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Category: Travel and communication

Reliving Old Ones

Till the time I completed my secondary school education, I have stayed in different places. To make it clearer, in my fifteen years of school education, my last school was the tenth one. Well, one may presume that I am jabbering but I have memories of different and equally wonderful places.

We were in Anantnag, a small town further from Srinagar, one of the most beautiful places for a kid to grow up. We had a huge Chinar tree in our garden; it covered the entire garden under it. Every autumn it would turn bright with golden, copper, brown and red hues. So if you lie down under it, you would see an orange sky of leaves with shimmering sunlight peeping through it and the green grass under you; the grass was usually cold, but one can adjust. The lawn had a very high fence; I couldn’t see past it even if I stood on my tippy toes stretching to my full height, which wasn’t much(my mother used to believe I would be a dwarf all my life. thank goodness her fear did not turn to reality.) My father had put up a swing on the tree branch, which was my prized possession. When I swung forward was the only time I could see past the fence and see what was happening outside.

Another reason it was a good place to grow up would be that there were no schools near my house and those nearby were shut because of the fear of shelling. It was 1998, the year Kargil started, so I had home schooling. Home schooling wasn’t that great a pain, security reasons and bandhs kept my teacher at bay. He was wonderful and kind – before every session I was given a huge, juicy, scarlet apple. I always felt that the apple twinkled at me. Mum used to tell me every time how I should be deeply grateful because the man was one of the few who had the privilege of studying and was teaching me to make money for his college.

For me, a 6 year old, my swing and the garden were far better a company to have than him. I remember it was 14th August and next day was a holiday, but while he was talking to father my instinct told me the holiday was a dream. What was more annoying was that the session would start at 8 sharp in the morning. The next day, we were in the garden and he told me to sit on my swing, I willingly agreed. After a while, I could hear humming sound, and it became louder and louder, coming closer to us. i held my swing very tightly and anticipated what was going to happen. My swing started moving to and fro. I rose higher and higher after every push, till the time I could see what was creating the noise. I saw a chain of Royal Enfield Bullets – I couldn’t count them, but they were a lot. Similar to the one my father had.
In a quick glance, I saw multiple flags attached to those bikes and the bikers were young men, similar to the teacher’s age. They were all smiling and holding the flag in their hands. The flags looked spectacular, in the wind were the national colours fluttering to the spirit of the day. It was a beautiful sight. I had never, in the six years of my life, seen the flag look so vibrant and full of life. Over the humming sound was my laughter, I was too happy and my teacher was brimming and smiling. Later he told me about how he and his friends from the college student union had organized this to motivate the youth, to want them to feel like being a part of educating themselves and believe in peace and harmony.

Years went by and I moved to Mumbai for my college education. All of this came back to me, when this Independence Day, me and few friends were looking for a story to cover for our Reporting assignment at Marine Drive. It was around 10:30 and I heard the same humming noise. It grew louder and louder and closer towards us. It had my full attention and this time I could count. There were more than five hundred bikers who went past us on their bikes. It was the same with flags fluttering and the bikers driving their Enfields. Only, this time, they were not just college boys but men of varied ages. To our surprise, there were women bikers as well. We stood there awestruck during the entire time as the bikers too seemed to be very attractive, like they knew the purpose of life and at that very moment it was to see the flag soaring, bright and vibrant. They passed us by under the bright blue sky, covering the queen’s necklace.
As usual, ‘the curiosity’ kicked in and I decided to find out who these bikers were. So after a few calls and a visit to Bandra , I found out that this was an anonymous group of bikers who rode from Bandra to Marine Drive on the occasion of Independence Day. There were a total of 800 bikers who covered this distance to show their patriotism. When contacted, Mr. Harshil who works at The Brand Store, Bandra service centre said, “This rally is conducted twice a year on both Republic Day and Independence Day. This year’s theme was saluting the Indian Armed Forces. We have been having these rallies for the past 9 years. We began this initiative in 2004.” He further added that the bikers unanimously come together for the rally; there is no fixed association/group who organizes it.

In the usual procedure the bikers generally start assembling by 8 am and by 9 am they start off. They cover the entire stretch in 4 hours from Bandra (west) to Gateway of India and back to Bandra (west) via Sidhivinayak Temple, Mahalaxmi, Pedder Road and Mantralaya. The rally is specifically for those who ride Royal Enfield bullets and instructions like security and safety were given in advance. A few rules that the bikers have to follow are that they have to drive in a two row pattern, no overtaking, helmets and licenses were compulsory and speed limit was set for 30 to 40 kms. The rally is their way to pay tribute to the leaders who fought for freedom. Well, surely I have something to look forward to for the republic day or maybe it is just old memories I plan to revive and relive or look forward to create new ones.



Mumbai Local: The Brighter Side

There is a lot to the infamous lifeline of Mumbai, also commonly known as the Mumbai local. The trains that run from Churchgate to Virar on the Western line, CST to Thane on the Central line and CST to Andheri and then Andheri to Panvel on the Harbour line, carry approximately 7.24 million commuters daily. It’s truly a miracle as to how these trains work-the power supply, the punctuality (well, almost), the changing of routes, the traffic control, the efficiency of the motormen and so on. Local trains bring an image of over-crowded train compartments with people literally hanging out of them, dirty smells of sweat, filthy station platforms and odd train timings i.e. 8:27 am, 5:49 pm etc to one’s mind. There is enough said about these aspects of the Mumbai local.

I have been a regular local train traveler for about five years now, and I can vouch for the fact that the local trains have much more to them than the stench, the crowds and the dirty platforms. To me, the trains and the commuters are my daily dose of fascination. There is nothing impossible for these train travelers, you can expect anything and everything from them!

As I squeeze into the 6:59 am fast from Andheri station to make it on time for my 8 am lecture, I see sights that never fail to amuse me.

The men’s compartment, in the mornings, sound of cymbals and men singing bhajans to the rhythms of the cymbals and the moving train. This is not just one or two people singing, it is an entire group of men that indulge in this Morning Prayer.

The women’s compartments too, the ones I get on to and I’m more familiar too, are buzzing with fascinating activity. What catches my interest the most out of these are the women that do their make-up in the trains. Every regular commuter must have, for sure, seen at least one woman who applies her kajal or combs her hair neat or applies her compact or shades her lips with lipstick, if not all of it in the trains. The trains are crowded with almost no place to stand comfortably, but these women utilize the 40-45 minutes (average train travel time) to do their make-up. Some of them begin right from moisturizing themselves. Not just their make-up, I have also seen women applying Mehndi, either on themselves or on friends in the trains. And the best part; that the one with the Mehndi on her hands manages to push her way out of the trains without damaging even a bit of the wet Mehndi on her hands. It is seriously something that requires an expert level of skill.

Another pass-time for the women on the trains is shopping. No woman can get enough out of shopping. Hawkers get into the trains with items ranging from artificial jewelry (including artificial Mangalsutras) to stationary to hairclips and hair bands to safety pins to pouches and folders to electronic items like calculators and dozens of others are sold at throw away prices. But however, where there are women and there is shopping, there is always scope for some bargaining. Women argue, fight and finally buy whatever they have to at their bargained price; all in a train so crowded, that on a seat allotted to three people, five are seated.

Apart from this, there are students studying, probably preparing for an exam or a test, amidst all the chaos, with one hand holding a handle in the train and the other holding a book. Those who manage to get a seat, pass their time indulging in small talk with the woman on the seat next to their’s, knitting, reading or even peeling peas and preparing themselves for the evening’s dinner preparations.

These train journeys symbolize the life in Mumbai; exhilarating, exciting, exasperating. There is always that pressure, that tension to be on time, to not waste even a second. It’s busy, it’s tedious and yet in many ways, it’s organized.

-Shruti Shenoy