“Thoda sarko” is the typical Mumbai language, meaning make space for the fourth person in the local train which can barely accommodate three. No matter how large the bodies of the people sitting already, no matter how many inches they grudgingly give, the person standing, would give his left hand to get that precious inches of seat.
Having lived in the city for over 25 years, l not only learnt the art of getting into the local train before it actually stopped in the station but getting a seat as well. However, I would fail in my duties if I don’t mention my Guru Narayan who taught me all the tricks – he was a real master.
Narayan worked for a private firm just two building away from the bank where I worked and he was my companion in the evening. We would catch the 6.06 slow local from Churchgate to Borivili without fail on all the five days of the week. It is not that we always got seat. People would “return” in the train. Meaning, people would travel from Churchgate to couple of station towards Borivili, get down and catch the train that comes to Churchgate in order to make sure that they spend more than an hour’s journey in the “window” seat. So, many a times, when we managed to get in to the train even before it came to a halt, we had to stand in between the seats hoping that someone would get down.
Narayan introduced me to the art of identifying where exactly the “wicket” falls – meaning, the person gets down. For many a months, I was perplexed at the accuracy of Narayan’s prediction. He would whisper in my ears, “the person in blue stripes shirt at the window, is getting down at Dadar. Sure enough, as soon as Dadar approached, the person would make visible sounds of getting down. In a flash, Narayan would be sitting and smiling. Next day, he announced by pointing to another person, “He is getting down at Bandra." You bet, the prediction came true!
I was desperate to learn the trick. How in god’s name does Narayan know? Relenting to my request, Narayan gave away the secret – after I bought the tickets for an afternoon show! “You see, the Guru Narayan spoke in a hushed tone, “most of the passengers, when they get a seat, invariably start dozing off and bend their heads. That gives me a chance to look at their shirt collar where one can see the tailor’s address; announced Narayan, triumphantly. I was awestruck at Narayan’s genius.
Soon I got a chance of experimenting Narayan’s teaching when one-day, he had to take leave as he was unwell. As soon as I entered the train, I made my way between the seats and stood there eagerly waiting to get a glimpse of the addresses!! Low and behold, the person sitting right at the window started dozing off and bent his head down – just like Narayan’s observation. I managed to read the address and was delighted! It was Churney road, just three stops from Churchgate. I looked around the hapless people struggling to stand in the moving train and beamed with pride of my newly learned trick of getting a seat. To my surprise, the man did not get down at Churney road nor at Dadar, Bandra or even at Andheri. My happiness soon turned in to despair. Finally, I managed to get a seat next to him at Jogeshwari.
I just couldn’t control my eagerness to find out what went wrong. Finally I mustered strength and asked my neighbor, “Sir, where do stay in Mumbai? He replied “Borivli”. Bemused, I asked again, “and where do you get your shirt stitched?” The man looked at me quizzically and replied. “Why, are you a tailor? At Churney Road”!