January 09, 2006

Don't, Belove

Sights, smells, sounds from a train ride to Ahmedabad.


Young couple gets on at Borivali. He's short and tubby and -- why? -- extremely aggressive. "What's your seat?" he barks at me. I'm in his seat, but if I moved over to sit in mine, they'd be on either side of me. He quickly realizes this and they both sit down. But why bark?

First thing they do is, they rummage in their bulging bags, she pulls out an empty plastic water bottle and slides it out the window. Was it too hard to find a trash can on the Borivali platform?

Later in the journey, I wake from a doze to find they have switched seats; she is now next to me. I wake because I feel a tugging. She has crossed her arms and is clearly trying to adjust some part of her clothing; thinking she has got it, she's tugging at my sleeve.

Later still, she has her hands inside a large woollen cap that sits in her lap. Feeling cold? Well, not quite. Periodically, she pulls out a mobile phone and checks for messages, then sticks it back in the cap. The phone is feeling cold.


The man is congenitally aggressive. A tea vendor comes by, and he barks for a cup. Vendor hands over a plastic cup of hot water and milk, and a tea bag. When he gets it, the man barks again: "Yeh chai nahin hai, garam pani hai!" ("This is not tea, this is hot water!")

The vendor says quietly, "Peeke dekho." ("Drink it and see.")

The man dips the tea bag in, the stuff turns steadily browner, he drinks it without further complaint.


A milk vendor passes through, and he's shouting melodically: "Sunny Deol aur Bobby Deol ka doodh piyo!" ("Drink the milk of Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol!")

I'm not persuaded to buy.


A boy in "Sawini" cut off jeans, barebodied, on his haunches, uses his shirt to clean the floors even before we leave Bombay Central.

A muscular young man in pants, barebodied, on his haunches, uses his shirt to clean the floors some hours later.

A young boy in grubby clothes, on his haunches, uses a stubby broom to clean the floors.

At least two other people, on their respective haunches, use some kind of cloth to clean the floors. ("At least" because I slept for a substantial part of the journey).

All ask for money.

Also asking for money is a young woman with cut off legs, sitting on a wooden roller, her dupatta wrapped neatly around her face and neck.

And a boy with a badly deformed body and wholly wasted left arm. He uses it to hold his other hand up and out, for coins.

And a blind man with a hand that is no more than a stumpy hook.

And an old white-haired man ... well, he doesn't ask for money, but for empty water bottles.

8 long hours to Ahmedabad.


Woman gets on somewhere. She's wearing a jacket that says "World Championship IF4U". She gets off at Baroda. I notice the jacket also has a small patch on the sleeve. It says "2F4U".

Man walks through. His T-shirt says, simply, "DON'T".



And here in Ahmedabad, my rickshaw this morning passes both "BELOVE MEN'S WEAR" and a sign for "Black Forstic Cake."


Anonymous said...

Why are you so obsessed with Gujarat? I would'nt mind reading your observations on the human misery in West Bengal, but I dont think you have the spine for it.

Anonymous said...

>>your observations on the human misery in West Bengal.

This post was about human misery in Gujarat?

Ram Raghavan said...

Good read. Stark but truthful.