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Travelling in the ladies’ compartment on the local trains can be an interesting experience – as this author who has categorised her co-passengers says.
I have been a regular traveler on the suburban electric trains of Chennai for more than two years now. I usually buy a monthly pass for the second class coaches since I have never understood the need for a first class compartment. It has no special infrastructure and is equally crowded.
Anyway, coming to the point, I have always been a keen observer of people and the ladies’ compartment in the suburban train has quite a handful! On further contemplation, I realized that they can all be fitted into categories. Just like how Superstar Rajinikanth advised us in ‘Baasha’ to split life into 8 parts, I have split these personalities into 8 groups.
Once you enter the train… oh wait! That, right there, is a problem. There is a group that stands right at the entrance, either with music plugged in or simply cloud gazing. So you decide to be a model citizen and wait for them to get down. They don’t. Then you hurriedly squeeze through them to board the train, lest you miss it. (Thank you Chennai Pothys for the prior experience!) You calm yourself thinking that perhaps they will get down at the next station. But they just stand there until the last destination. So why stand there in the first place?
You have now successfully boarded the train. But taking that second step… aah! Life hits you hard again. With all their items of baggage, you will find another group sprawled over the entire space just shy of the entrance. They won’t make way and also expect you to be gentle while moving about. One small bump and brace yourself for a string of expletives. But given that you have mastered the art of wading through the crowded Ranganathan street in Chennai, you manage to hop and jump over this group to reach the seats.
There are always two sides to a coin. If there are those who are reckless with resources, then there are also those who are frugal to the point of irritation. Every row in the train is designed to accommodate three people and you finally manage to park yourself as the third. But peace is not on your side, especially when you have a low BMI. Aunties decide that you are taking up too much space than necessary and jam you to create a fourth seat. You are then stuck for the rest of the journey looking like the phone charger that you tucked into your bag as an after-thought.
Do you hear the chop-chop-chop? Kudos to the women who try their best to balance work and home. So I don’t blame the few who prep for their meals while on the train. They peel and cut and do their bit while traveling home to spend a few more precious minutes with their family. But ladies, please don’t litter the space around you. This country is as much yours, as is your family or career. Take care of them all.
There is mostly just one season in Chennai – summer. So it is not surprising to find young girls and women who are completely covered from head to toe with scarves and dupattas trying to save their skin, literally. Add a pair of sunglasses, and their expressions become unfathomable.
This is where I belong. With no husband or child holding on to my pallu (just a figure of speech, I never wear sarees as I find them uncomfortable), with no chores at home that crave my attention, I find solace in traveling. This is that time of the day when I am alone and can immerse myself in my own mini-world of books. And my spirits lift up when I find some company. I always make sure to steal a glance at the title and see if it interests me.
Some married women groups on the train unburden themselves by gossipping about their in-laws. Well, perhaps it is better to vent out your frustrations elsewhere and go home with a clear head. But please make sure that the negativity associated with gossiping doesn’t cloud your mind. No family is perfect and adjustments have to always be made when there is more than one person involved. So as long as you have normal and common issues, learn to live with it.
You don’t have a book. You don’t listen to music. You don’t have a group to socialize. So what do you do to pass time? You eavesdrop. These are women who keenly listen to what others say or do. Listening to the gossipers jabbering or to someone else chit-chatting is perhaps fine. You can’t really avoid what your ears pick up. But taking utmost efforts to read another’s messages is… unclassy. Nah, I can never support that.
So these are my peeps – the ones with whom I travel every day. The familiar faces I smile at, though I don’t know their names. How different is it in your city? Do you have all these traveler personas on the local train, or do you boast of someone special? Please let me know in the comments.
Published here earlier.