Mar 8th, 2009
The train keeps getting better. It’s still thrilling to hang out the side of it and feel the wind on my face. Here’s a short video that doesn’t do the feeling justice, but does show what it looks like. The sound at the beginning is of a band I recorded that was playing on the train, which is then replaced by the title track from the Bollywood film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.
It was nighttime – around 10:00 – when I was headed north from Churchgate to Bandra on Mumbai’s city train. It was one of the new ones – shiny and nice compared to the rattling old trains. The train was almost empty heading south, but the trip back north was much more full.
A group of guys got in my car, took over a section of seats, put up a cloth banner on side of the train, busted out tambourines and started to sing and play. This is what it sounded like, if you want more than you heard in the video above:
Upon taking out my camera to record the audio of the makeshift band, the guys sitting on the floor in front of me asked me to take their picture:
Upon taking a picture of these guys, Mr. Crazy Teeth, who had been standing next to me and staring at me most of the time, requested a picture of him and I. Gladly, sir. Stick of gum? Toothbrush?
They started asking me questions which were translated to Hindi for the non-English speakers. The standard stuff. At the same moment, a friend called my phone. It was impossible to hear anything over the band and the ten guys all talking to me. I just yelled in to the phone, “I’m on the train! What? What?? Almost to Bandra! I can’t hear you! There’s some band playing and a bunch of dudes asking me questions! I’ll call you back!”
The mess of guys heard me say “Bandra” and immediately went in to helpful mode which consisted of lots of yelling and pointing. I eventually understood that I was on the wrong side of the train. I needed to be on the right side to get off at Bandra, which would take some doing. I mashed my way through the humanity to get over there, flashing smiles and thumbs up to my helpful co-passengers.
Shit. I was pretty sure that was where the train was stopping right at that moment.
I yelled out to the guys, “Dadar?”
This elicited an immediate reaction: action mode. They all started yelling again and pointing at the platform outside the train. Which, unlike me, was on the left side. “Dadar! Dadar!” sang the chorus of Indian dudes.
They all started grabbing me; pushing and pulling me through the sardine can of people. I felt like a Play-Doh noodle getting squeezed out of the Fun Factory.
The train began to roll away from the station but I had not yet been propelled all the way to the door. With a final thrust, I squirted out of the moving train into an unexpecting group of people standing on the platform.
Managing not to fall, I looked back at the door, smiled, and waved to the guys hanging out and smiling back. The tambourine sound was replaced by sounds of the station.
I brushed myself off and wandered off out of the station in to a yet-to-be-seen part of the city.