July 11, 2006

Forced Samaritan Alto

(Second post on the blasts in Mumbai. #1).

Several men stand under the hole in the train at Mahim station, their manner and huddle suggesting that they are bringing out a body. But they are not, and suddenly one breaks from the huddle and rushes across the tracks, bellowing at spectators, get going get going get out what're you looking at? He has a lathi, and seems willing to use it. I'm not yet close enough for him to target me, but I get off the tracks anyway onto a strip of rubble and filth separated from the tracks by a fence and from Tulsi Pipe Road by an unbroken concrete wall.

People are squatting on the wall, people are limpeted to the fence, people stand on the rubble and try to see what's happening. Then the huddle breaks altogether. One young man approaches the audience and says, don't wait here! Why don't you go to Bhabha or Sion hospital and donate blood?

This section of the crowd, me somewhere in the middle, makes its way through the mud and indeterminate slush to the lone gap in the wall. Now I get a frontal view of the overbridge, and the stairs and the bridge itself are so packed with people that I fear they will fall off. Watching, watching, silently watching.

Through the gap and there is chaos and noise on the road.

People milling around, the rain starting up again, traffic trying to work its way through. A bus approaches and immediately a band of men rush up, banging palms on its side, demanding that it stop. Call out to an old woman standing in the crowd, direct her to board the bus. But I want to go to Bandra, says the woman. Someone yells into the bus, where's this going? The answer is lost in the noise, but the woman turns around and becomes part of the crowd again.

Down the road, similar scenes, this time with greater purpose and urgency in the now driving rain, and with taxis and some private cars. Shopkeeper standing on the side tells me, they are trying to get rides for these people. But they won't force the private cars, they are only asking the taxis. Yet as we watch the men stop a grey Maruti Alto, even push it backwards a few feet, surround it and yell into the windows. Several minutes shouting, I can't tell why, then I see a few women crowding into the back of the little vehicle and it moves off through the crowd, who already have their eyes on the next car.

MH02 AK 6726, that Alto. Hope you got those women home and got home safely yourself.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am sure the Alto driver must have felt good at the end of the day, for having done a good deed, even if it took some 'friendly persuasion' to make him do it!