Heat. Scorching heat. Dozens of pairs of eyes staring me down. And the stench of sweat and impatience. Feet shifting, tongues clicking, vendors shouting, babies wailing..
Ever traveled in the unreserved coach of the Indian railways? The Indian film industry has successfully portrayed a young woman, carefree and courageous, stepping into an unreserved coach of the Indian railways and having an adventure that probably changes her life. Oh, and there is the other version where the “real India” lies through the journey in the train, mainly because it illustrates the vibrancy that my country has.
My experience? Not so vibrant.
As I set forth on a three hour train journey to the city of Bangalore, not finding a seat, I prepared myself for the ordeal that is to stand in the aisle of the coach. Gradually the train filled up and I was surrounded by older men, shrieking and crying children and women bearing more luggage than they can carry.
The only focus of each and every person in that coach was to grab a seat as it emptied. The competition was fierce. As each station approached and a seat emptied, the crowd pushed, prodded and fought. Raising voices and a jolt from the crowd became routine as passengers got on and off. There was absolutely no consideration for the fact that the person standing next to you is human. A living, breathing human who deserves respect, who is standing the same ground you are.
It angered me, to see that state of anarchy, of complete disregard to your fellow passengers. What I experienced wasn’t the soulful independence of a 22 year old woman journeying solo or the happy multitude of my country but of the selfishness that drives each and every one of us. Selfishness that urges us to be less compassionate as a person. Less patient. Less accommodating.
How about we see some of that, Bollywood?