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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]



  1. October 12th, 2005 at 05:07 | #1

    I have seen something like this in a BEST bus. Once two people supposedly from Bihari (I say this because of the language they were using, so I guessed) were talking on top of their voice in the bus. A little behind was seated again a Maharashtrian who was talking on the mobile phone. After a few seconds of not being able to hear clearly on this cellphone thanks to the loud talking of those gentlemen from Bihar. Our Lion of Maharashtra got very angry and roared at them loudly “This is Mumbai, stop shouting as if it’s your bloody village. Do you want me to show you how we treat “people like you” in Mumbai.”

    Gosh the racism within citizens of the same country. God help us!