Archive for October, 2005


October 15th, 2005

15 th October 2005


Surprise of surprise! I see Mishraji, the candy man, back at Byculla Station. Today Byculla Station appears like home because Mishraji is an important feature of my experience at Byculla Station.


Mishraji was away to his village. From what Suresh Kumar, the shoeshine man informed me, Mishraji would not turn up before Diwali. Mishraji came back owing to an emergency at the station.


You have lost weight Mishraji.

Really? Well, I must tell you that in the city, when you stand in the shade, you may become a fair complexion person but you have no real strength, takat . But in the village, you get tanned in the sun, and you gain strength because the air and water there are different. So don’t go by appearances.


I admit to Mishraji that I was missing his presence at the station all these days. I don’t know what happens when one confesses these vulnerabilities and needs. I am not sure how Mishraji will take it.


I saw someone like you yesterday at the station. Was it you?

It was indeed me. And I amazed how I can get watched in the flurry of crowds. Mishraji and people working on the station must have some eyes to watch and mark!


Mishraji and I talk for a while. We speak about Masterjee (TC) and about Ramzaan.


It is good that both the festivals (Eid and Diwali) have coincided this time. Otherwise one comes before or after another.


He asks me about writing poetry, my job and education.


When you have back-up support, you don’t have to worry about jobs. But it is when you have no support, when you are compelled to work on your own, that’s when you feel stuck. Compulsion ties you down. Then there is no freedom, he says to me when I tell him that I don’t like settled jobs to work into.


Mishraji has his own philosophies in life. Hopefully, someday, I will write a story on him as well and he will become another character, historicized in the gamut of the everyday!!!



October 15th, 2005

14 th October 2005


I landed at VT station in an attempt to get to Marine Drive . These days, VT station seems like a stranger because all the people there who I used to know are no longer there. There is no Suparna and Sushanti and no Arjun bhai too. As I walked past the space where Arjun bhai used to stand, I realized that to me, it is the people who make the space a place. This may not be the rule of the thumb universally.


At VT station itself, it is 7 PM right now and there is more traffic of people than usual. I am literally navigating my way across through people, at each stage protecting myself so that I am not touched and pushed. There is a sadhu and two Tibetan monks at the station. They are also participants in the hectic pace (no enlightenment working here!)! People are eager to get back home, perhaps because today is Friday and it is weekend tomorrow. (Family time, personal time …)


I go to the GPO bus stop to get a number 138. Today, I am in for travel in the special buses for the handicapped. Everyone at the stop is excited at the prospect of traveling in this bus. Alongwith people, I push in through the wide door and manage a seat for myself. I feel like I am traveling in one of the trams in Amsterdam – the space and atmosphere inside the bus is exactly like that! I am unaware of the rules of operating myself in this – new social conventions, new norms, new rules. I decide to watch everyone before I make a move.


People seemed as clueless as myself. But everyone was enjoying the ride. The global bus for a global city! Through the journey, I thought of practices of picnicking which has been a quintessential part of this city. This bus ride is also a picnicking practice. Being at Marine Drive with the family is a picnicking practice. Now I need to venture inside shopping malls to see how these practices play out and whether they are modified in the global scenario!


The bus is automated. The man in charge of the machines is the driver who opens the doors at the bus stops. But he also opens the doors when there are red signals and people want to get off. This is not an international practice, but a practice local to Mumbai where people usually want to get off before or in between bus stops (unofficially!).


A man wants to get off at Churchgate. But he chooses the back door instead of the front. The door does not open because the driver is unaware of this solo passenger. The passenger is made to go to the front door and that is when he gets off! I learn one more convention of operating in this bus.


Two of us passengers (coincidentally) decide that we want to get off at the Pizzeria signal. The driver is irritated with us because this is not a bus stop. He extends his hand to the button and pop-sshhsshh-sshhhh, the door opens. I have enjoyed this bus ride! It was superb. Maybe good things in life are as simple as this bus ride.


I land on the promenade after several days. Owing to Ramzaan, it is difficult to come to the promenade in the evenings after break of fast. I feel completely drained. But this evening, I am rejuvenated and I am completely in for a solid walk.


I am a walker these days at Marine Drive . As I walk, I greet two people who I have known by and by – Mr. Thakkar and Mr. Daswani. I start my walk. I am lost in my thoughts and then I am conscious of what is happening around. These days, I draw contrasts between Marine Drive and Worli Sea Face. Both are sea faces, but entirely different in character owing to location and nature of space. Marine Drive derives its special character also owing to the presence of Art Deco buildings on the opposite side. The distance between the buildings and the promenade and the intervening space of traffic is just perfect. This is different from Worli Sea Face which is laced with G+4 storey buildings as well as bungalows. There is a sense of coldness in the space of Worli Sea Face. And there is a certain warmth lacing Marine Drive . Love expressed on Marine Drive is abundant as against what I have managed to watch at Worli Sea Face – not many couples at Worli Sea Face. Perhaps it is the idea of romance which the practices have built up over the years at Marine Drive . Worli sea face is also more of a family space than Marine Drive which can be an individual as well as a collective space. I need to go to Worli Sea Face more often!!!


As I walk by, I am watching the couples in different positions – intimate, comfortable, close and personal! There is some joy in watching the lovers. I don’t know about the commitment in the relationships, but the vibes of excitement and love give a different experience to the space of Marine Drive . The space comes alive with their presence, just as much as the presence of children running around and having fun. Love is in the space …


I feel I am being watched at the sea face.


I greet Mr. Daswani briefly as I am walking towards Land’s End . Mr. Daswani is a charming old man, father of my friend K. He has the old English way of talking and charming you. He walks with his head down, perhaps not wanting to be disturbed in his individual space and pace. We exchange a greeting with our eyes, acknowledging each other’s presence!


Today, the NCPA side is crowded because of the MTV Lifestyle Awards Ceremony. It has a corporate feel to it, but it appears negligible so far!


At Land’s End , I meet Mr. Thakkar.


Kyan cho tame (Where are you?)

I have been busy owing to Ramzaan.

What do you do during Ramzaan?

We fast.

That means you don’t eat or drink anything in the day and eat one meal.

No, we eat two meals, one before sunrise and one after sunset.

And what happens if you eat in between? Paap lage ? (Is it a sin?)

I don’t know.

And if you don’t fast, is that a sin too? Does that mean you don’t go to heaven?

I don’t care about that. I know for sure that I am going to heaven whether I fast or not because I have a clean and sincere heart. So I am not bothered.

That’s the spirit! Shake hands. I like this!


Are you a very rich person? You are always talking on your cell phone? And if you are rich, I need to keep in special touch with you.

He winks at me.

Yeah, of course, because you believe that this is the world of material and moneyed relations, isn’t it?

Well, that’s the general rule. But I don’t believe in this. We need to meet more often. Stay in touch. Take care.


I walk by. Mr. Thakkar likes to make these contradictory statements. I have a hunch that he is a hurt person and he does believe that money is the reason for all relations. Sometimes he has a sad look in his eyes and a sad sounding voice, as if he has learnt lessons the hard way in life, perhaps experiencing betrayals in relationships. I can only conjecture. The truth is somewhere inside in him.


I walked backwards and started thinking of happiness. I am feeling very happy today. And these days, there are happiness surveys. So what is happiness fundamentally? And how do you develop universal markers of happiness and unhappiness? I look around and I find that people are generally quite happy at the promenade. Does that make this space in the city a happy space? What does it take to be happy? Material possessions? Simple pleasures and treasures of life? Friends? Relationships? Work? What???


Walking back, my slippers give off. The option I have is to hold the one broken slipper in my hand and walk. I decide to do so. But walking naked foot is actually a practice in consciousness. When I am walking with footwear on, I don’t have to be conscious of the ground and sharp objects hurting my feet. But when I am without footwear, I have to be conscious of every step. Maybe I need to become a chappal-less researcher!!! That way I’d be more conscious!!!


P.S. From today onwards, I have decided to call myself ‘a re-write’ because I am a researcher who can manage to express herself through writing!






October 15th, 2005

13 th October 2005


I was traveling from Churchgate to Khar station by the Andheri bound local train. These days, listening to GO 92.5 FM has become a practice. As soon as I entered the ladies compartment, I put on my ear phones. Quite a few women around me also did the same thing. Ear phones are a practice, though I am not quite sure if people are listening to music always. Maybe there is no sound, yet the ear phones are a device to switch off from the crowd. Women chat through the hands-free and they smile. It’s a kind of a strange experience of temporality, technology and space. I don’t know who these women talk to. Usually, I think they talk with their husbands/boyfriends because there is such a beaming smile on their faces that it just seems love. And these are women who are in their daily jobs and are returning back home in the evening. I need to study the social class phenomenon a bit deeper to be precise.


And then, another practice is of the tabloid newspaper. This time, we have the market syndrome giving us choice i.e. earlier, Mid-Day ruled the roost; today, it is Mumbai Mirror and Mid-Day. While I think DNA is also a tabloid kind of interesting paper, it is really the size of the newspaper which also contributes to the practice. And then of course, not everyone is interested in news – the quick briefing through is enough (pace governs man!)!


A Maharashtrian woman with her daughter came and sat in front of me. There was a strange kind of thing happening between the two of them. The daughter went over to the door and was probably sobbing. Her mother wanted the daughter to come and sit next to her but she refused to get up from her seat and go over to the door, to her daughter. She kept shouting out her daughter’s name. But she was not exactly agitatedly worried or concerned. Time and again, she would shout out to her daughter and that would be it.


At Dadar station, a few vendors and hawkers entered the compartment. Another saree clad, wearing a bindi, middle-class housewife entered the compartment. She sat next to the lady I just spoke about above. From their immediate appearance and also demeanour, I could make out the difference- the former was Maharashtrian, the latter was Gujarati. Marking is an instinctive practice. I need to study semiotics. Gosh, how do we develop these markers for marking?


A vendor selling fancy jewellery was making the rounds of our side of the compartment. All of a sudden, she threw her stuff on the floor, covered it with a regular handbag (of the office-going type) and sat as a fourth seat. She now looked like a regular middle-class commuter. The Gujarati lady sitting opposite me looked at her and smiled. The vendor smiled back and said, “Inspectors in the train. Have to be careful. Have not made a single sale as yet and they will slap me with fifty to sixty rupees fine.” She was smiling and sitting slightly shriveled up. At that point, I questioned citizenship, illegality and freedom. What makes the vendor less of a citizen that me? What makes her illegal? What gives her a subsequent status of a ‘migrant’ (and I am not even sure whether she was a migrant at all?)? The transition from being a vendor to a commuter within those quick seconds just amazed me. Perhaps we each make these identity transitions in our everyday lives, maybe not as dramatically as she did, but in some form or another. We also confront authority in our everyday lives, not the inspectors which she did, but authorities of different kinds!


I got up at Bandra station and moved to the door. It was not crowded. There were people wanting to get off. I was carrying two heavy bags and I needed to ensure that I got off without getting stuck with either of my bags. As the station approached and the train began to slow down, I found myself irritatingly nudging the backs of women in front of me, telling them, ‘Chalo, chalo, jaldi, jaldi, get off fast!’ Now, I am not any removed from commuter practices despite being a researcher, am I? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahaahhahaahhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahah!




October 12th, 2005

9th October 2005


It is 11 PM at night. I am returning from Mahim to Byculla by bus. The following words are knitting in my mind:


Dark, late at night

Lonely traveler (and that too woman!)

Dark, late at night,

Solace (public transport!)


I get into the bus – No. 4 Limited (distinctly written in red on the head)

Other women get in too

Ek Byculla Bridge, Ek Bhendi Bazaar , says the woman dressed in a rida .

While of my brethren, despised and hated is her community

But late at night, dark

She is a sister, a companion (in fear, in insecurity).


While on the seat, I am thinking in my head

Sometimes looking around, sometimes looking outside

Sometimes conscious, sometimes lost in my own stream of thoughts!


Each time I wake myself from self-indulgence,

I look around.

His neck is dropping off, down,

As the fat man dozes in the space and pace of the journey!

Sometimes waking, but asleep mostly

Perhaps this is one more element of peace

In this stressed out city!


Looking around I see,

A Mia with his heena dyed beard.

Old, white hair, skull cap

He sits facing others ( pun intended because he was sitting on the front double seat which faces the rest of the crowd in the bus )!


Lost again I am,

In my own thoughts,

The bus journey has come to an end

Another one to home begins …


Yeah! The bus journey ended and pleasant it was, despite my initial tensions of getting back home this late at night. From the bus stand, my home is at a distance of ten minutes. It requires walking through the stretch of the pavement which we know as Byculla Bridge .


This pavement is an interesting space in itself. In the mornings, it is a regular pedestrian space. But come night, when the street lights are on and the sky wears a black shawl, this pavement becomes a multifarious space in itself.


To begin with, there are school buses parked alongside the pavement. That is when I prefer walking on the road instead of the pavement because the buses completely cover the pavement. I fear if someone pops out of the bus while I am walking on the pavement and tries to force me into the bus to rape me. So I dodge, sometimes on the pavement, sometimes on the road.


Once I have crossed that stretch of the pavement, there is the other interesting stretch where men are sleeping, half naked, legs spread out. Some of them are doing dope. They will look at me eerily as I walk by and I look at them in amazement and wonder. Is the world around us so crazy that we need sanity in dope? I don’t know. And I cannot judge people who dope because different people do it for different reasons. Thin aluminum foil square pieces, some powder, a few needles and the hand – precisely the joint at the elbow and the SHOT!






Then, as I walk ahead, there are men sleeping in horizontal rows. Some have spread out their legs wide, as if it were a sexual gesture. I don’t know whether the lives of these men are lonely, wanting a companion. I don’t know these men. They only appear at night and by daylight, they are gone to a place I don’t know. As I walk by, I see a man who has one of his hands inside his shorts. Perhaps fondling his penis while trying to fall asleep and then, as he was doing this, he put his desires, fantasies and dreams to sleep (and the hand as well!). I think sex is also function of space and both space and sex have complex interplays with each other.


And finally, I reach the last leg of the pavement which has a little marble temple on the side and eateries on the other. The men sitting and talking here are localites, engaged in politics, local businesses, deals, etc. These men are different from those sleeping. I walk quickly with my head down and pass by. Thus ends the journey of the footpath.


As I walk, I see two shadows, both mine! Perhaps one of fear (future) and one of the present!



October 12th, 2005

9 th October 2005


I got into the train from Byculla to Dadar. Trains were running late. When trains are running late, people start peering from the edges of the platform, into the distant, to check out the (bleak) prospects of an arriving train. The other day, S said to me, “This city generates a lot of stress.” His words were stuck in my mind. Today, when the trains are running late and women and men are constantly peering from the edges of the platform, into the distant, to check out the (bleak) prospects of an arriving train, I can feel the arising tension. Nothing is said, everything is felt – perhaps this is the story of all railway stations in the city where the experiences are largely sensorial.


I wonder then whether it is actually time that governs each aspect of our life in this city and maybe space takes a backseat??? Are pace and time different? Or does time determine pace? Are there people in the city who are unaffected by time and are not under its regime? Is the city automatically fast paced or is it we who generate pace? Is time then an entity in isolation or is it a product of our daily practices and lifestyles?


Ultimately, the train arrived. Now, looking at the crowd inside the train, all of us women began to be stressed out. The visual of the crowd also creates stress (something which used to happen to me when I did rides on the Delhi Metro this time around and considering that the Metro is nothing compared to the scale of our crowds!). Somehow I managed to get into the train. I immediately stood by the other door since I had to get off at Dadar. Two women, one with a child, came and stood next to me and then sat down on the flooring. Both the women were dark. The one immediately next to me had a smelly food item in her hand and she was too close to me, physically. I found that every time I tried to move away from her, she would grab that centimeter of (distance) space and make it her own. I did not want her to touch me because I did not want to be smelly. I found her too irritating for me. Damn!


With each station, the train was getting crowded. I was wondering at which station both these women would receive reprimanding for being inconsiderate and occupying (extra) space. Finally it happened! At Parel station! Dressed and decorated Maharashtrian women got into the train and immediately began shouting at both these women. At this point, I wondered whether the commuter women were in a position of power because these two seated women were poor, perhaps slum dwellers, dark, illiterate, rural. But the woman with the child fought back. She refused to stand up. The one sitting next to me said she was dizzy and needed place to sit else she would fall. It is interesting that when this screaming and shouting does happen, some women take on a role of empathizers and try to explain the (crowded) situation in a rational and reasonable manner. “Why don’t you stand up at Dadar station and sit down once we have crossed the station? This way you will not be walked/stamped upon by the crowds which get in at Dadar? We understand your situation but let’s negotiate for now in the best possible manner (and space)!”


The train hit Dadar platform. Each one of us wanting to get down were stressed at the prospect of getting off. But get off we must and we did! Then I wonder whether all this stress is an anticipation of a future situation which actually rarely happens???





October 9th, 2005

8 th October 2005


I was returning from Kanjurmarg to Byculla. In the train, I sat in a corner. I put on my ear phones to listen to the radio. But the noise was screechy. Somehow I was wanting to cut off from the rest of the crowd in the compartment (which anyway would not care for me!).


There are ways and practices which people employ in order to cut themselves off from the rest of the crowd. The local train is therefore both, a public and a private space. People indulge in contemplation and thinking in the trains – either the compartments seem to provide this space or the space is generated by the time of the journey.


After Parel Station passed, I decided to stand near the door. A rural woman with her child and cloth sack was sitting at the door. She spat out and the spit lace the door of the train. She started talking to me,

VT? Where is VT?

Is the platform on both sides?

How many stations away?

I was running around here and there at Dadar station, trying to understand what was going on, but it is very difficult to get help.


I was afraid to talk to her, lest she gets friendly with me and makes asks for money which I would not be able to refuse. I answered her queries about VT station. She went on talking. I tried to listen and ignore at the same time.


I am afraid of the vulnerabilities in the city. I am afraid when people start opening up to me and there are intimacies and expectations involved. Yeah, I am basically afraid of expectations.


Byculla came and I got off.


[End of Journey]



October 9th, 2005

8 th October 2005


Marked Practices


It was a sleepy afternoon. The train was bound for Kalyan. I was to get off at Kanjurmarg. Comfortable in a window seat, I watched the pace of the compartment. People appeared drowsy. In one instance, two ladies sitting opposite me had the following interaction:


Lady 1: Where are you going to get off?

Lady 2: Mulund.

Lady 1: Oh, then go to sleep! Even I am going to get off at Mulund. I will wake you up. We don’t get to sleep once we get back home. Better to sleep it off in the train. I am afraid of dozing off because I risk missing the station. So you sleep, I will wake you up.

Lady 2: (Smiles) (Then dozes off, drops her head downwards – too weary!)


It was a sleepy Saturday afternoon in the first ladies compartment. With the arrival of Dadar station and the consequent and subsequent crowds, the pace continued to be a mix of drowsiness and of some rush at the door. But gradually, the crowds began to increase and in the passageway, things began to get messy. Women were hissing because other women were stamping their feet and trying to get across to make a comfortable space for themselves without getting in other people’s ways. As crowds increased, agitation and hostility increased too.


[Slight detour …] Exactly a week ago, a party of us girls were traveling in Central Railway to Neral, a long, long distance journey. After we got off at Neral station, Ash remarked,

I found the women in the compartment not being nice to us, as in they were trying to make things difficult for us. They were intentionally being unhelpful. Perhaps this is because we were a bunch of English speaking girls. Seems like a cultural bias.


I have wondered about locality and whether locality can be exclusive. The experience with women in Western Railway is based on markings of Borivali and Virar. In Central Railway these days, the marking is English speaking and therefore disliked. In my own experience at Uruli Kanchan Ashram, my Maharashtrian roommate came and said to me on the last day,

Everything about you is nice. But I simply hate it when you pratter in English and speak so smoothly and fast!


[Back to Journey …] Crowds were increasing. I was afraid that I might experience a lot of difficulty in getting off at Kanjurmarg. So I decided to move to the door as soon as Ghatkopar station passed by.


The area at the door was totally jammed. I started tapping the shoulders of women ahead of me,

Kanjurmarg? Kanjurmarg?


The lady immediately ahead of me said

Everyone is getting of at Kanjurmarg. Don’t bother.


A little later, another lady standing at the door said,

No, not everyone is getting off at Kanjurmarg. Ask this lady ahead. She is planning to get off elsewhere.


The lady ahead appeared like a bhangi . She was dressed as one. She was tall, dark, rural in appearance and wore a bright red tikka. She was to get off at Kalyan which is the junction of the train. She was accompanied by a little boy who was holding a big suitcase. The lady ahead of me got angry when she heard that the tall lady was going to get off at Kalyan. She screamt,

Are you mad? Paagal hai kya? If you have to get off at Kalyan go and stand inside. Why are you here? Don’t you understand that people have to get off and get in at Kanjurmarg? No sense these people have.


She went on muttering,

These people have gangs. They are here to thug and steal from passengers in crowds. This is an organized group. Mad woman! Paagal hai kya? Go in.


The woman refused to budge. Women standing at the side of the door now started scolding her, telling her to go inside. Between Ghatkopar and Vikhroli station, the woman was victim to everyone’s reprimanding. Her son was squashed between us women. And he was carrying a heavy suitcase. He was breathing hard and trying to keep his balance. After Vikhroli station, the tall lady began to move in.


The women at the door started saying,


This must be happening in your Bihar where people just pile on each other inside trains. Here in Mumbai, we have some etiquette and rules. Look at the poor boy. You are making him suffer as well. Yeh tumhare Bihar mein hota hoga. In your Bihar they only talk with knives and threat of might. Here at least you must understand. This must be happening in your Bihar but this is Bombay ’s local trains.


I don’t know how they assumed this was Bihar . She was moving in and simultaneously trying to retort to the allegations being leveled against her. I could not understand what she was saying.


Kanjurmarg station came and I was pushed out.


[End of Journey]




October 8th, 2005

Urban Buffet

(Flavours of kebabs, delicacies, neighborhoods, imaginations and memories of spaces in a city)



Spaces in cities are fascinating, contiguous, frightening, terrifying, strange, awkward, funny and interesting (and a lot more adjectives can be added). And of course, the interaction between the spaces and the dwellers which leads to productions of imaginations of spaces!


Urban Buffet is a walk through the Muslim neighbourhoods of South Mumbai including Nagpada, Dongri, Bhendi Bazaar, Bohri Mohalla, Mohammed Ali Road and Haji Ali – an experience of one area of the city by night and dawn.

The walk will be led by Syeed Bijapuri. Syeed Bijapuri is a research subject who I encountered during my research on railway stations in Mumbai city. He is a Ticket Checker, a national basketball champion and a versatile personality of everyday life.


The walk will involve savouring Ramzaan delights including Arabian Kahwa, Arabian Khapsa, kebabs, sweets and delicacies of Sehri breakfasts. It also entails walking through and visiting Nagpada Bachoo Khan Basketball Court, Foras Road and Bachoo ki Waadi, Moghul Masjid and its ancient Hamam and the interiors of Dongri area, walking through the interiors of Sarvi Mohalla and experiencing the underworld and criminal city. The rest is a production of our experiences and imagination …


Dates of the Walks: Saturday 15 th October


Timing: 10 PM to 1:00 AM – for those of us who wish to continue, we can stay on till 4 AM which is the timing for commencement of fasts.


Meeting Place: Byculla Railway Station, East Side – ticket counter of platform number 4


Cost: The cost of eateries will be based on actuals and shared by the participants. A registration fee of Rs. 75 will be charged.


Only 10 persons will be allowed for the first walk. We may conduct another walk on Saturday 22 nd October. For inquiries and registrations, contact Zainab Bawa on





October 8th, 2005

7 th October 2005


I met Saroja today. She and I used to work in the same place earlier. I left and then she left. Now she works in a plush office. When she saw me in her office today, she gave me a tight hug and held my hands tight. I have never known her to be this way. She was never so expressive in the earlier workplace. Maybe I was her tribe and she missed me in the plush South Mumbai office where she is now working.


Belongingness … humaneness … people


It just felt out of this world to be hugged by Saroja. I felt rich and abundant!



October 8th, 2005


6 th October 2005


Today is the first day of Ramzaan. TC and I agreed to meet at Byculla Station after we had finished the evening break of fast. We were to go around the Muslim neighbourhoods of Nagapda, Bhendi Bazaar and Saarvi to chalk out the Urban Buffet Walk which we are organizing jointly on Saturday 15 th October.


I arrived early at Byculla Station. These days, waiting for TC to meet me at Byculla Station is not an odd task. Earlier, waiting for someone at a public place would mean a great deal to me. I would feel watched by everyone around – what do people think I am waiting here for? Do they think I am a call girl? Each glance would pierce me and kill me. But these days, wait at Byculla station is not a big deal. Actually, waiting at any railway station is not a big deal because it is a waiting place – people wait for trains; people wait to meet each other there, it being a common waiting and meeting place and then and lastly, because everyone is in a hurry, there is no one to note you, to mark you, to watch you. Unless of course you happen to be waiting at a time which is not a peak hour at the railway station. And again, not all railway stations are friendly waiting places.


TC arrived in a short while. Usually, he wears his sports cap. Today, he was wearing a skull cap. It made him look different. TC and I know each other for nearly nine months now. He was my research subject. He still is. But now we have a friendship between us. Earlier I used to feel conscious during interactions with him. But he has no hassles of interacting. He doesn’t have tensions and he has the remarkable ability to make me feel comfortable. He is fond of me and I am fond of him too. We talk about everything under the sun – food, films, railways, people, my work, his work, etc.


We boarded a cab from Byculla West and went straight to Bohri Mohalla. But I was too involved in my conversations with him to notice anything around me. We walked around for half an hour. And it was pleasant company on one evening in the city. I feel grateful for the relationship with him – there should be no andheras ; if you can’t get the chaand , better not promise it – he says meaning that let there not be pretensions and darknesses in relationships.


I got back home and excitedly told mom about the walk we were planning to do.


Are you going to go with him alone and walk at night? You think it will look good?


I was irritated with her question. It meant that if people were to see me hanging out with him, what would they think of me?


I explained to mom that I was not going to go alone with him. Rather, we were going to take a group of people on the midnight walk. She seemed alright when I explained this to her. The question lurking in my mind was that of class and social appropriateness – who defines what is ‘appropriate’ and what is not? Does a researcher have to limit his/her interactions with his/her subject to just topics of research? What kinds of relationships are ‘appropriate’ between the researcher and the subject?


P.S. Mom does not even know that I have watched two films with TC in theaters!