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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Commuting Discomfiture!


If you live in India, and you don’t have a car or you cannot afford to take out your car daily, then you must be used to the perennial overcrowding in all modes of public transport in the big cities. I'm omitting the bikers from this purview, because most of them would park theirs near local railway stations and take the plunge. The one advisory that comes to my mind is that ‘Don’t ever expect a seat, always concentrate on getting a standing space where you can commute in some comfort’! Of course, getting a standing space is no guarantee for continued comfort due to the fact that add-on crowds keep boarding in the stations on the way. However, this is still the only way to overcome the unease of overcrowding, somewhat. Although the scenario applies to all public modes of transport like the city buses, local trains and metro rail in this piece we’ll concentrate mostly on the travails suffered inside a metro train thanks to the claustrophobic interiors.

Now, what are the dangers of overcrowding? They are manifold with the main sources being the omnipresent backpacks, the omnipotent big bellies, the camouflaged bullies, the parasitic smart-phone users and other offenders; the last bit about offenders we’ll dwell upon at the end of this piece.

You know very well what backpacks or big bellies do to you during the ride with constant pushing, pinning and at times almost crushing you out of breath. Whenever this twosome combines in one or more commuters you end up with no outward reaction but curse. In the somewhat rare case of a triplet—backpack, big belly and bully in one fearsome whole—you’d feel like breaking out through the windows which is not at all possible though. Smart-phone users are mentioned here as ‘parasitic’ which is because they always use your bodies to lean against or worse for carrying on their ‘must’ mobile indulgence. Camouflaged bullies mean those persons who look harmless and peaceful enough, but at the opportune moments they’d push you, jostle you, elbow you mercilessly just to get to their ‘deemed’ comfortable standing space. Unfortunately, such bullies include even some of respected senior citizens who display unbelievable prowess to get to their reserved seats or to stand in front of those seats for catching the next opportunity. And, if you happen to make the cardinal mistake of commenting on their ‘activities’ they’d engage you in a furious debate for the rest of your journey.

Then, there are also additional dangers that invariably happen during your struggle. The mobile of the person squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder to you would invariably ring, and the person would respond inevitably. He’d howl into the phone to beat the in-built noise, and in effect the hollering would attack your hapless ear hole relentlessly; to make matters worse the ‘call’ will last for the rest of your journey. You’d try to move your head right or left, or you’d try to crane your neck upwards; but there is no help at all for you. During summer the smell of sweat is a distinct disadvantage for many ‘sensitive’ commuters, and is unavoidable. However, at times the smell converts into a stench in no time, and invariably too. The person in half sleeve shirt  squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder to you would suddenly raise his arm to grab the metallic bar above for added safety.  The holes of your nose would get cruelly exposed to the gaping hole created by the action. Again, you’d try desperately to move your face right or left and crane you neck upwards; but there is absolutely no help available for you to beat the stench. You’d justifiably like to include such persons in ‘other offenders’ category.

There is a very potent danger that lurks in every overcrowded space; it can happen anytime taking everyone unawares on most occasions. I’d personally advise you to expect this in you all your future journeys from now on; anywhere, not just in overcrowded public transport; however, in the claustrophobic interiors as we mentioned earlier this could be deadly. Well, you are intelligent enough to guess it already. Trapped in overcrowded spaces it makes you seethe with anger, want to shout out or beat up the offender; to make matters worse the stench hangs on in the closed air for an intolerably long time. As a preventive measure, like in cases of smoking or spitting, one can think of putting up a disclaimer ‘farting strictly prohibited’; however, this crude usage could grievously hurt the finer sensibilities of commuters. Therefore, it could be as simple as ‘gassing strictly prohibited’ which will be understood by all for the intended meaning despite the word having various other connotations.  But the problem is bound to linger on, because so far there is no time-tested methodology to find out and book such offenders.

If you have any other issue regarding this purview please feel free to put it up here. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Out Of The Clue...!


He was in an exuberant mood, full of positive energy, as he reached home that evening, got freshened up and settled down in the living room sofa; the day in office being a very productive one. He wanted to lose no time sharing it with his wife. He called out to her; she was in the kitchen just putting the tea-pot on the gas burner while she arranged the plates on the tray taking out bits and pieces of snacks for light refreshment before supper.

“Hey...do you hear me?”
“Yes, a bit louder!” the wife responded allowing the water, milk, tea powder, sugar and other ingredients to turn into a most desirable boil before being poured out.
“I told you...no...that we were going to launch a new project soon. Well...today we got going and had the first team meeting. ...The meeting went off extremely good, all the team members acknowledging me as the undisputed leader, you know!” he relished the feel of telling this to the person he loved admired most in his life.
“One minute, I’m coming, my leader!’ she called out as she came into the living room, set the tray on the centre table and took a seat herself, offering him a cup of tea and prodding him to take a neatly cut piece of the cake she made that day.
“Thanks... All the members of the team are excellent, a mix of old and brand new,” the husband took a sip, accepted the cake and went on excitedly. “Among the members there is a new one, a girl who joined only recently, but got into the mould perfectly...”
“New girl? Well, how’s she, I mean, is she good-looking?”
“Oh yes. She’s pretty, and very young!”
“Ok, good for you!” she was getting into a mood to tease him.
“What do you mean ‘good for me’?”
“Why, you always love to be surrounded by pretty girls, no? Whenever I visit you in office I find you in such situations!”
“You know very well, it is always job oriented. I being the approving guy in the creative department they have to come to me for the final say. You also know that boys or girls is not the issue; it’s only work and its demands. Don’t you ever notice the boys loitering around me on your visits? I’m always focused and a bit emotional too. If somebody does good work I feel very excited. I end up hugging the boys very often. And, mind you, I do have enough good sense not to do so to the girls on similar occasions.” He exhaled in a relaxed way now.
“Well, my dear gender-neutral leader! Maybe you are eager to tell me more about the new lassie on the block?”
“She’s very smart, well-dressed and has an ability to pick up immediately. Not only does she have good looks but also has a polished way of speaking with a lot of good humor. You see, I had played a part in her selection, and for that she’s so grateful to me! The moment she entered my room for the meeting she bowed, thanked me profusely and shook my hand continuously...”

She looked a bit annoyed now. “Then go and hug her first thing tomorrow morning.”

He was surprised. From what to what, he mused. Had he spoken too much about the girl?

“You people are always biased. You cannot tolerate other women coming in your man’s life, whatever way it happens.” He uttered trying to justify his sense of offence and to suffocate the anger that was slowly growing in him.
“Bullshit! All males are like that! They want to brag about the women in their lives, and display horrendous intolerance at any attempt of elaborative analysis! ...I give you permission, okay, to hug all girls in your office from now onward...!” she was louder now.
“Do you think I am some kind of a leech? I always trust you with all my heart and you...?”
“Don’t go on bragging and bragging...how great and noble you are...like all others in your family! Only I know...the problems I faced coming to your main house. All are so concentrated on publicizing how great they are!” the beginning of the shrill in her voice irritated him.
“Now you are digressing, and it’s very deliberate, I know! Whatever is the way it happens you’ll finally come down on my people, targeting them unnecessarily! Your deeds, your reactions are always justified...whatever you prefer to say. And if I say something about your male friends all hell...!”
“Damn my male friends. That’s you, essentially! You cannot even tolerate my speaking to my old classmates! Hypocrites, braggers’ family...” she jerkily lifted herself from the chair moving away fast with her unfinished cup of tea.

He plonked his cup on the table nearly forcing the remaining tea to spill over the table. He could hear her making unnecessary noises in the kitchen handling the utensils while carrying on with her invective against him and her in-laws. Evening spoilt, he failed today also as on so many other occasions to track the lurking danger correctly and to pre-empt it, he decided not to contribute anything more to the rants, and leaned back dejectedly in the sofa. Why the hell did he have to share it with his wife? There were so many things in office or elsewhere that had better be relegated to oblivion rather than being described to others, particularly spouses, he thought. Few things were also going on in his mind. Why was he in such an exuberant mood and so eager to share it? Did the presence of pretty girls in office have any impact on that exuberance? I love good company, he reasoned, be it of any gender, and it’s perfectly natural to love good company. When good company combines with good job done why not to react positively to it, he went on. However, a few strands of doubt still haunted his mind, and in the meantime his wife’s rallies subsided.

Maybe he dozed off a little, because he was not aware of his wife re-entering the room and occupying the chair. Her words ended his reverie.

“What kind of fish preparation would you like for supper?”
He did not prefer to respond resuming his gloomy silence, slumped in the sofa. She went on though.
“I took the raw fish out of the freezer in the afternoon. Maybe you’d like to have fried fish before dinner?” She now smiled switching on the television set.

That appealed to him immediately. He planned to watch a live soccer match later that night, and fried fish as an appetizer would just be fine. However, he still did not respond, happy that normalcy threatened to limp back in.

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