Saturday, July 09, 2011

The longest mile

If you live in Mumbai, commuting 60 km becomes a part of your daily life. Every day, you have to spend either three hours on the road or a neat two hours on the local train. But Mumbaiites don’t seem to mind. Sometimes, however, this distance becomes unbearable.
A year ago, I was travelling from Churchgate to Andheri by train around six in the evening. You are lucky if you manage to get a foothold, the train is so crammed during that time. You just can’t move on your own, your movement can only be determined by the flow of humanity. Things are so bad that sometimes you can’t even answer your phone because there is not enough space for you to reach your pocket.
A middle-aged gentleman standing in front of me got a call, thanks to his Bluetooth device, he answered it immediately. A few seconds later, I heard him crying out loud, “Kya? Papa nehin rahe!” His father had passed away. Everyone turned towards him. He didn’t know what to do. Neither did we, his co-commuters, knew how to deal with such a situation. He was not in a position to continue his conversation. He was devastated and was not prepared for such a sudden mishap. After a few minutes, he tried to get a hold of himself but failed. He continued to cry for the next 15 minutes. Everyone around him was silent and was just staring at him. The crowd gained normalcy when the next stop arrived and became busy jostling for space. I don’t know where he lives, rather how far he lives, but I wished he lived close by. I couldn’t even fathom how long this ordeal would continue. But unfortunately, he was still there when I got down from the train. We are so helpless. The same distance that is part of our daily dose of life becomes so unbearable at times. I didn’t know how far he had to travel and shuddered at the thought that his father might have been living in his home town, miles away from this city of opportunities.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A costly affair

I bumped into an old friend at a party a few days ago. He was a fellow journalist then. The last time I checked, which was five years ago, he was doing pretty well for himself — had a house in a Mumbai suburb, a Honda City and to top it all, a pretty wife. I always thought what else could he ask for? However, when we started chatting, he told me that he had left the profession four years ago and done an MBA from a noted B-school and is now a vice-president at a well-known MNC.
This sounds even better. But age-old acquaintance and single malt made him confess that he is fighting a legal separation battle with his wife and is not happy with the job as he misses the charm and excitement of journalism. I told him I am sorry about his wife but asked what made him leave the profession as he was doing pretty well. He replied, “Money, what else?” Then he suddenly started bragging about his new acquisitions — he had graduated to a bigger home and a bigger car, Honda Accord. But now, instead of one, he had two home loans, two car loans and an educational loan (for his MBA). I didn’t know whether I should be happy for him or sad, but wished him all the best in life. No matter how much we claim to have evolved in terms of our needs and desires, they always remain the same — it only changes in degree.
As you struggle your way up, the desire changes from a scooter to a motorbike to a hatchback to a sedan; in my friend’s case City to Accord, and then may be convertibles or coupes. But, at the end of the day, it remains a means to take you to the workplace and back, and may be a weekend escapade. Even in terms of home, as you climb up, you will add another bedroom and may be even another home, just like my friend did, but still end up sleeping in one room in one home.
It is unfortunate that when we join the rat race for making moolah, we don’t even have time to think whether it is worth it.
Mahul Brahma