It was late in the evening. Her legs trembled under her as she felt the sudden weight of the days events on her shoulders. She was tired. Only a few more minutes and her train would be here. Her heart said that she would faint but her brain kept reminding her that she will be okay.
As the train drew into the station more and more people crowded onto the platform. Each and everyone of them exhausted after a hard days work. She pushed forward along with the crowd, hoping to get into the compartment. She had to catch this train no matter what. It wasn’t an easy task but then again trying to find your way among hundreds of people isn’t easy and only the strongest survive. She could hear a woman scream from within the compartment that she had to get down at this stop. ‘The poor thing’ she thought to herself.
Traveling by the Mumbai local at rush hour is the survival of the fittest. There was chaos all around her. Women pushing and pulling one another, all trying to enter or exit the train. Being taller than the average Indian woman, she was able to push herself through the crowds and entered the compartment. She looked around and saw that there wasn’t a seat left. ‘It’s going to be a long journey’ she thought to herself as she mentally prepared herself to go home standing.
As soon as the train pulled out of the station there was a strange sense of calm that entered. There was laughter and talking. Everybody forgotten about the ordeal they faced a few minutes earlier. But then that is everyday life.
Wedged between two other women she looked around, studying all the faces before her. There were many to look at, some young, some old. There were students, mothers, grandmothers. There were working women, housewives who were heading home after a day out shopping. There were vendors selling their goods and there were also a few children who looked terrified. ‘Must be their first time out’ she thought as she smiled to herself. They all looked tired. They were all exhausted and just like her they wanted to get home as soon as possible.
The train pulled into the next station and suddenly the chatter quieted down. It was time to face another massive crowd. The chaos began again. This time a family entered the compartment with big trunks. In an already crowded compartment this wasn’t taken easily by a few of the women and a quarrel ensued. ‘Just another day’ she thought. She heard a baby cry somewhere in the compartment. There were too many people so she couldn’t locate from where the crying erupted.
She looked over the heads of the women between her towards the girl standing opposite her. The girl was about the same age and height as herself. She noticed that the girl wasn’t comfortable and was looking absolutely overwhelmed by the crowd. ‘Must be her first time too’. It isn’t easy the first time. She remembered the first time she traveled at rush hour, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
By now she had been standing for almost an hour. She knew she was almost home. The closer the train drew to her home the happier she felt. After a while the crowd lessened. Everybody getting off at their respective stations until it was just her and a few others left. She knew them by face. They all knew each other and smiled. You form strange relationships with the people you travel with. Neither of them have spoken to each other yet all of them have formed a bond.
As soon as she stepped off onto the platform relief flooded her. Her ordeal was over, for now. She headed home bracing herself for what was to come the next day. ‘It is all a normal day’ she thought as she climbed into a rickshaw. No matter how tough it gets, the journey home always has a strange place in her heart. She would have it no other way.