Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ah Those Locals!

Somewhere I came across this comment by an angry Mumbai resident -
So a fare paying Mumbai commuter is equated with the ticket less traveller in Kolkata because at the slightest provocation the Kolkatans burn trams and buses, so they have to be listened to.
I know my fellow Kolkatans wont take this too kindly. They would start with how Kolkata is the most livable city (As long as you just live conforming to every social norm), how the people are most helpful (Sure, there is never any dearth of people to enforce a strike or road block) here, and how it has been neglected by the central governments (How many of the last central governments have been supported by left again?). Rather than going into such serious issues let me talk about my Kolkata local train experience, which in a way mirrors the overall state of the city!

I used to stay in this place called Sonarpur in the southern fringes of the city. The only reasonable way to go anywhere else from there was by these local trains. Now to say that they were crowded would be an understatement - you have to push, shovel and fight just to grab something to hold onto - exposing yourself to all kinds of verbal and physical abuse, pickpockets and people caring weird stuff, like live goats and rotten fish. In a few minutes you would be completely drenched in sweat - barely balancing yourself in the mad rush of people getting up and going down. And as our Mumbai friend rightly says - most of these people never bought tickets. I remember one conversation I overheard - there used to be these special ticket checking drives once in a while - and a few people apparently jumped off the running train to run away from that and ended up badly injured- so this guy sounds very agitated and says something - which would loosely translated mean - why bother the persons traveling without ticket? Check tickets of those guys who have bought it. That's the attitude of Kolkata local train passenger for you!

And the same group of passengers once beat up the stationmaster because one day trains ran on time. Wondering why? Pretty simple actually - the trains always ran late - and people were used to that so much that when it actually came on time - they missed it.And the easiest way to protest against anything and be noticed is to sit on those track- even if it is totally unrelated -like the American interference in Cuba or Genocide in Sudan.How many cities can boast of such responsible citizens?

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