Tuesday, September 15, 2009




If Kolkata is the Paris of India (even though from what I saw the artistic and cultural level of Paris is not even remotely matched), then Mumbai has to be its London. Fast-paced and buzzing.

After avoiding a 30-odd strong queue of sweaty Indian men by rushing to a counter that luckily just opened to get my train ticket to Santa Cruz station, I turn back to find that a bunch of people have gathered on the way. I make it through them to realize that they're circling an interesting scene. a couple of men, helped by one of those policemen with the wooden stick, are holding a guy's hands behind his back and tying them together. The man is bending forward and struggling pointlessly. After tying his hands they start hitting his back and ribs rather angrily. The policeman is just supervising, making sure the beating goes well. "He's a thief, a pickpocket", explains my mate Rahul, whom I had met for some shopping down Linking road and Hill road in Bandra. They have some fancy restaurants and cafes there. A good butcher too, reputed for his beef. Gotta hit that one some day. In a country so over-populated and with such diversity (diversity of political views, religion, life styles...), I understand that the law and order has to make itself respected with an iron fist. Such a show of repression as I witnessed today made an good example of that thief to the public. Steal and you will get a beating, the police will make sure of that. There are so many people around that the only way to maintain order is to create a strong fear of such drastic punishments.

The rush "hour" in public transports (Trains!) goes from 7.30 till 11am and from 4.30 till 9pm. No time for a yawn. Crowded trains where you may not be able to find a seat but you don't want to either because of the extreme heat. better to raise both arms, grab a handle hanging from the bars above and raise your head to try and catch some air. The bodies sexily intermingled. Elbows and foreheads. Wet underarms in faces. And they say India has lost its eroticism. Managed to find some seats with your friends? A few stops to go? Perfect, let's have a game of cards! A handkerchief placed on the laps and let's deal the cards. But fast.

The next stop in Kajur Marg, my stop. As I try to stand by the exit (a door which is constantly open to let both the air flowing in and people sticking their body out to catch the air), a group of people insist that I stay at the back of the train facing the exit. It turns out they're also getting off, but the rule is that, especially at busy stations, people should get on the train before getting off! Nice piece of Indian logic: people should board the train first, find a seat or a place to stand before letting people off. So the train stops, we hold as far back as possible to avoid the flow of people rushing in like crazy, looking for a seat only to realize that there is none available, then grabbing a handle somewhere between the rows of seats. The trick, if you're on for a long journey, is to stay as close as possible to some seats to be able to grab them as soon as someone raises from his seat. Only when the crowd has settled can we start struggling our way through the packed wagon to try and reach the exit.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. And so true! Dunno how Mumbai compares to London tho, we believe it's more like New York; fast, dirty, crowded, multi-cultural and its the financial capital.