Every morning is a struggle for me. Not because I have to work. But because I have to travel to work. More precisely , travel in the Mumbai local train to work. With the aim of adding a bit of comfort, I shelled out a few extra bucks to get a first class season pass , which turned out less than half the fare of any means of road transport in rush hour. In fact , I am beginning to believe that in Mumbai , possessing a personal vehicle is the most useless thing you can do in life . You are anyway not going to reach on time , your butt is literally going to be taken on the ride of a lifetime on our crater ridden roads. In contrast , trains , although equally bad in terms of physical discomfort , are bang on when it comes to efficiency . You are at least spared the obnoxious smell of armpits , and instead soothed with varying scents of cologne.
Before I deviate to further levels of grossness, let me come back to my point. I initially loved the decor of the first class compartment because never in the 23 years of my existence had I traveled in one before. The cushioned seats and the well dressed people presented a sharp contrast to the chaos I had experienced in the normal compartments all these years. The beautiful, fair-complexioned faces on the other side the grilled partition , were an added attraction.
However, I soon began to see the other side of life in a first class coach. People in general do not care about what is happening around them , for they are too busy playing Temple Run in their smartphones. The luxury of the “fourth seat” is most visibly absent in the first class compartment. Our big old seths believe that since they have paid so much for the ticket, they deserve to sit comfortably with their legs spread out in an obscenely inviting way. Of course they forget that everyone else in the compartment also has paid the same amount for getting in.
These are still quirks I can live with. But what irritates me the most is the way people are treated ad judged. Any man with a not-so-polished appearance is looked down upon by almost everyone around. The sheer sense of superiority which the dudes in their neatly pressed shirts and well polished shoes seem to possess when they summarily deduce that if a man is not formally dressed , he definitely is not first class compartment material, is appalling. The chutzpah with which the words “Ye first class hai, tumhare liye nahiin hai ” are uttered based just on visual judgement is shocking to say the least.
Like every other day , yesterday , a man in his mid fifties boarded the train. A semi dark complexion , ill-fitting trousers poorly tucked into a shirt full of creases, chappals stained with mud – as disorganized and filthy as one can get. As soon as he boarded, a young guy, standing at the door told him , with the air of owning the compartment :
“ Ye first class hai , agle station pe utar ke second class mein chad jaana.”
The old man paid little heed to his words. As the next station arrived, the young guy repeated his words. This time , the old man reached to his pocket, took out a torn wallet , and showed him his ticket which read “FIRST CLASS SEASON TICKET”. He replied quite politely yet strongly , ” Mind your own business and learn your place in this world “. The expression on both the old man’s and the young guy’s face was priceless and one that I will remember for times to come. A lesson had been taught, in a manner fitting the behavior that drew the response.
First class , my foot.