of "What you can give!" than "What we can share!". In the haste to get money n fame, we at times forget to look beside us...and loose some of the gem of persons. In haste to prove ourselves right we forget who we end up hurting and loosing for our life.

When the life starts slipping out of hands, we then realise that we have lost so much in haste to win and win what? We have lost the innocense of friendship, warmth of holding each other, the slience of being for each other. Soon we realise that we are left alone. But its too late. We stand like an autum tree, all leaves have broken loose and left.

People might say friendship day is useless. But i beg to differ here. Its the day when you can reach out to those who are left behind. Its the day when you can really stop and see who are standing beside you and who are waiting when you'l look around you and smile at them. Because true friendship can get lost with a wink of an eye!!! Let this day be a toast to all my friends who made me what i am today. Though i have fallen so many times...but for my friends my faliure wasn't permanent. That's why i want to dedicate this day to all my friends. Happy friendship day!!!

Friday, August 05, 2005

A day which took more than 48 hrs to end

Well the sun is shining again today. BEST are working and trains are running on time. They say mumbai is back to normal. But is it?? People who are safe won't say its normal. People who have seen worst won't get over it for their whole life.

The day 26th July: Started normally for all. It was the usual office day. People got up, had breakfast and stepped out of their house...and many like me must have said "oooppppss...forgot my windshetter (or umbrella)". But no one realised that its going to take more than 48 hours for this day to get over.

My seat in office is next to window. When everyday i look out i can see planes taking off to far off lands...that day i couldn't even see The Leela Hotel across the road! The winds were blowing so fast and it was raining like mad. But living in mumbai for 4 years made me have a false security feeling that its going to stop soon. I didn't even bother to open any news site to see if everything is fine out of my 4 walls of office. Mail came at 4 in the evening. People should leave if they want "After taking permission of their PMs!!!" That time it seemed it doesn't.

I went down and had my evening tea n snacks. Didn't realise even then that its bad. When i came upstairs to my seat, I for the first time saw panic in the eyes of people and realised that the situation is bad. People went down and came back within an hour. There was neck deep water everywhere. Everyone decided to stay in office. Lights went out. No water. Basement got flooded. Mobile network jammed. The only way we could our mind at peace was to keep ourslves busy. We played antakshari, saw F.R.I.E.N.D.S on PC, played cards. People fought water and went down to get something to eat. Office provided dinner and snacks. Slept on chairs. People who came back told the stories of childern being swept away, BEST overturning due to the force of water. There were people missing from our office, who went out never to return. One guy in our office was found dead near SAHARA airport.That guy used to sit next to me for JAVA traning. He was planning to give JAVA certification.

The day 27th July: Got up at 5:30. The water had gone down to walkable level. People started gathering in groups to walk down home. I walked from my office(Andheri(E)) to Ghatkopar station in 2 hours. The way was bad. Father searching for his daughter, buses aboundended, big block of road washed off! It resembled a ghost town. Reached Ghatkopar station and frist sight of relief was a tapri selling hot wada-pav. Wet and cold it was a blessing. Had that before starting off again. Ghatkopar(E)....completely flooded. Somaiya grounds completely flooded. Took lift in a car, in a big tempo and somehow managed to reach Ghatkopar Depo near Eastern Express Highway. There what i saw i won't be able to forget whole my life. People everywhere, some begging and some trying to steal a seat in any vehical that is moving. Well a vehical that was moving was a big thing coz nothing was moving!!! It was a mother of all chaos!!! Started walking with only one aim...that is to reach Amar Mehal. Tired, soaked to skin and hungry. But one thing in mind kept us going. Reach home. Reached amar mehal. The site i saw didn't resemble anything like amar mehal i reach everyday to catch my office bus. The water was everywhere. First it was knee deep, near Sahakar it was waist deep and some distance ahead it was sholder deep. Just reach home and everything would be alright. That one was one thing that kept me going. Well there were some moments that brought smile on my face...a cute little dog swam past me, kids diving in water. Not all was that bad. Reached hostel to find uday mama n gang having fun. The site of hostel was a big relief and a surprise too. The ground floor was totall flooded. The TV room empty but filled with water. Office had books and papers floating in water. Mess completly submerged in water. I climbed upstairs and first thing i saw was sonali. Only thing that came to mind was "I am alive" and second thing was "I wanna go loo" . That was 2 in the afternoon. From 6 till 2 i was walking and it didn't feel like that. Coz the relief that i was alive and all people in hostel are safe...was more than enough.

The day 28th July: Water has suddenly vanished. Mobile was catching network again. Rushed outside on road and called ma. Hearing there was i felt i have heard God! She started crying but i couldn't. I knew it would make it all the more bad. Papa and ma were happy that i am ok. I was happy that i could talk to them. Felt like pinching myself. Battery was totally gone. Just wanted to let everyone know that i am ok. Messaged binny and mobile went off. Well, we went out to see how everything was. It cannot be described in any way. Shoppers Stop flooded. The stories that came when people started returning was even worst. Some saw dead bodies floating in water. Some were stranded on some or the other station for whole 2 days. People walked from VT or churchgate to reach tilak nagar, some had spent the whole night at the stairs of shoppers stop!!! After hearing such stories i realised that i didnt even see 2% of it!

The day 29th July: I am back in office. It all seems like a big bad dream. But i know its not. The expression of people's face say its not. The look of the roads say its not. The newspaper headline say its not. The tears in the eyes n voice of people say its not. The fact that i saw and heard it all says it all. The fact that i am alive, all my friends are alive says it that it was not a dream. Thank God!

The aim for writting this mail is not to make you feel bad or sad. The only aim is the realisation i want to share with you all that no matter how much we fight, we dis-agree with everyone. In the end we all care for each other. No matter if we mark you in cc of mails, it indicates that we want to be in touch. No matter how far we are from each other, the safety of each and everyone matters to us. No matter if we are friends or sisters...we all are one life and its the most precious gift that god has given to us.I want to thank sonali for worring about me, want to thank kartik and swapna for calling my parents and keeping their hope alive, want to thank mamta and pushpa for their messages asking for our safety. Want to thank everyone who prayed for me and called to see if i am ok....because in the end nothing else counts. Its all very small in front of being alive...and i am happy that i am.