I dislike company on the train . No, don’t get me wrong. I am affable in most situations. I smile at random strangers, greet people I’m acquainted with, attend meetups and seminars, network with people… the usual things.
Most people sympathise with me when I mention my two-hour trip to and from CBD everyday. Others, living close to the university campus, usually mock me. Why, you ask ? Beats me. The travel is , in fact, one of those things that I look forward to every day. It is my sanctum from the mundane activities of my life. I’ll tell you why.
Mumbai, my hometown, is one of those places where you’ve got to wage war on your co-passengers to simply get in and out of the train. People are known to have lost grinworthy items in the tussle. Glasses, bag, phones, jewellery and shoes. Not kidding , I’ve occasionally seen people lose one shoe to the incoming army and yell at everyone while hopping on the other foot. And then to stay put in that rapidly diminishing floor space of 5 square inches, while trying not to smell someone else’s armpit, is another struggle that you learn to conquer from absolute need. Not like you can help it though. Mumbai is after all one of the most crowded cities in a crowded country.
Perhaps you can now understand why everyday train travel to Melbourne CBD is thoroughly blissful and comfortable. I get to the starting station, the train is out there waiting to depart. I get to choose my own seat (something unattainable on Mumbai local trains), and then move on to doing everything I can in that one hour. Learn something new, doodle out my goals in my diary, write about things that I’m grateful for , observe people and wonder about their life stories. Anything is possible in that one hour. I feel invincible in that one hour! Dramatic, yes. But so true.
Within a few days of my arrival here, I met this elderly guy on the train. He kept telling me stories about his life elsewhere before migration. Partly due to my hesitation to interact with a complete stranger and majorly due to my irritation on having him intrude on my “me” time, I did not quite partake in his monologue. I ohed and ahed in all intermittent pauses and he was more than happy with my monosyllabic responses. I enjoyed listening to his experiences – at least the ones I paid attention to. Besides getting to know his life story, I realised something else as well.
Interacting with people on the train is also a great way to learn new things. You get to observe them on a personal level and share experiences with them. You might get to know about that great place to shop for clothes with student discounts, or get info on a new job opening somewhere. Networking is always beneficial.
So.. I basically started with absolutely hating company on the train. Now I merely dislike it. Still interferes with my sanctum sanctorum.