November 29, 2006

Ticketed torture

Booking train tickets has always been a ritual associated with long hours of waiting at paan-spit covered railway stations and some gutsy tussles and struggles.

A few days back, when I sat down to book tickets for the Konark Express, online, in style, i filled long registration forms that asked me about everything I thought I knew and they knew. After filling a few such forms, my attempts met their unworthy end at 'Cannot Find Server'.

I tried again, and this time, I reached the end. Almost. When I told them I would de(is)credit myself using a certain credit card, they promptly approved of my decision by saying 'Opening &&^*(&^%^&U&*. And then, the screen ended with a 'done', on a whitescreen as white as the mogra in Umrao Jaan's tresses.

With 3 seats on the train still up for sale, I went to Andheri station like my pants were on fire. I took the pink form and filled it up with a pen purchased from outside the station and then stood in a queue. The person taking care of this snake was off on a chai break 30 minutes before his duty ended. The line did proceed, with the velocity of a thousand page tome on boredom. 10 minutes before they were due to close, i.e. at 8, a kind officer announced that only two other queues would continue functioning post 8 pm. Not being very good at the art of pre-empting stampedes, I landed up at the back of one of these lines. Then the guy at this counter went for his chai.

He came back and slowly and slowly I reached the head of the line. I shoved my pink slip at him, tried to flutter my eyelashes (that are not very long and are quite prone to falling off, considering that I get ample opportunities to make wishes with one of them on my knuckle) and ask him for AC tickets, but he only had to say - AC sab khatam hain. Not wanting to lose the precious seat on the train, I settled for a 3 day adventure in the sleeper class compartment.
So that is how I spent an otherwise enjoyable Thursday evening, in a heady (as in .....headache giving) race for railing...

The man-eateries of Virar: A forced one-night stand with DEATH.

The Virar idiots who used to jump into trains before people get off them always irritated me. No offence to all the nice Virar people, and yes, the 'nice' people breed also exists, but this group of Virar idiots took the cake with their levels of unruliness.

Living at Andheri, it is unfortunate that we are expected to take slow trains if we choose to complain about the crowds that manhandle us every day. The Virar fast I took today left Marine Lines at 5.22 pm. It was quite peaceful all the way till Andheri station.

Whe the train careened into the station out here at Andheri, a few metres away from the place where the first-class ladies's halts, this woman on the platform screamed at me to get out of the train. I told her - Wait, let it stop. Paying no heed to my words, she kicked me out, like KICKED me, and I fell on this group of ladies, who promptly moved aside, let me fall and then stepped over me and got into the train. No one made any attempt to help me up, despite the fact that my legs were in a precarious position under the train and I could have lost my legs and probably my life. All they said was an absolutely inhuman - Chalo hato, train me chadhna hain.

When dance means so much to you and you can see your legs and your life getting stubbed out in a matter of seconds. It was not very funny to be stuck with people WALKING AND RUNNING OVER YOU just to reach their fcuking homes to cook fcuking dal and rice for their families. While struggling to move myself away from the train, I could see my bleak future flashing like this presentation gone crazy. Thanks to someone's grace or whatever you would call it, I managed to get away from the train. I recovered enough to scream. I screamed at every single woman in the train. I spotted the shit-eating false-pouty red lip-sticked and lipsticked sindoor woman standing comfortably in the train and yelled at her as if my life depended on it. The bitch had the gall to say - Who me? Like bloody bitch, you almost murdered me and then you say - Who me? Wow! You put Osama to shame! He atleast acknowledges that he is responsible for his wrongdoings.

I called her a lot of unprintable things that will cause the spellcheckers at Blogger to blush and that stirred up the whole platform and made all the women think I was one of those shameless firang-import hussies. Not that I care.

I have a lot of plans for her, like taking my camera and going to the station and capturing her live, doing those things to other people. But how far will they help?

I met the station superintendent to apprise him of this ugly incident. He told me not to get into fast trains, albeit very politely. He directed me to the police station, where the inspector wistfully told me about a policy at Dadar station where such unworthy passengers were pushed behind with lathis. This received a lot of bad publicity. I tried my best to assure him that most of the women from Virar needed exactly this kind of treatment to bring them back to their senses. This inspector also tried to hint that we Andheri women were no less unruly during the peak hours in the morning. Yes, we yell at people who block the doors ( and this is something that Virar women do quite often...as if they own the train since it comes from that pokey little village they live in) and also when they don't get off fast enough, but we never rush in before the last person to alight has both her feet on the ground. Afterwards, we push and jostle, but that is all among fellow Andheri-ites, and it rarely happens that someone who wanted to get off at Andheri cannot do so because they were not allowed to.

We praise Bombay to the skies for its humanity. Today, I discovered trhe wonderful sense of humanity that lets you walk over a person just to catch a frigging train, which is not the last train home. As if taking that one train late, a difference of five minutes, will permanently make or mar your future. Even though there's such a big discount if you miss one train. Your profit is one human life.

November 15, 2006

A saristory

Of late, I have been indulging in quite a bit of sari shopping, and am more seasoned. It is quite educative to see how diminutive guys who shrink obsequiously behind glossy and glassy counters and are whose hip tilts are more feminine than Umrao Jaan's play fashion pundits for most of the sari-clad population.

The last time I was at Nalli Silks, hellbent on buying cotton, the fashion pundit in drag kept his sweet banter on, telling me that I would look gorgeous in an ostentatiously expensive silk sari that shone like a sheet of the horrible glitter people rub on their faces these days. He battled hard to save their reputation for 'YEXCLIUSIVE PIECE MADAM.....VONLY VONE....HANDLOOMA MAIDE', which was the gyaan he imparted every time I asked him for a colour in a pattern I liked.

It is not always funny when they decide to anticipate your innermost desires, you see. And then he started showing me cotton saris in styles which neither my grandmother nor my grandchildren will ever wear. The sales pitch - It is latest style, all the young girls buy like this only. And when I make a few staid but innovative choices, he remarks to my mother - You have got a vyery vold-fashioned daaterr. Of course, mommy dearest, with also those roses on her kanjivaram filling up the space between her ears, laughs shyly and says it is better her taste doesn't make my bank balance go stale. Our fashion pundit enthusiastically agrees, for he still has to sell a few pieces of 'dress material'.


The rest is quite predictable. He sells absolutely sucky looking dress material to us and bids goodbye with much bowing and scraping.

After that we go to Co-Optex just to 'take a look', which never happens of course, and we end up donating money to the Tamil Nadu handloom industry again. The difference here is, there are no fashion pundits but surly women who refuse to take down a sari from its dusty pedestal unless I promise to buy it.

Today, I had to go for an urgent sari to Dadar. We go to Silk Museum. I ask him to show me something from East India. He shows me Pochampalli saris and agrees that they are what they are only when I point that out to him. I tell him I have enough Pochampalli around the house to start a shop myself and will contact him surely if I need some more.

We then go to the cotton section of the silk museum. Here, the wannabe fashion pundits pulls down the whole rack without sanction and with abandon before he realises that....he will have to put it back all by himself. He tries to sell me Garhwal cotton with saas-bahu prints, orange organdy saris of the kind worn in pure and clean daughter-in-law ads and some more undesirable stuff. Finally I see one the more eminently wearable saris crucified on the wall at an unflattering height. It is rescued and sold off with statements like - Only one sari madam? Hamara museum hain kuch to aur kharidiyen aap...

Manish Malhotra may probably make it to the Forbes 500 if he opens a sari shop and gets behind the counter...