Friday, January 6

Tiny Dancer

I can't think of many advantages to being a short person. If you are no good at sports, you tend to get bullied in school because you can't hack it as an athlete. If your social graces are awkward at best, you tend to get ignored in college for the most part and slink around campus like Gollum. Heck, there's even data suggesting that tall people get paid and treated better, right throughout their lives. So, the 'altitudinally' challenged get the short end of the stick, as it were. Which is consistent, I suppose.

Still, there's one place where you'd think it might be beneficial to be small of stature - the Bombay local to Borivali during the evening rush hour. Look, this is no forum to debate the horrors of train travel at said time. In my previous job, I've taken trains in what is as the 'wrong direction' in Bombay-speak, so I didn't quite understand the nitty-gritties of the situation. My new job is in town, so I finally travel in the same direction along with what is effectively the population of a small country. Space, in those splendidly minuscule 1st class compartments, is at a premium. This is where the short bloke is supposed to come into his own, laugh at his taller brethren and travel with impunity. From personal experience, I sadly report that this is complete balderdash.

In rush hour, the tall guys seen to stand their ground by force of physical presence and considerable will. The short chaps are summarily dismissed as a waste of space and either discover flexibility that would have B.K.S Iyengar taking notes or find themselves involuntarily alighting at the wrong station with a host of other people. The tall get to stack their bags in the overhead rack, whilst the short resort to strapping bags in front, waddling around like pregnant ladies. And don't even get me started on the shoe-stamping. It would be better for the petite to learn to levitate.

Years ago, I read a book on body language which spoke at length about the Occidental need for personal space and how the violation of this space made them very uncomfortable. I wish that lot would get a crash course in the harsh realities of life, by having them travel like other Mumbaikars for just one day. I suspect there would be a marked cooling of expectations and rapid reorganisation of thoughts on what personal space really means. Also, a very thorough understanding of the meaning of 'violation' and maybe even 'molestation'.

However, it has to be said that the train is a great leveler in rush hour. Finding yourself unintentionally executing one of the more complicated Kathakali poses, your eyes just might meet those of a fellow struggler. Regardless of stature, the accepted practice is to smile wanly, give a Gallic shrug of recognition and pray that your destination arrives as soon as possible. When in Bombay...

Song for the moment: Standing in the doorway - Bob Dylan


Gauri Gharpure said...

Mumbai trains have been, and will be, a glimpse of the real India. Everyone should get in a local once. Woww experience for visitors like me:)

k said...

The title of the post and the song for the moment. :)

G said...

@ Gauri - Everyone should, but I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who've lived in Bombay for years and have managed to never travel by train.

@ K - Awesome songs, both.