Familiar faces, familiar hands. Familiar from a distance, strangers up close. Their lives are entwined, just like those many strange hands. Their lives are familiar too... Little do they realize...
It's those hands that speak volumes... Clinging on for dear balance. One loose grip can hurtle a fellow face off the train... Or maybe, those familiar strange hands nearby might manage to grab that life back...
A hand; a life. Holding on... to sheer hope more than anything else...
A hope that seems far away today....
For people like me, it is very important not to be claustrophobic. I am 35 years old and all of three feet tall. Midget, they call me. Twice a day, when I get practically carried by the crowd into this train, all I see are tummies. Potbellies, flat abs, stomachs caving in from hunger. If I look up, I see hands hanging on to this swaying metal box. Thin hands, bejewelled hands, workman hands. They talk about it being the city of dreams. My dream? To know what life is like at six feet height. .
Every day the same story. Every person like a story in themselves. Hands brush against each other and eyes meet for brief moments. Until that one moment. I saw him through the mesh in between the women's compartment and the general one. Our smiles felt like mirror images. .
My palms were slick with sweat and kept slipping from the handle I was holding on to. The train took a long curve and I found myself pressed against a large breasted woman. She didn't seem to mind.
The compartment was packed and at least fifty hands - some dark, some hairy, some sporting watches, some wearing jiggly bangles - grew up to the train ceiling, like flesh trees.
I wondered how they would all look, when the bomb in my backpack exploded..
He stood there among the hot and sweaty commuters watching and biding time.
His time to achieve immortality and martyrdom was now, his mentor had promised him heaven, virgins and whatnot.
Just then a blind young lady with a child in her arms got into the train. She started to sing an old melody and the child held out its hand laughing..
As he looked to press the trigger, the smiling child stilled him.
He rushed through the crowd and jumped out of the train and a flaming inferno shocked the commuters. The train continued on.... safely..
It's that sort of a journey where it's like getting a glimpse of heaven, to see the doors open to your station..
In a land crowded with dreams we all need something to hang on to. As we move on towards our destination we need a support to hold on to, so that we don't fall. It's just that we don't realize that the real fun is not in reaching the destination but in the journey itself. And hence every day we reach our destinations, we start again on a new journey to a new land..
"Look at them. They all think that they're unique. Yet, just rats in the race."
"What race? 5 of them are off to Pune for a colleague's wedding. The aged guy is thinking of the closest Iyengar bakery to carry home some dilpasand for his granddaughter, 3 of them are street musicians on their way to a recording studio, and the guy in the center, hand covering his face? He still can't believe that he won the two movie tickets from that radio contest!"
The race is in your mind. And rats, nowhere. .
Given another chance, we would have chased the same local train, gone for work and approached home with a fish for dinner. The future was against the routine and came with a tremble, left holding the handles and heavy breaths. We still demand to survive just to complete our incomplete chase of the parallel rails, long queues and the untold faces as no journey ends before a station, but our journey of life did. Our extremity is to travel again in these and for these local trains, unobtainable after a long last, Blast. .
Itâ€™s crowded as ever. You stumble.
You push your way through sweaty bodies, cursing and being cursed at.
You donâ€™t find a place to sit.
You are too fat to squeeze in.
You are too short to reach the grab rails.
Then it hits you, how this daily commute mirrors your life.
Each day is a struggle, to get on and get moving.
Not enough time or place to sit and rest.
Peace and happiness too high to reach out.
But hey, you have not given up!
So keep going. Keep moving, till you reach and grab your place.
It's 12th of this monthâ€¦ salary delayedâ€¦ things are pendingâ€¦payment of kid's feeâ€¦ household groceries.. rent.. daily expenses.. now on the top of it.. a disastrous dayâ€¦Got late to office.. Hostile rains.. Thrashing by bossâ€¦ loads of workâ€¦forgot my lunchboxâ€¦
Ahhh!! Finallyâ€¦ done for the dayâ€¦ but a challenging task awaitsâ€¦ peak-time congested metro â€¦ â€œGod is so unkind,â€ I muttered trying to squeeze myself.. Here I spot a physically challenged person trying to figure out the way.. Another one in a verbal duel over property.. Someone just lost his walletâ€¦ grrrr!! How is God responsible for all this!!!
I was lonely in horrible way. I never felt deep weird feeling before in my mind. That time I wanted to ask everyone, "Do you ever feel the same or you feel what I am feeling?"
I feel stranger and stupid in the midst of a crowd.
Loneliness is not a choice; so do help those persons who want your time and love.
â€œBaba! Donâ€™t forget it's Sunday tomorrow. You promised me that remote controlled car!â€ said an excited Raju.
Vijay kissed the childâ€™s forehead and assured him of fulfilling his long standing demand. After all Vijay had been saving every penny since the last month, from his meagre salary as a guard.
Vijay planned on going to the toy market after duty today. â€˜Raju turns 8 tomorrow,â€™ thought Vijay with a twinkle in his eye, boarding the local from Dadar.
That evening a heart broken Vijay returned home empty handedâ€¦ pickpockets in the train had stolen the wallet with Rajuâ€™s dream.
20 years at the job and he still got goosebumps after every success. He grinned behind the old guy as he stood near the door enjoying the cool breeze.
A sudden brake; the crowd jerked - a push. Goosebumps again; but this was of fear. He could see the tracks running beneath as his body started to fall. Sudden stop - he looked back as the old guy slowly pulled him back.
As the old man looked away, he placed the wallet back in that man's pocket. 20 years perfecting the art, but today was the last. .
I see things differently. I see things which most people don't.
I have an unobstructed view of the world while the average personâ€™s view is blocked â€¦ by other people.
I aim higher and reach higher than most people.
I also walk and run faster than others so I reach my goal and destination faster.
I look down upon people while they look up to me. Quite literally.
I rise above the rest of humanity.
I am 6 ft 9 inch tall.
(Now see the pic and read again :) .
'They look like machines. They behave like machines. Nobody smiles here... I'll leave Mumbai soon,' he thought.
"Hey! Can you stand like a gentleman? Stupi..."
He was about to have a fight when a bald man stepped in.
"You don't know the pain of standing so long on one leg. Bald man!"
"I know the pain son! Don't fight, calm down!" the bald man replied softly and with a smile.
The bald man got off the train on same station with him. His thoughts were frozen! Bald man's one leg was artificial. .
It was a day like any other on the so called lifeline of Mumbai, the local trains. A melange of sweat and odd smelling perfume filled the air as usual. He stood at a measly 5 foot nothing. The chains at the top felt all the more difficult to cling on to.
One day he went missing. When he returned he was on a wheelchair traveling in the handicapped category. His was a case of limb lengthening surgery gone wrong. .
One local, many passengers, and each with different stories, During this journey, I try to imagine the life of a person standing in front of me. Each day I do this. Today, a bizarre thought came across my mind. What if I try to imagine all these people in front of me in one single story? So, I clicked them in a picture. They say a picture's worth a thousand words. I say, it's worth a thousand stories too..
Standing among hundreds of political prisoners in a congested old train, Timmy, just 12 years old, waits to be deported to Auschwitz the German death camp. An old, dirty jacket is randomly tossed to him by a fellow passenger. Who was making sure people donâ€™t freeze to death on the way to the camp! â€œHow strange,â€ Timmy thought, as he sees his last name, Moskowis, marked on the jacket. â€œHow did they know my name?â€ He was impressed! Beating all odds, he was tossed jacket of a previous prisoner who didnâ€™t make it to the campâ€”his own fatherâ€™s.
His short stature left him with no option but to inhale strong body odour with every breath in the packed compartment. A tiny stream of sweat made its way to the tip of his nose. It stopped there, like a tiger at vantage point. Irritated, he gave his head a violent jerk. With immediate realization, he prepared to utter â€œsorryâ€ against frowns. â€œWhy does it have to be me every time?â€ he thought as he looked around.
He caught sight of a man going through the same reflex. Their eyes met. They smiled.
â€œI am not alone in this.â€.
With earphones plugged in Vikas was lost in his own thoughts. He was thinking how scared he was to jump in to the crowded train and how excited he was to be at Marine Drive and how awkward he felt when he saw couples holding hands. "I love this city and owe a lot to it," he said to himself and got off the train just to realize that he had been pick pocketed. .
I was indifferent to the class and compartments, my company usually decided. After a certain time, I came to a conclusion there were two kinds- One would ask me to board the ladies compartment quietly and the other which would seek my company and board the general with me.
My mother would appear with her frying pan, "Even if you don't think so, the world still looks at you like you're a girl. When will you understand this!".
He sighed as he strolled through the gallery. How fast times change, he thought.
The curator, having recognised the legend, immediately walked up to him and said, "It is our great pleasure to have you here and be a witness to our work. Would you like to share your valuable feedback?"
Not a man of many words, he said, "Today, it isn't an art. It is literature. Earlier, we didn't need a hundred words to make our images speak. They did it for themselves. I am not good with literature, I will leave that part to you.".
I rushed hurriedly to catch the last local of the hour. As usual I was running late for work. Cursing the Mumbai monsoons I clumsily got into the overcrowded train. Mornings were the worst for me in this bustling new city. How will I manage traveling in crowded locals everyday for 1.5 hours, I thought. But there was something about this city; it always gave me new reasons to hold onto it. As the train neared its stop I looked around for an empty space on the handle to hold and stared at the numerous unknown faces who just like me, were holding on too..
So many faces, all of them separated and united by their loneliness. They brighten with day break in anticipation and become sullen like a blown off lamp in the night. The sun isn't the only thing that rises and sets after all. Some lost in thought; some ambitious; some anxious; some calm and some curious. All of them in a thought train independent of one another, yet unified by the direction of the journey embarked upon. Together, yet apart. In this fair of faces, help me find one that I can endear to as mine..