Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U---- Unaccustomed girl in Unfazed Mumbai

 All of 24 years and fresh out of college,I was already working as a lecturer for my parent institution in my city .The transition was overnight and I had to remind myself time and again that I was on the other side of the table. I got married.. and very soon it was time to shift to Mumbai. I was quite uptight with the thought of the impending shift. Thoughts of  lifestyle changes that may be necessary while setting up house and work in Mumbai often crossed my mind.On one such occasion ,I expressed my doubts aloud and my teacher remarked-"You still look like a student , when you go to Mumbai as a lecturer, remember to don a mature  look and behave like a teacher."
This stayed with me and I packed a lot of saris to wear to work.
 I dressed carefully for my first day at work in Mumbai. A  blue sari in crepe chiffon ,teamed with delicate high heeled footwear.A functional bag, long hair tied neatly,I set out confidently for work.Hobbs had explained two ways of travel from Vile Parle to Victoria Terminus (now CST), -direct bus or local train with one  change of trains at Dadar. I have always been adventurous, so I took the bus while going and reached the hospital in 45min flat. Hah ! This is a breeze ,I thought !In the evening ,I decided to take the local train home.A student ,newly introduced to me,gave up her regular space for me to sit till Dadar. All was well till we reached Dadar. Then all hell broke loose. Ladies,like a swarm of bees  crossed their paths on the platform.Their was buzz all around.I could see only heads all around.A confused me,looked around for that familiar face in the crowd.There was none. I looked around at the indicators and reached the  platform to catch the next train to Vile Parle.
I patiently waited a little distance away from the lady in front of me when I heard someone ask me equally impatiently,"Jaane ka hai ?" ( Do you want to go ?). I nodded a weak yes."Naya hai ?"( Are you new to this city?)-she asked. She knew that I was,I need not have answered that one.This gave her the right to make sure I was on the train.No,she did not gently hold my hand to guide me,she just pushed me hard from behind so she could enter the train. I took 5 seconds to look for an empty seat ,so at the end of it,there was none left ! I tried to hold on to the ground for the next 40 minutes while I got pushed,pulled,pressed and squeezed by women of all sizes.There was absolutely,remotely nothing sexual about it.
According to my calculations,Vile Parle was fast approaching and I was not sure on which side of the compartment would the platform be.I asked someone.The lady in question looked horrified as if I had staked   claim on her property.She pointed in the opposite direction as her expressions changed from horror to pity.She then called out to a fisher woman who was returning home after her day's sales. " Parla la utrao tila, naveen ahe wattae." ( she is new,help her get down at Parle station ) The well endowed lady was quick ,she grasped my shoulders and pushed ,yelling on top of her voice," Bajoo...bajoo...baasi machchhi hai "(calling out to people to move away as she had stale fish in her bag).I felt a liquid trickle down the nape of my neck while cold ,clammy ,scruffy from use, hands of the lady pushed me out of the compartment. I was stinking  but relieved to be in one piece and on the platform staggering on my feet. The lady slapped her palm on her forehead " Deva..wachav  .. kai bi khara nhai ya porincha " ( God save these new age girls ) and took her position on the door of the same compartment as the train moved.
I gathered my wits,my bag, and realised to my horror that my sari lay unfurled on the ground. I clutched my bosom ,thankfully,my pallu was  pinned up in place still covering my 'izzat'.I gathered the pleats only to realise that I had only one shoe with broken heel on my foot. I saw the other one slip disappear beneath the moving train. I kicked the other one too off my foot .
While the world zipped by,unfazed and uncaring, my own confidence was shattered to bits.
The humiliation I felt is indescribable in words.
In that unsettled state,I left the station .
It was on that platform on that day of August that I pledged to give away all my saris .My mom and mother in law were the beneficiaries.
Today,this once unaccustomed girl  has an undying love for this city of Mumbai. Under the over bridge of fast life in a fast lane there is a soft belly .This city of my dreams is home and home is where the heart is!


  1. Ah! I can so relate to this experience of yours, Sharmila, though I never wore a sari in a Mumbai local.
    One look at the co-passengers in Mumbai and you know who is a seasoned traveler and who is a newbie!
    This post took me down the memory lane and I am smiling at the memory of some funny and weird incidents I experienced in locals. Thanks for the smiles :)

  2. Awww! So beautifully written. Truly, home is where heart is :-)

  3. Mumbai has a way of bringing down to earth with a bang! :)

  4. wow ! I have heard so much about the local trains in Mumbai ! But I wonder if I will ever have the courage to try them !

  5. Wish I was more adventurous like you in discovering this city. You have done exceptionally well.

  6. hahah!! Such a cute incident actually! I love how they helped you!!
    The same thing happened with me in one of the Kolkata local buses though I was thankfully not wearing a saree! I just had my churni (which was pinned up) torn off my shoulder!

  7. What an adventure. You received a tried and tested initiation into life here, in true Bombay ishtyle.

  8. Yeah the experiences in local trains of Mumbai. I have them by bucketloads. And now when away from Mumbai, I look back at those travels fondly. Whenever I visit Mumbai, I don't miss an opportunity to travel by the locals :).

  9. :D U reminded me of my first few days here....

    When I had moved here my office was in Navi Mumbai and as I was staying in wadala I travelled in Harvor line that too in ulta direction so there was no rush. When we shifted to a flat I was within 9 kms from my office and trains were not that packed.

    But 1.5 months down the line my office moved to Colaba and it was then that I had my 1st real local train experience. I took one week to get familiarised. I learnt the art of positioning myself in such a way that always got pushed towards a sear ;) Never travelled without seat after that :D

    And Saree & Local train? Whenever girls wud ask me to wear one I always said, either I or Saree will reach finally and after reading your post I realised I was right :D

  10. And yes there is no dearth of good Samaritans in local trains and always it is the supposedly lower class people who offer the helping hand not the snobbish middle class lady!!

  11. And that brought a smile to my face :)



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