In Mumbai the railways are the daily means of commute for millions. Today our lives invariably follow the train timings and not the time on our wristwatch. While the numbers 7:47 or 6:36 wont make sense to many, for me they have a different meaning altogether. 7:47 is the Churchgate bound fast train arriving at platform no 5 at Andheri station. This is the train that my ‘train friends’ travel in. Don’t know their names but the short guy with the curly hair will always be seated near the left side window at the far end, the uncle carrying a VIP suitcase to his right and a funnily dressed Gujju uncle (his dressing sense suggests so, don’t know whether he is one) always at the opposite window seat to keep spitting gallons of Manikchand that is mandatory to pass the time. There are some sleeping beauties too; they are always sleeping, leaning on the neighbor’s shoulder. I guess that after a while the regulars get used to that man sleeping on your shoulder like your wife cuddling you in the night. The faces are familiar, your presence acknowledged with a smile and the offer to place your bag on the top luggage rack, all this without speaking a word. My place was always at the door hanging on one foot, feeling the breeze, listening to some rock music on my iPOD and watching a disgusting game of Kho-Kho (people pooping on the side of the tracks one after another) as stations pass by; the sight and the smell cannot be avoided.
There is a general opinion that the trains on the western line are better than their central side counterpart. But there is one area where Central Railway scores the brownie points over western railway. Central Railway has more video coaches compared to western railway. For those who are not aware of the local train lingo let me explain the concept of video coach and its importance to the average male train traveler. A video coach is the compartment in which the ladies coach and the gents coach is separated by a small window (grill) providing unobstructed view of the ladies compartment to the cat-fight hungry males of the gent’s compartment.
It is always entertaining to watch the expressions of the female travelers. I believe that some girls watch other girls in a more embarrassing way than guys. A man will simply look at the face, the vital assets and that’s it, our world ends there. For girls it starts with the color of her hair, analyzing which celebrity’s hairstyle she has copied to the brand of clothing, whether it suits her figure. In short all the way from the top to the bottom, the last comparison being whether the color of her nail paint matches with the color of her hair, dress, her personality etc. Women also have this unique ability to judge a female based on her appearance. The analysis will be enough to fill up the ‘about you’ section on any site. All this analysis will probably take her less than 5 seconds, and that I would say is some serious talent. It is equally funny to look at the way these females will point the odd ones out, without even pointing a finger, just by making signs with their eyes and tilting their necks.
The conflict amongst the women starts at the time of boarding the train. I have sometimes noticed personally other times heard weird stories from female friends. While boarding a train, pinching, hair pulling, pulling the dupatta, pinching the butt etc are very common. Does this act of women troubling other women qualify as self-defense, survival technique, eve teasing or molestation? I would request the readers to draw the conclusion.
For the sake of humor and comparison lets call them Spartan warriors for a while. Once these Spartans have boarded the train, the trouble starts. Some young chirpy remembers being pushed by a fat sweaty sari clad aunty. Yes she will be aunty even for her husband, please get the point will you? After the initial squeal followed by a few remarks made in an accent that is the trademark of Xaviers and Sophiya’s students, an argument ensues. Contestant number one is a college girl wearing a good pair of jeans, a nice top, fashionable sandals, someone with whom you would want to be seen to make your friends jealous and the other contestant a “kolin”, more famously known as the macchiwali and for my friends unaware of both, a fisherwoman. The machhiwaalis have a unique style of dressing. Most of the times they wear a nauwaari sari (Kaamwali bai ki style ki sari) that can only be green or yellow in color. What makes these macchiwalis noticeable is the quantum of bling that they usually wear. They wear more bling than a dozen rappers put together or maybe two Bappi Lahiris. Most of the time wearing at least ½ kg of gold, necklaces that look large enough to serve as chains to attach a small ship’s anchor or maybe even pull a car. Anyways just imagine the situation when females from such diverse backgrounds enter a fight.
To highlight the cultural differences and beauty quotient, lets call the fisherwoman as ‘machhiwaali’ and the hot girl as ‘Item’ lets stick with Bambaiyya Hindi. Our item will usually make a sad face looking at the macchhiwali, muttering something in English. The macchhiwali will usually respond with a very brave loud comment. Being a very sophisticated girl, our item responds “excuse me?’’ in her polished accent. There is nothing more annoying to any macchiwali than to hear someone talking back in English, call it jealousy or pure instinct the words “excuse me”, are also considered as abuses. At this point the machhiwali starts responding with the best of its kind abuses in Marathi, call it a habit, our item has to respond back in English. If she is traveling with a friend the first lines usually are “Oh shit/yaar shiiiiiii look at the way she is talking”. And then round one of the bout begins. The catfight goes on with the macchiwaali trying to hurt our item with her abusing; now in Hindi, I guess butchering Hindi language more than her opponent. The fight continues and the male passenger across the grill is enjoying the show. The scene reminds of the scenes from movies where a criminal is watching a fight from behind the bars and is enjoying every bit of the action. A crowd would have already gathered near the screen (by now it has turned into an entertainment screen). It’s interesting to note that there will be guys stamping on each other’s feet or pushing each other, but instead of fighting they show great understanding. Instead of screaming or fighting, they will make some space for the other guy so that even he can get a glimpse of the ongoing entertainment show. The screaming can sometimes lead to a bit of hair pulling. Unfortunately I have not witnessed a full-fledged fist fight till date because the moment it gets a bit physical, there will be some is some old lady who will play the role of NATO and bring about unwanted peace. What ensues is a cold war. Now the passengers are divided between two groups. A group of old ladies criticizing how these young girls have no sense at all and the group of young girls who believe that the aunties are like the cougars described in the latest edition of cosmopolitan or Femina magazine. The aunties passing their comments “Isko dekho, koi tameez ya laaj sharam nahi. Itne chhote skirt aur top, sab kuch dikhta hai. Kaise inki Maa inhe ye kapde pehen ke jaane dete hai? Main to apni beti ko aise logo se durr rehne ko kehti hoon”. The gang of girls with their set of comments “ Shit man look at these women, bloody Ghatis, I’m sick and tired of such women. These old bitches I tell you, even their husbands don’t hump them, bloody take out frustration on other people. Get a life you losers”. Such scenes were witnessed on multiple occasions during train travel. Till date you will spot groups of men standing near the bridge on platform number 1 at Andheri station after 6 PM, waiting to watch the women enter into a royal rumble while trying to board a Virar bound train.
Recently saw some advertisements on the upcoming Mumbai Metro railway project. The metro project promises commuters with AC coaches, automatic doors and a journey in a train, which is not crowded. It somehow disheartens me to think that if there is no rush in the train and any pushing or pinching, there won’t be any catfights. In such a scenario will the travel be as entertaining? Will the catfights come to an end? I hope that all the items find some reason to fight and that the entertainment in the video coach does not end, but now it becomes more pleasurable with cushioned seats and an air-conditioned environment 40 feet above the ground.