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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. 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 these two combine in one or more commuters you end up with nothing but to curse. In the somewhat rare case of a triplet—backpack, big belly and bully—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, 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 invariable 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 shirt sleeves 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, it’s about passing out foul gases, had you not been able 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.

Happy commuting!

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