“Oh God! What the hell is this? Why did I ever shift my office? Wasn’t I more comfortable taking the one-hour long auto/bus route or my scooter and ride to office?” I groaned and got down from my cycle and ran huffing and panting to the platform only to discover a huge line to buy the tickets. Sweat dripping, clutching my handbag, I managed to reach the grim-faced ticket seller to be faced by this one question, “Enga ma pohanum?” loosely translating to where do you want to go, only to realize I was blank. Rummaging through my bag I managed to fish out a ₹500 note and asked for a season ticket. Phew. I need not stand in that horrid line anymore and can just concentrate on getting safely on to the train with my arms and legs intact. The train chugged on the platform full and overflowing and I managed to squeeze in like I did every day with a thousand thoughts in my mind. It has been a week since I have had the fortune of travelling by Chennai local trains on a daily basis.
The best form of entertainment happens in Chennai’s suburban local trains. You are really in for a treat if you travel in peak hours as you end up listening to/overhearing a lot of interesting conversations, and that makes your day. Every station in Chennai looks like a beehive that has been disturbed once the local arrives on the platform. People form serpentine queues to buy tickets and people begin to alight from the train even before the train stops. As soon as the train stops, passengers begin to gush in like the water that is being sucked out of a wash basin. The people look like honeybees coming in and out of the comb.
Through my journeys, I’ve busy observing all the kind of train personalities and they fall in at least one or more of the categories that I have listed below. Sit back and enjoy.
These people are the ones who believe in trampling everyone around no matter what. The arrival of the train is what arouses them and brings out the worst out of them. They will nudge and push you and all that matters to them is to get in first and occupy space.
They think that it is their first home and play cards, antakshari, music and even peel and cut vegetables. Not kidding in this case. There are people out there who get food for everyone every day and this is something you may enjoy especially if you are a regular in that compartment
You see them every day if you travel on the same route at the same time. Here, you find two types of people, the smiling ones and the talkative ones. The smiling ones are those who smile at you, exchange pleasantries and then immerse themselves in their own world. The talkative ones engage with you on everything right from how hot it is to what they ate for breakfast to politics to memes. They are generally not spoilt by the latest generation and addicted to social media, cell phone, music etc.
You may be hanging for your dear life but even if one strand of your hair happens to brush them across the face accidentally, you get death glares or the choicest of abuses. If the person is a hawker, get ready to hear the choicest Tamil abuses ranging from abusing your entire generation to your mom. This lot is particularly very fierce
Yes, these are the ones who sit on the roof of the train, near the doors, hang out of the windows, etc. Not to mention a handful of them do get electrocuted and get kicked and abused.
I truly pity them the most as they are mostly long-distance commuters. They pester us till we get irritated and then implore you to give them a seat. You will be doomed if you do and damned if you don’t.
My favourite lot. Right from uncles to teenagers, these groups of pathetic losers think it is their birthright to stare at you, your boobs and what not. Rubbing against you in all the wrong places, they find any and every way to be inappropriate. No amount of our angry glares stop them.
These form a minority. They make tiny gestures of kindness. They put up your bag on the rack, switch on the fan, offer to hold your bag, coolly step aside as the station approaches to make way for others, pass a smile, apologize etc. These people are the ones who make my daily train commute a little bearable.
There will always be someone who is having a huge fight with their partner over the phone and their conversations reach adjacent compartments. There will be at least one talkative uncle or aunty who are talking to their friends on the phone, making deals like a millionaire.