Saturday, July 31, 2010

At the Rail Crossing

I have to cross a railway signal each day I commute to work. Its a busy junction, train passes every half hour and so traffic comes to a standstill quite often.

The roads are quite narrow at this junction, thanks to the apathy of our civic developers. This junction is surrounded by a slum and the other side has Indian Army facility. So there is no question of widening the road. The trains are quite frequent, as soon as the alarm starts notifying that the train is due to arrive; motorists, cars and rickshaws zoom in to cross the railway signal before the boom barriers are down. The area gets chaotic, vehicle from 6 sides trying to cross the signal. Large vehicles move inch by inch. Your ears are treated with incessant honking, whistles of the gate-man and the traffic controller and swear words by drivers. Occasionally a fight between two drivers; one whose vehicle was nudged and the other who nudged. Everyone is in a hurry to reach their destination, no one cares.

Pedestrians running amok as if a bomb just went off, trying hard to sneak it between vehicles to cross the road before the gates are down. The poor gate-man finally succeeds to bring the barriers down. The vehicles idle; while few pedestrians and 2 wheelers try to cross the signal by going under the barrier; stealing in few more minutes to reach their work on time.

Amidst all these chaos, just the other side; one can witness the complete opposite. The life of slum-dwellers; laid back, leisurely; as if the world has come to a standstill. The kids are dirty, ruffled and unkempt, playing with marbles and sticks in the mud. Occasionally wiping off their running nose, using cuss words unaware of its meaning; moms and grand moms scolding them. Sitting outside their hatched tiny hut, dirty and unkempt, lazing away under the harsh wind and the morning sun. For them; this chaos; people with lunch bags running behind a crowded bus to board it, vehicles honking incessantly never mean a thing. They don't understand why these folks are behaving in a mad way and what are they chasing. But for this crowd; they are too busy to even take a look at that leisurely life; wake up to no deliverable, no deadlines and no schedules. The only worry for those kids is how many marbles to pocket; for the women folks - what to gossip about. They are oblivious to everything else around.

Last week it was a bit different. Instead of the regular 10 minutes wait at the junction, the traffic was halted for almost an hour. Reason - a passenger train halted right at the junction. Never knew what for. I guess either it developed a technical snag or the train did not get go-ahead signal. Whatever, the traffic piled up. Ant it gave me an interesting outlook.

The usually idling vehicles stopped, initial restlessness gave way to sluggishness and yawns. Autos halted; 2 wheelers stopped, the riders relaxed and took off their helmets. Someone started fiddling with his mobile phone, occasionally looking around. Someone thought of finishing some job and called up his junior and gave instructions. A hunk ruffled his hair on and off to grab some attention. Commuters from the bus looked around for some entertainment; most of them with their headphones on; listening to gibberish of these radio jockeys.

An auto rickshaw driver walked towards the train to get some news; my driver followed as well and they chatted; maybe each one shared tips as to how to launder money from helpless passengers. A neatly dressed man in suit in a chauffeur driven luxury car was oblivious to the outside environment; reading newspaper. Few commuters alighted from the bus and thought walking was better; they crossed the signal by walking through the doors of the halted train. College goers with funky outfits and accessories, working people hastily dressed; people of all kinds. Someone thought it was time to groom; so cleaned his nails and blew his nose. A cab driver kept tuning the FM radio hoping to hear some nice music. A girl in an auto rickshaw coochie-cooing with her boy friend; giggling and all that. Train passengers looking out of the window witnessing the hapless crowd gathered.

Someone saw a business opportunity; he quickly put in some goodies of cigarettes, candies and bananas in a tray; collected from his shop and did a quick round selling his goods for people who were waiting for the train to move and the traffic to clear.

Continued for a while; the the train started and left the signal, barrier up; vehicles started. The lazy and slow world that was evident few minutes ago was long forgotten. It was chaos all over again.


  1. Oppurtunity thats what we are good at. It is funny but for some odd readon while going to oud village i would want the fatak tbe crossing to be closed as got the sugarcane juice or the dhoda it was a sweet
    Now offcourse due to pace of life we hate the delay.
    Slums on one side army on other mmmm well when the slum started to come up that was the time to stop it now it is a vote baank.
    But is this not what makes india the india we know and love i mean this in good way.

  2. The wait at the crossing might have felt like eternity (1 hour you said, eh?!). And life would have come to a grinding halt (at least we're trained to think so). That's how we go about living our lives, unlike the slum dwellers you got a chance to see.

    If only we could pause and see what goes around, we would have been happier people with a deeper understanding of life around us...sigh!

  3. observations...I make these kind of observations usually when travelling long distances..the slum dwellers..they sure are in no hurry and no fury ;)

    But that's what not life is all about and we know this and that's why we're blogging ;)

    but daily going through this obvious traffic jam is OMG types ! Brave girl :)

  4. I would say this is one of the best of your blogs I have read. I don't know if it is the situation when I read it, or may be is is just the quality of the post. I was going mad studying some analog stuff and this was so relaxing. Thank you for the much needed relaxing rail cross stop.

    I love the details like;
    1. A hunk ruffled his hairs on and off "to grab some attention". (you will not change. site adikarathu nirtha maattiye. this comment sounds better in tamizh)
    2. Mobile phone users occasionally looking around.
    3. The GF coochie-cooing... "and all that (high light)". and all that. ha ha ha!
    4. kids using bad words without knowing the words' meaning.

    Ok now back to chaos... :-(

  5. The observant sees more and writes it well. Loved it. And hats off to the guy who made some money while everyone else was grounded. Remind me of the old joke:

    God to lazybum," Why are you lazing about. Get up and do some work"


    "You can earn money..."


    "Get married, build a house , have kids..."


    "Then you teach them, they get a job, settle down and you are fre to rest"

    "That's precisely what I'm doing now. Why do you want me to rush through all these and then rest?"

  6. Perhaps,one should notice different sides of India in such a small radius,a car with a driver and those in jhuggis unconcerned about this world except, may their next meal.I don't think this one is a funny post, it is very serious one touching the basics of democracy where all are said to be equal, but are not.
    It is time to reduce the gap between India and Bharat n

  7. Dear
    You description is excellent. try your hands at story writing.:)

  8. Bik,

    Oh yeah!! This is India...contrasts and extremes. I do observe a lot, thats why this post :-)

  9. RGB,

    Yes it was eternity but fine. My ipod with me, so I can kill time.
    Life did come to a standstill.

    Oh yes, but who has time to pause and look around. If only they did!!


  10. Nu,

    Yes they are at their own pace.
    I have no other choice but to go through these ordeal each day

  11. Gautam,

    Thank you. This post relaxed you, i am glad to hear that. And I am honored, it helped you relax.

    1. Site adhikartha neenga nirthunga..naanga eluthartha niruthrom :-P
    2. Mobile phone users look around to see if anyone is sneaking in to see their screen.
    3. GF and all that :-P You got it
    4. Yeah have heard kids using cuss words without even realizing.

    :-) Take care

  12. Holy Lama,

    Thanks a lot. I generally observe and when I got an hour, I did that more.
    Yeah the guy's presence of mind was admirable.

    :-) Thank you for sharing the anecdote.

  13. Chowla sir,

    Yes, it is a starking contradiction. Right in front of your eyes, but seems normal seeing this day in and day out.

    The post is not funny yes, these are my observations and are facts.

    High time to balance, but dont know when it would happen!

  14. chitra,

    Thanks so much. Thats encouraging. I cant imagine well. So I lack that thing to write a story. But would surely try. :-)

  15. This reminded me of an essay that I had written as a kid during my eggjams: An hour in the railway station.

    I admire that business karnewala insaan who took the opportunity to sell some stuff and made quick money. As always tumahre observation mashallah! Had i been in ur place, I would have just slept off :P

  16. you and your observation - oh man..

    one hour st railway crossing? know, here there is this constant alarm playing near the's so irritating..bicycle people are same everywhere..slums - ask us..we have asia's largest slum here -, Mumbai airport site of slums welcome u as well :) street vendors remind me of my post - head scratchers.. :)

  17. Your Observation quality is good.
    None including myself savour , feel or enjoy the moment. We are all in a scramble.What you witnessed at the crossing and in the adjacent slum are all pointing to this.Melee!
    And in the melee we forget we live. Robotic indeed!

  18. quite an observation... soemtimes I am glad that such things happen... for they are the only moments when we actually relax ... sit back and think ...
    nice write.

  19. You observe small things in life and that reflects in your post. My first time here. Keep writing. :)

  20. G3,

    Share the essay dear. :-)
    I admire the guy's presence of mind too.
    My observation, I cant sleep or snooze, so I look around, lest people think I am intruding!!


  21. Neha,

    Hahaha thanks.

    I understand, its irritating but at the same time unavoidable.
    The slum I mentioned is very small; not more than 10 houses.

    Bangalore has very less % of slums less than 20% I think.

    Head scratchers!! Oh yes!! I do remember.

  22. anil,

    Thank you.
    I do enjoy each moment. Its nice :-)
    And I realize what all I would miss if I had not observed.

  23. Rajlakshmi,

    Thank you. Oh yes, we tend to think during those times.

  24. Aditya,

    Welcome to B Log.
    Oh yes, I do tend to observe all the things most of us term trivial and unimportant. It relaxes me and as well, gives an insight to things we take for granted.

    Thank you. Keep visiting :-)

  25. neha mentioned about dharavi slums..some years back, govt said there are no slums in navi mumbai..i myself had written in newspapers about problems of slumdwellers in navi mumbai. good post ya.. i liked that last line: It was chaos all over goes on..:)

  26. like the narration
    thinking what will happen next ?

  27. Hi Insignia! I normally read your comments in A's or SG's. Visiting your blog for the first time. You have a great one going... Keep at it.

    When you have a moment, please stop by at mine too:

  28. Nice observation at rail crossing.

    This is common at all over the places at these crossings. Even in Chennai, I saw people i.e., the cyclists, motor bikes and walkers don't have patience to wait, they will cross under the stop bars and creates lot of panic for the viewers. Some times, possibilities of ran overs. Pity.

    This is a busy world, every one wants to reach the destination without any delay. That's it. No one can change this until the users realize. You and me are the only watchers of the scene.

  29. Ramesh,

    Thank you. Chaos is our default behavior :-)

  30. sm,

    thanks. Nothing different. Its the same cycle everyday

  31. Hi NRIGirl,

    Welcome to B Log. Thank you. Glad you liked this space.

    I will sure come by. Keep visiting :-)

  32. Naidu sir,

    thanks. You are true, happens everywhere.

    Life is chaotic :-) We can observe and then move on.

  33. A,

    Very much part of day to day life

  34. well, make the best out of every oppurtunity u get says it long as it does not cause harm..

    i have seen worser things at railway junctions..need i mention em..:)

  35. spot la neenga blog write pana vandiyathu thane...:)...1 hr is too much for yu.. yu cud write 4-5 posts...

  36. Hary,

    :-) I was lazy to switch on my laptop. Illaena I would have written.

    :-D Yes, I could have written 5-10 posts :-P


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