Have you ever been within about a 3 feet radius from a 5 foot wide beehive? A teeming, fully loaded and buzzing beehive I mean. And fully habitatted at that, if habitatted is the word I am looking for. And, importantly, with you facing it frontally? (The beehive I mean)
Well, fundamentally, deep down in the depths of my heart where good feelings for others slosh about unhindered, I genuinely hope you haven’t.
But, in another chamber of the same heart – where opposite feelings are encouraged for diverse other causes , I actually am hoping you have been within about 3 feet radius from a 5 foot wide beehive.
And if you really have found yourself in that rather discomforting situation, you will have found yourself staring at a monstrous waxed up colony – buzzing, if you will allow me to use that word again, with activity. A sight, I dare say, that looks much like Kandivli from the western express highway (from a BEST bus – certainly not from an auto or a car).
And now, since the scene is set, imagine you are intensely gazing at the buzzing 5 foot beehive from 3 feet radius and imagine the hive gets upset. And, more importantly, the bees get upset too. You will continue to stare at it, though at this moment when you perceive about a million bees flying furiously towards your face, you’d rather pretend to be a complex non organic compound. The bees however, showing no interest in pretending along with you, buzz around you fiercely and you are numbly aware of the humming getting worse than Himesh Reshamya.
Can you actually feel that anxiety in your mind now? Can you feel the helplessness and the overwhelming feeling of hi-strungness if I may term it so?
That is somewhat how I felt that day at Churchgate around 7 pm. Churchgate is terribly crazy at this hour. On a weekday. But, as some may argue, not worse than VT at the same time of day. VT may certainly be worse by all means, but Churchgate was where I was. And for a person who finds himself in Mumbai’s good old Churchgate at 7 pm on the very second evening he arrived at this incredible city for the first time in his life, it can, take my word on this, be quite overwhelming. Trust me; I didn’t really care to process the bit of stat. that VT was worse that exact moment. It certainly didn’t make my demeanor less unsettled.
And so here I was at the ticket counter, asking for ‘Andheri’ by second class after 30 minutes in the ‘Q’. I must put it on record here that I wasn’t really uninformed about what to expect at this hour at Churchgate. I sure was quite clued in as to what to expect. But then there has never been any recorded incident of any fully inducted, comprehensively updated and duly sensitized non me-mumbaikar that arrived in Mumbai, trained to completely expect everything one might imagine, and find himself at Churchgate the next evening at 7 pm and not feel overwhelmed. I was. I truly was. In fact I was overwhelmingly overwhelmed.
I had the yellow ticket clenched firmly in my fist and walked towards the LED displays. And I noticed four starting points. The display boards displayed cheerfully (how they manage that cheer at 7 pm at Churchgate on a weekday is quite a mystery to me in hindsight) letters such as A, B, Bo, V, etc. I had no clue what those words stood for and I really didn’t care. I had this vague understanding that all trains pass Andheri since Andheri was not too far and since all final destinations were allegedly too far, any train had to pass Andheri.
The buzzing around me was steady and since I had descended on Mumbai with a starry pair of eyes, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that I was sort of happy being where I was at that moment. To be in the good old ‘city’. To be part of the buzz.
I had longed to be in Mumbai for as far back as I could remember and so these were important moments to me. When you long to be in a city like Mumbai and finally arrive you try to put on the air of a seasoned Mumbaikar although you have no clue what it’s all about. At least as yet.
And so, I bought a Mid-day with my free hand, the one that wasn’t busy soaking the yellow ticket from the May swelter. And like a Mumbaikar might, tucked it promptly under the left arm and bought a cup of FP – or Fountain Pepsi.
Off now to the train. From the four tracks, I had to choose the one that I had to board from. Being as uninformed as I was about A, B, Bo and V, the probability of picking either was equal at ¼. Since the FP shop was to the right of the architecture, I naturally found myself walking towards the platform between tracks 3 and 4.
People people people! There were people every where. But of course, silly, I told myself. This is Mumbai. It was a sea of people like ive never quite seen. And I was feeling alternately amazed and stunned. Recall frontally-facing-from-3-feet-a-beehive-of-5-feet analogy. That’s how it was.
To my right was a train. Long and quite bright and eager. I walked close peering through the windows as I walked to find a relatively empty compartment. And before long, there it was…
Hopped in and rushed to the seat making the rush as inconspicuous as possible. The hat was still on. You know which one I am referring to.
As the wooden seat received my rear end, I felt a wave of pride envelop me. Wow! There I was in Churchgate at 7 pm with midday in my hand inside a crowded train – And seated! That must mean I had beautifully adapted to this city! Who gets to sit in a train at 7 pm at Churchgate? On a weekday!
The wooden seat was getting warmed by my slightly plump bum from Chennai, plump because life there is a lot less high-strung (life in Chennai I mean, not life in my bum, silly), and we eat a lot of Ghee down there (down in a geographic sense, not physiologically. No one to my knowledge eats a lot of Ghee down there physiologically).
Very soon, the seat was warm and so was my heart. And, it was slowly dawning on me, so was the compartment, which was filling up rapidly and before I knew it, it was packed.
I didn’t know yet, but I was in a Virar Fast.
(For those of you in Mumbai who have traveled by train regularly, that’s a good shocking line to end a chapter – or a Blog post. For the benefit of those who haven’t, well, trust me it is. If you want to know why, I will post another post about what happened to me during the rest of my journey. Not to Andheri, mind you. You will learn how it is to travel in second class on a Virar Fast Local from Churchgate at 7 pm on a weekday to Mira Road.)