MUMBAI LOCAL – #2 – Growing Up…
Mumbai Local – Stories From The Lifeline Of Mumbai. A series of short stories that explores the life of a citizen in a local train. Stories, about relationships, about culture and about the undying spirit of the people, just like the lifeline of Mumbai itself. Some real, some experiences, some fictional and many mere an observation. The many a faces, that seem strangers, draw me close to them. Some ambitious minds, some deceived, some real, some fake. Some young, some old, some hot, some cold like stone. I am one among them, and that’s what draws me more close to them. That’s what draws me towards their face, because every face has a story to tell.
“Aye Idhar kyon aata hai roz-roz, wahan bagal me jaane ko nahi aata?” echoed a shrill voice from the adjacent compartment. Many more voices joined in. There were a few ladies in the adjacent first-class compartment cribbing and complaining about how young boys and drunkard men got inside the compartment. In spite of writing in bold and a poster of an Indian female face painted at the door which said “Only for Ladies”, it had become a routine for young boys in their early teens to sneak into the ladies first class compartment. And if that wasn’t enough, on certain days there used to be drunkard men for company.
Finally with a guard on duty the ladies got relief when the rants of the boys and the drunkard men were put to silence. A couple of days passed. The lady police guard realised that it’s all fine and the men have stopped boarding the compartment. She discontinued boarding the ladies compartment.
And then again, on a rainy Saturday, it started all over again. While this time around there wasn’t the drunkard but a few boys, dressed in their school uniforms. Some standing by the foot-board lost in the beauty of the rains, and some simply ogling at the ladies. That’s when a lady lost her cool and shouted at the boys.
The first-class compartment almost at the far end of the train was divided unevenly. Unlike the other bogies of the first-class compartments, which identified distinctively the ladies and gents, this was very small. One third of it was given to the ladies while the rest was given to the gents. It was a small squarish window that was present supposedly for the ventilation, though people had their reasons!
The boys in a rush would end up entering the small compartment and invariably end up on the ladies side. Aged twelve to fourteen, they had become so immune to the shouting and cribbing that they paid no heed to the rants. While there were a few sincere, innocent souls who would beg pardon and say, “Sorry aunty, late ho gaya tha, aur galti se yahan pe chad gaya. Compartment chota hai isliye pata nahi chalta hai.”
I was sitting on the other side and observing these young boys. Being a Saturday, the train was less crowded than usual. I could see from the window and sense that a few of the ladies were pretty much in discomfort with the young school kids ogling them around. A few ladies had joined that lady in blue salwar kameez who had shouted at the boys. While the boys said that they will get down at Kurla, the blue salwar kameez lady continued to crib and went and sat on her seat.
As Chembur approached, few boys got down. Seeing the other boys still present in the ladies compartment, a few more school boys sneaked in. They were speaking in Tamil and from their tone I could guess that they had mistakenly got into the compartment.
A few of the ladies had already lost their cool, but didn’t say a word. It meant wasting their own energy as it made no difference to the boys.
This had been continuing for over a week now. While the boys were decent and had their share of guy fun, I sensed that there was something that made them board the other side of the train daily. Maybe they were smitten by teenage fancies, developing and growing up from young boys to men.
My inner thoughts turned out to be pretty much true when a young girl, clad in a black burqa boarded the train at Tilak Nagar. The boys seemed to be infatuated by her beauty. Some stared at her, as she walked to grab a seat, while a few exchanged looks with each other.
It was probably then I sensed that they (the boys) weren’t kids anymore. They were growing up or rather they had already?
I recounted seeing a Marathi film, ‘Balak Palak’, which talked about the whims and fancies of kids growing up, their urge to fulfil their desires and experiencing attaining puberty. And that thought was evident on the boys as they intentionally boarded the same compartment every day, embarrassed older women with their looks and laughed off on certain things.
As Kurla approached, the lady in blue salwar kameez walked to the footboard. The station had arrived and the lady got down giving a stern look at the boys.
As the train made its way from the station, a boy screamed out to her, “Aye Moti Aunty!”
People here, sitting inside the gents compartment, laughed about the incident. I too smiled and let my mind ponder over the thought that the boys surely weren’t kids anymore. They were growing up, just like I did!