Firstly, these are pics of tribhangi and chowka to give you an idea of what they are....
Cute tribhangi by Ileana Citaristi from her website.
Mindblowing chowka by none other than Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra from www.olywa.net . This pic reminds you of something soooooo perfect, you just can't stop gaping at it.........and saying WOWWWWWWWW !!!!!!!!!
Bombay.......er.......er.......to be politically correct, Mumbai, seriously, I don't know why politicians have this fetish for renaming everything - next on the list is Bangalore aka Bengalooru, Bangalore is a perfectly cool name, why make it sound like some baingan ka bharta. Anyway, Bombay is a crowded city. And SPACE, is a perennial problem.
Cut to Act One, Scene one. 6:59 am Churchgate fast. I board the first-class ladies at Andheri and immediately enter the seating area because I don't fancy standing for the next 40 minutes. After some hurried 'Where are you getting off's???', I find a measly fourth seat for Dadar which will be enough for half of my bum. Till then, I stand in position between the lucky great dames seated on two rows of seats, who are generally stretching their legs sleeping off to glory. Which leaves me with very less space to stand PROPERLY. Which is when I twist my feet into a near chowka stance so as not to disturb the great dames who will give you killing looks if you dare to stamp on their serene feet, and to avoid being beaten up by some Mantralaya wannabes before I reach college.
Act Two, Scene One: 9:24 am Churchgate Fast. By this time, the trains are sooooo crowded that there is no chance of sitting before Churchgate ....lol . As soon as the train lands on the platform, I mean, rolls into the platform, people start jumping out of it like a posse of uncouth monkeys. As soon as the train stops, first-class ladies is surrounded by a hybrid mix of Mantralaya types with green bangles, long mangalsutra, printed saree hitched up and Indo-chic jhola-carrying femme fatales heading to the big towers in Nariman Point and college kids of all sizes and shapes whom the Mantralaya types hate because of the railway concessions they get......common refrain is - Yeh college wali ladki log fifty percent fare me hamare first-class compartment ko bhar lete hain....and so on....you get the drift. None of them like to admit though that their passes are heavily subsidised by their respective offices, that is a different matter, you know......uhmn...ah....
And before you know, a deluge of people enter the compartment, if you get lucky, you are pushed in, otherwise people rushing into the compartent turn you into a chapati while poor you lies flat on the platform. Mind you, this is called first-class travel, courtesy Western Railways.
Once you enter the compartment, you are stuck somewhere in the gangway, between a hundred others along with their bags, pointy stiletto shoes/knives and hair with an assortment of gajras that are ever ready to tickle your ears and face and sharp clips that threaten to puncture you eyes like you are the Basilisk from Harry Potter, and of course, their idiosyncracies. You can never stand STRAIGHT because someone's bag is always jabbing into your sides or someone's hand is just too big or some dame behind you has an 'oh-so-BIG' bum and what not. And our first-class ladies don't like their dainty feet to be trampled on, or nudged by other not-so-dainty feet.
So......when you know you're not going to get off with an uninjured spine if you don't do something FAST, you decide to take some action. Literally. Then comes the time to twist yourself into the space between someone's slim waist and smelly armpit. That is how you use the tribhangi and master it and manage to survive the ride all at the same time !!!
But tribhangi safety has its detriments. Because the Mantralaya type standing on the other side of Ms. Slim Waist and Smelly Armpit won't hesitate to plonk her fat purse/rucksack on the lovely little physical shelf you form. As if that does not suffice, she will lash out in Marathi and tell you - 'Jaga nahi aahe tar mee kai karu? Mazya palikadchi mansa mala dhakka dete. Tu ashi ashi dole gola karun mala kai baghat ??? ' , loosely translated as - 'What can I do if there's no space. The people behind me are pushing me. Why are you looking at me with those round round eyes???'
That is when you give them a nonchalant dreamy look and start doing your first tribhangi. And the better the tribhangi, the luckier you get. Very soon, Ms. Rucksack called Purse will manage to move far away even though 'Jaga nahi aahe' because anything is better than standing next to the epicenter of the earthquake that you are. People realise you are potentially dangerous material and give you some space to emit all the molten lava.
That is when you can snap back to a sane Samapada and make them all wonder if they were just daydreaming........