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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Metro Diaries #8: The newest stories, Part 1

I thought I was done with stories from, and related to, the metro train in Delhi. I'm seriously so trusting (and thus, such a misfit in this ever-increasing-stupid-mindless-selfish-society, but that's a story for another day). There are just thousands and thousands of people shuffling on and off from the Metro every day, so that it's quite obvious you would come across an incident some time. I'm sharing two (of four) of the latest metro-related updates today. The other two will follow soon.

1. The Kumbhkarana Girl
I'm a light sleeper, except on some nights when I've had a super-exhausting day in both body and mind (mostly mind), and even in those rare times I wake up feeling guilty and all-wrong. How could I have slept through without knowing when G got sick and Mum gave him medicines? What if I'm the only one with someone who got sick in the night and isn't able to speak and I'm sleeping soundly!? Or worse, what if there's an earthquake and I'm sleeping without feeling it? You get the point: I'm not happy being a heavy sleeper. Strangely, I never thought much about other people sleeping light or heavy, or caring about it, or even observing it. Until that day in the metro.

The station I get down to reach office is one at the end of a line, so that if you don't deboard, you can go back the same line. I got up from my seat about half a minute before the train was to stop, gave a cursory glance around the nearly-empty coach, and saw a girl in a corner seat, her head angled back against the train wall. Her eyes were closed and her mouth open. She was asleep. The train rocked a little as it shifted tracks, it shuddered, people shuffled to the doors, but the sleeping girl did not wake up. I decided to shake her awake if she wasn't up even when the train stopped.

The train stopped and she was still asleep. I went to her and gently placed a hand on her arm so as not to alarm her, and said, "Excuse me." I admit, I was even softer than I had expected. Not even a sharp cat would have woken up with it. I tried again, much more enthusiastically because the doors had opened. "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me!" With each "excuse me" I hardened my grip and shook her more and more, and with each try, my heartbeat rose and anxiety set in. People from the platform had begun to enter. If I wasn't quick, we would be locked inside. I tried again, shaking her by the arms and the shoulders, trying not to look at her open-mouthed state of Kumbharaness. Suddenly, a wave of something deep passed through me. I felt my heart drop to the bottom of my stomach. My grip on her loosened for a moment, and I clutched the metal bar instead. Horrific thoughts washed through my (now proven, over-imaginative) mind. The moment passed just as soon as it had come, and with new vigour, I shook her again, dropping all politeness. It seemed to work.

With a gasp, her mouth shut close, her eyes opened, and her head left its headrest, all at once.
"Come on, it's the last station," I said to her. It was all I could do to not take her hand and quickly lead her out.
"This is the last station!" I said, using more animation than words. I wasn't sure she could understand me. She made to get up, and I finally left the coach. But that's not the end of the story. The good Samaritan in me stopped me from going further, and I turned around to look. She was walking out of the doors, clutching the bars for support. Her footsteps were uneven. I went back to her.

"Are you all right?"
She only looked around with a confused expression. She did not answer my question.
"Are you all right?" I repeated. "Where did you have to get down?" By then, it was clear that she was lost.
"Huh? Where have I come?" she said. Her eyes were bloodshot. I wondered how much time it would take her to be fully awake (and also how she would even manage office that day). I told her the name of the station and asked her again where she was supposed to get off. She named a station we had left about fifteen minutes ago.
"You can get in this same train. It will go back," I said, tempted to push her inside the still-open doors.
"Really?" she said, which made me wonder where her consciousness really was.
"Yes, yes... go quickly."

She shuffled towards the doors, paused a moment, and then turned to walk towards the other end of the train. (Possibly because, even in her disturbed state of mind, she was conscious of the fact that the coach was no longer women-only). But by that time I was quite late for work, so I left her to it. She was, at least, walking straight all by herself.

2. Babysitting in the metro
By now I have pretty much realized that what I have in my mind is hardly ever to be seen in reality. I actually sometimes believe that people would behave with manners and courtesy because I am a total stranger to them, and also because I'm not even saying anything to anybody. But I keep forgetting our awesome culture of brotherhood, which, apart from making people think they have rights to eavesdrop, look into other's messages, and stare shamelessly, also gives them this strange illusion that everyone else is their close relative, someone who could be asked to do things without thinking whether or not they want to. And sometimes those requests are just ridiculous.

It was an over-stuffed train, and I was feeling lucky that I had a seat (about the only positive thing about the location of my office). It's a different matter that I was being squeezed on both sides because people believe in the two-people-per-seat concept rather than how it should be. I tried flipping the pages of my book using only my fingers, because I could not move my arms. The ladies/women/girls on both sides of me were busy with their cell phones. My bag was somewhere near my feet, and my knees were being crushed by women standing stuck to the seats. There really was not an inch of breathing space.

From a station, some more women somehow squeezed in--which was accompanied by the oohs-and-aahs-and-ouchs of those inside--and managed to come near where I was sitting (which was in the middle of two doors, not even a corner). I could not see them, but I heard a loud woman speaking to her daughter-in-law (or maybe the crowd in general), about making space and adjusting a little boy. Inch by inch people moved, right in front of me, making space for a boy of about three, pushed by his grandmother. He stood in front of me. I could not avoid looking up. The grandmother asked us to make space for the boy.

My first and foremost thought was, "where?" And then since no one was getting up, with an audible sigh I slowly closed my book, and moved to stand up, wondering how on Earth would I get space to even stand. "No, no... keep sitting," said the grandmother. "Only make him sit with you." As was obvious, there was no possibility of even a three-year-old being 'adjusted', so I had to be the inevitable volunteer. I took the kid in my lap.

It would have been all right had I been left alone after that, but one, even if a kid looks small, he will be HEAVY, especially when he is asleep. Because he was so drowsy even when standing, that he shut his eyes and went to sleep as soon as I took him. And two, the others seemed to find this cute, so they simply sat staring at us, while I tried to keep a hold on my stuff, which I ultimately had to hand over to the girl next to me. For the next quarter of an hour, I shifted however possible to adjust with the kid's lolling head (which kept dropping to one side).

I'm glad it lasted only that much time. No wonder it was unexpected and funny, and I'm wondering how and why such things keep happening with me! I have two more stories to share, which I'll write and post as soon as I can. :) I also have a really cool update, which will also wait until the next post! Keep reading!

1 comment:

  1. What experiences man! Seriously, the first one looked like it was straight out of some movie. In fact, in my ever present curiosity , I started to wonder what would it be like if the same incident was told from the perspectie of that kumbhkaran girl. It was scary too, sort off. But I really commend what you did.

    Same holds true for the second incident as well, shows how you are a good person and have a big heart. People in metro will always ask to adjust by the way, there is no escaping that, or hope that such a thing can stop someday.

    Also, thinking of it, I think I have a theory. There is something in a person's body language that makes him/her more approachable, even if he or she is just busy in some work or reading and not even looking up. That is why people automatically go to those who they think would help them more. That is a good sign for me. It can make you compromise with your comfort, but being good has never provided extra comforts, right?

    I'm waiting for the next one. :)


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