I travel to work every day. I take all the modes of transport that one can imagine except for air and water. And the journey begins right as I step outside the gate. However, it’s not a normal journey that you expect to see or feel. It’s like a race has begun, and as always, you are not the only one in it. You see humans joining you from all walks of life; everyone is running for something or behind something or away from something. It so seems that everyone wants to march ahead and not one person wants to look behind. However, everyone is sure of one thing---no one wants to be left out.
They leave no stone unturned to catch their respective mode of transport. This has generated a new league of warriors. There’s a fight to get a seat in rickshaws so much so that even the single driver's seat now accumulates two instead of one. Then, there are buses and the serpentine queues that await them. It’s has a very uncanny resemblance to the movie “Satte pe Satta” where Amitabh Bachchan serves food to his brothers. His brothers wait patiently till food arrives and the moment he declares "Aakramann", they pounce on it like maniacs. It’s a similar scene here as well. They wait patiently till the vehicle arrives and once it does, it’s a mad house.
That’s not the end. The best part is yet to come. It’s none other than the Mumbai locals. Aha! What madness! Here, everyone is running everywhere in every possible direction. You can’t find a single soul steady; either they are running or are getting restless or cursing or lost in music that’s keeping them calm before the storm.
The train finally arrives and the cacophony sets in. This is the only place which epitomizes the phrase, hanging on by a thread. They barge in and out of doors as grains of rice emerge from a gunny bag when you fill it in a container. They disappear in a mere span of two minutes only to be replaced by another army in the next two minutes that follow.
It saddens me that people value the very aspect of precarious travelling more than the safety their lives. They’ll do anything to get into a train and will put all their might into making space for themselves, even if it means half their bodies lie outside the periphery of the door.
I wonder if this is all we want from our lives—running behind things. Reaching work on time come what may. I don’t care if I stepped onto someone’s foot, all I care is getting a foot of space to stand. No matter if I am crushed by the weight of the people beside me, I just can’t afford to miss this train. I won’t exchange a smile with anyone whatsoever. I got into the train today somehow and my target is achieved.
This goes on till the noon or so and the telecast repeats in the evening till the later part of the night. The vehicles bear our brunt equally. They always ply us without complaining ever, exceeding their capacity each time; for example, a small heading near the door and on the roof of the BEST bus reads 19 standees only. We all know we have successfully ignored this message and accommodated people as long as a person can manage to breathe. Somewhere down the line, these inanimate souls are solely responsible for keeping us alive in whatever way they can.
I wonder if someday we will slow down and value the priorities in life. What will happen if we stopped and paused a moment to rethink what we have done in the day and where are we now. If we could build a friendship with a fellow companion who always catches the same train or bus. If spending a little more time at home with a loved one rather than rushing off to catch the auto would add just the right amount of sunshine we need in our otherwise hectic life.
Then I realize we do incorporate these things whenever possible, but we cannot afford the luxury to do this on a large scale. The city is known for its pace and time is money here. Come what may, do what you can, but get into the grind as soon as you can. Always. It’s like a massive battalion of Duracell bunnies on the prowl—never say die! And you get used to it slowly as you really have little choice. We all have reached truce at some level or the other. To sum it up, there’s this beautiful set of lines by Christopher McDougall that justifies this chaos at some point. I read this on a poster pinned onto a colleague’s soft board:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle—when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”
And that is the ugly truth. Sigh.
|Photo credits: www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk|