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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!



  1. October 15th, 2005 at 01:22 | #1

    post repeated i guesss…waise..u write too much of locals….read the new novel abt mumbai locals–“local”…and its not soo broodin:)

  2. October 17th, 2005 at 04:15 | #2

    You have written ” saree clad, wearing a bindi, middle-class housewife ”

    How do you differentiate between low class, middle class  and high class — just by looking at the people’s get up cannot give you the actual picture.