3 years

Commute

Snoops on a Train

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The Mumbai local’s law of sharing

Bombay’s lifeline, as lovers of the crumbling city call it, is a melting pot of people and cultures. On the city’s local trains, humans of all sizes, shapes, colours and creeds melt into a single solid mass till arrival at their destination unglues them. Inmates enter willingly and submit helplessly to the exchange of hair oil, sweat, body odour, garlic breath and other unmentionable fumes. Inside this 12-rake sardine can, everyone must obey the unwritten law of sharing. I take the train too, either to work or to wander or both. It’s one of the few places left in this city where you can catch up on your reading—or thinking—before the swaying motion lulls you to sleep. The typical male commuter reads all sorts of books and newspapers—or wrappers of bhel consumed moments before—and plays games or watches movies on his iPad, and sometimes, in a grip of hunger, even watches pornographic clips on his phone. The law of sharing applies to this solitary act too. Observe any reader closely, and you will notice that someone is peering into his business. The snooper’s interest depends on the nature of the content held between the host’s loosely closed fists. Some are satisfied with just a glance. Some read or watch along with the host, at his pace, till one or the other wraps up and gets off. Some frown at first, then steal a glance, then frown and glance, and so on. Some bob their heads along with the ups and downs of a game being played, while others just stare longingly at images on someone else’s screen till the slow onslaught of sleep weakens their necks. The photographs that follow offer a peek into the quieter aspects of the relationship between Bombay’s local trains and the city’s commuters

--Text by Ritesh Uttamchandani

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