Statutory Warning: Contains explicit language. (Or is it expletive language???)
When I first came to Mumbai eight years ago, I travelled by second class local train even though I was eligible for student concession and could have managed a first class season ticket. The experience was enough to make me swear that I would never travel by public transport, if I had a choice. Somehow, at that time, the first class compartments seemed a ‘class’ apart… lesser crowds, cushioned seats, better dressed people (???)…
Nowadays, even though I am not taking any ‘student concession’, I bought a first class pass when I had to travel. Suddenly, the ‘first class’ thing doesn’t seem as glamorous after all. Maybe, because they let me travel in it, but then…
A few days back, I witnessed a first class fight…
Place: Andheri Station
Time: 8.28 am (That is the starting time of the Andheri local… People outside Mumbai, pls note that Mumbaikars are used to be ‘that’ specific when it comes to train timings!!!)
Setting: First Class Gents’ compartment
One well dressed ‘gentleman’ wanting to get out of the train, as it slows down at the station.
Another equally well dressed ‘gentleman’ wanting to get into the train, at precisely the same time.
Yours truly (not as well dressed as above).
About 30-40 other gentlemen who were also spectators.
As expected, the gentleman getting down and the gentleman getting in forgot one elementary fact – that only one person can occupy a given space at a time. So, it lead to another elementary situation - both collided as they tried to push each other out of the way. Since I was new to first class etiquette, I half expected each to apologize and move on (happens half the time in second class actually, since people know that colliding into each other in Mumbai locals is as common as the air we breathe).
But, no, here were two ‘gentlemen’ who were presumably used to getting their way in life all the time. So, an interesting dialogue started… (reproduced verbatim… pls excuse the language, it is theirs)
(We’ll call them GM1 (getting out guy) and GM2 (getting in guy))
GM1: You bastard! Get out my way. Don’t you know that people have to first get OUT before you get IN.
GM2: Who are you calling bastard, bastard?? You are a bastard. What were doing all this while? Waiting for the red carpet to be rolled out for you?
GM1: (grabbing the other person’s tie… I told you they were well dressed) Hey bastard, fucker, who do you think you are?
GM2: Hellooo, don’t keep using foul language? You are a bastard. Your whole family are bastards.
GM1: (finally realizing that he has to go out after all, and staying in the train is not achieving his purpose) Go to hell, bastard! I don’t know how they allow such people in first class?
GM2: Yeah, the same way they allowed you, you cheap bastard. In fact, they should throw you out of second class too.
Exit GM1 into the all consuming crowds, while GM2 settles down… the fight has ensured that he has not got any seat, leave alone the coveted ‘window seat’ for which he was rushing in (which was the reason for the fight, btw).
He looks around to see all the other first class gentlemen staring at him in disgust, as if he were some disgusting creep who should have been eliminated like bacteria in their toilets. I was sure he was feeling bad, maybe about the fight, but definitely about the stares being thrown in his directions like daggers.
Suddenly, his eyes met mine; and I gave him a smile – a genuine “I-can-understand-what-you-are-feeling” smile… and he turned away… and we went our separate ways (in the same train though)…
And my mind went into flashback mode…
I was reminded of the innumerable ‘fights’ that I was fortunate enough to witness all those years when I travelled by ‘Second class’…
Situation is similar, only more crowded… and the ‘gentlemen’ in the story are not very well dressed…
GM1: Aye hero, hat na… raste mein kaiko khada hai? Aadmi utherega tab tu chadega na… (I always wondered why people addressed each other as ‘Hero’… I mean u would call someone a ‘villain’ if you wanted to abuse him)
GM2: oye… awaaz kaiko kar rahele… itna der kya taare gin raha tha? Saala, darwaaze pe khade khade item ka sapna dekh rahela…
GM1: (grabbing the other person’s shirt) aye gaaaandu… gaali nahi deneka kya… apun ko bhi gaali aati hai…
GM2: abe madarchod… haath lagata tu… taang thodke haath mein pakda doonga… saale chutiye… aukad mein rehneka kya…
GM1: abe shaane… kisko madarchod bola re? tu madarchod… tera baap madarchod… tera poora khandaan madarchod… tu mil mereko kal… tapka daaloonga saala… (and out he goes… into the maddening crowd…)
GM2 gets in… and as expected cannot get a seat… the only difference is that the fellow spectators are not giving him dirty disgusting looks… in fact, a few of them joke around saying they have got their daily dose of entertainment (“aaj ka timepass ho gaya boss…”)
GM2 looks around… am not sure whether he is feeling bad or not… his face is expressionless… Our eyes meet… I give him a genuine “jaane-de-yaar-pagal-aadmi-tha-woh” kinda smile… the only difference is that he doesn’t turn his face away – he smiles back…
Somehow, I feel that second class travelers are more human… they don’t put on fake accents and try to curse each other in the Queen’s language (which I have found is as useful for cursing as a comb is to a bald guy). And in spite of their fights, they still treat each other as human beings, not as ‘toilet bacteria’.
You are traveling in a second class compartment. Someone actually stands on your toes. You try to make some room for yourself. There isn’t any. You politely ask the guy stomping your feet to move a millimeter. And that is when he utters the worst insult a second class traveler can throw at someone… he says, “aye chikne, dhakka nahi khaneka toh first class mein jaana!!!”