The Worst Day And A Passenger
The Worst Day And A Passenger9 mins 19.9K 9 mins 19.9K
The day was as gloomy as it could get. Rushing out of office to get to the ever-dreaded Dadar station, I had a tough time finding a kaali-peeli  taxi. I had been stuck with a seemingly unachievable task at office for most of the day. By the time I had figured out how to go about it, it was so late, that I was into the part of the evening when taxi drivers would cease to take a passenger for a short distance like Lower Parel to Dadar station, due to the onset of heavy traffic.
With every “Bhaiyya  Dadar?” I got sickened of a merely nodded “No” from the driver. “This isn’t going to be an easy day”, I thought, glancing at the dark grey sky. The damp, stormy wind swept around the city, as if to make everyone on road rush for home, before it would start pouring. There was rush, there was hurry everywhere. Grumpy faces with squeezed eyebrows and lined forehead could be seen all around, as people jumped across the potholes still filled with muddy water from the shower that had happened in the noon, and ran through the zigzags of the jammed traffic. Moving to a corner on the footpath, I bent down with my laptop bag on back, to fold my trousers as I accepted the fact that getting a taxi would be farce – and that I would have to walk down several steps to wait in queue for a shared cab instead.
Waiting for another fifteen minutes, I could get into the third shared cab that came, got down at the worst possible, crowded area near the Dadar station, stumbled through the ruthlessly trampled-on marigold flowers and the mud, climbed the stairs wearily and reached the platform. “Why is everything going wrong today?” I thought.
Now, before you would start wondering, if I had always been so worked up, let me take a pause and tell you….it was never always like that! It was my second year of MBA, and I was doing my internship with one of the big MNCs in Mumbai. Like every other student from our college, who had internship in Mumbai, I too had chosen to stay back in my MBA hostel instead of renting an accommodation for two months. “Yes, our MBA college and our office are on completely opposite ends of Mumbai city. But it won’t matter much,” we had discussed over chai at cafeteria after everyone was placed with internship, “Why splurge, and not save money for our upcoming graduation trip, when we have an option to stay in hostel itself? Mumbai real estate is costly anyway! It’s just two months. It will go in a jiffy”.
We had come to the consensus of travelling together while going to office so as to avail sharing cab. While returning to hostel, we had to take locals as we travelled back individually, depending on work timings. “If I manage to get into this office as a permanent employee, I’ll rent a flat somewhere close by so that I can avoid locals altogether!” I had promised myself. Having grown up in a small suburban town around 30km from main city of Kolkata, riding local train was a regular necessity for me to even go to a decent coaching institute for the first 18 years of my life. Trains in Bengal were a different theatrical conundrum altogether. Especially being a girl, I would rush to reach the spot for Ladies’ Compartment. After getting in, if you happened to be the one sitting on the edge of any seat, you would have so little space left that you would either prefer standing up, or be ready to hear how you have probably gained too much of a few extra pounds to fit in that space, from your co-passengers you were sharing the seat with. This would obviously strike a very well-known sensitive chord with any lady sitting on the edge, literally pushing her off so; and it would eventually lead to a war of words amongst the women, with one showering the other with bizarre curses; for example, mouth getting infected with horrible insects, tongue falling off and so on.
Therefore, once I was out of West Bengal for studies, I had breathed easy with the thought of not having to regularly take local trains. Now this time, I was coming out of that comfort zone after a gap of nine years. “Things that Mumbai makes you do for survival” I had told myself; as I fondly stared at the soothing Arabian Sea surrounded by hillocks, sipping black tea from my 20th floor office on one of the first few days of internship; while looking at the time table to decide which fast-train would be an optimum choice for me that evening to avoid the hustle. But that was the beginning of internship: that rosy period of life when you would usually be grateful for having made it to this phase of MBA where you stood at the juncture of stepping into a lucrative career and completion of a prestigious degree, where you just started praising the big city more as you tip toed out of your restricted hostel life, and you couldn’t help feel fortunate and thankful that all your hard work had paid off.
However, it would have been quite contradictory to human nature, had I not strayed away from that feeling of gratefulness, and had I not soon started complaining about almost everything around. It took a handful of days for me to reach a stage where I was so engrossed with work, that by the time I recalled there was a sea view to stare at from my office window, it was already night and the sea, hillocks everything would have vanished in darkness; a stage where the busy vibe of the city got better of me and getting some spare time in the evening to drop my malfunctioning phone at a shop for repair seemed to be a luxury, a stage, where I had forgotten to be thankful, to stop by and smile. Needless to say, all of it boiled down to me feeling overwhelmed on that one gloomy, cloudy day.
I had barely reached the platform as I saw the fast train coming, as if pushing its way through the heavy air. “C’mon you can do it...” I told myself pulling my backpack to wear it in the front, to save it from pick pockets, as the fast local arrived. To make things worse, unlike any usual day, the train arrived with one door shut for the ladies’ compartment, leading to the remaining two doors getting overcrowded. “Sure, I can’t get into this one,” I told myself, as I stared at the women hanging out at the pedestal from the remaining two doors. Seriously? It was never THIS bad! Somehow managing into the next fast local, I pushed and got down at Andheri. “God just take me home,” I murmured, when I just recalled I should check out if my phone had been repaired, and headed to the shop.
“No Madam...it’s not yet done,” said the shopkeeper, before returning back to his discussion about business with his friend. “Okay, when can I expect?” I asked, ready to leave the shop with least hope. “We can’t say, you take your phone back, we will ask the guy in charge and let you know”, he said.
“God just take me out of this and take me home,” I prayed as I bluntly collected the limbo-MotoE and looked for a rickshaw.
“Okay this was the LAST hurdle for today,” I thought, “Just get into a Rick and reach hostel”. Just then, I got a rickshaw that generously agreed to take me to Bhawan’s . But ohh.......wait!! Here too, I had to wait till THE passenger inside took his own sweet time to pay the driver, without caring much to get down from the rick.
“What on earth is he doing?” I wondered, as the man inside the rickshaw clumsily took out his wallet and counted the money. “C’mon man...can’t you be a bit fast? I’m already tired and waiting to get into this vehicle”, I thought, as the man smiled and gave the driver his money. What probably made me even more impatient was the constant smile that was spread across the man’s face, as if he was at his most relaxed best; with least worries running in his head. I stared at him, my fist firmly closed, as I tried to recollect when was the last time I had maintained so much of genteel air while dealing with a rickshaw driver. And of course, why WOULD I ? Am I not already pre-occupied with enough of work? Do I already not have enough going on? “Okay, cordial, good.” I thought, addressing the man in my head as I saw him counting the cash while exchanging a few relaxed words with the driver. “But, why aren’t you out of the vehicle yet? Just get down, leave the rick...let me get in...easy, right?? Fast, please?” I thought , staring at the passenger. “You just have one stupid plastic bag with you, “I clenched my teeth as these words ran in my head, while I eyed the soiled polythene bag being carried by the man in a relatively less soiled shirt ,”Can’t you see I’m waiting with a heavy laptop bag already?”
He finally got down. With one leg on the road, he bent out of the rick and checked the surrounding. After carefully checking the traffic around, he came out of the rickshaw. While still holding the rod of the vehicle, he brought his other leg out. With the plastic bag still in his hand, he clamped his other knee with both his palms....pulled it out of the rick........hit the supposedly-calf-muscle area with a hand and straightened it...................it was just a frame of steel rods underneath his trousers, from the knee, with a false shoe. As his pseudo-leg got straightened, he checked if the payment to the driver was all correct, smiled, and limped his way through the crowd towards Andheri station. He would probably have to get into a local now, may be with people hanging from the pedestal, and might have to leave a train or two before getting into the compartment of one, for home.... or don’t know where.
The rick brought me to campus in a few minutes. I was inside my room with AC on, in next couple of seconds. Right after I got cosily onto my bed, it started raining outside. Vision of a man in his mid-40s limping his way through the crowd, in the rain; with one-and-a-half legs...with a smiling face.... still flashed before me. Had he reached home? Could he be with his family before getting drenched in the rain? I didn’t know, I never would. I had been too engrossed with what I thought was the worst for a day, for myself.
Legend for non-English words
1. Kaali-peeli: refers to the black-and-yellow taxis that run on the roads of Mumbai
2. Bhaiyya: Brother in Hindi
3. Bhawan’s: The campus where S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai is located. Rickshaws in Andheri know the place as Bhawan’s or Bhawan’s College.