Monday, October 09, 2006

Rack ruckus

It must have been conceived by a very disturbed mind. Only a sadist can devise such a diabolical scheme which has the capacity to inflict pain across the spectrum of society. No one is spared as it is designed to cause maximum damage.

As the trained moved in slowly towards the platform, adjusting the rather heavy bag on my shoulder I leaped towards the pole in the middle. An elbow free in its trajectory planted itself in my nonchalant right eye. Even as I entered in one piece, jostling with the crowd, I instinctively removed the bag off my shoulder. With my best faux Jordan stride I looked up to fling it on to the overhead rack. To my horror, the rack was gone.

My fellow passengers smiled at my senile attempt to find a place for my bag. They smiled at my perplexity and empathized with my angst. Some even had a bemused expression on their faces, as if still reeling from the shock.

A youngster brimming with mirth suggested that the racks were removed to encourage “socially acceptable distance” between two men in trains, a conspiracy to discourage probable gay intentions. As I smirked at the tirade my co-passenger enlightened me, the overhead racks were removed from that Virar to Churchgate local, and four others as a trial, for “security reasons”. This was an interesting. Were they trying to curb terrorism by removing rack from five trains? And importantly who were “they”?

The overhead rack in a Mumbai local is an inseparable part of everyday travel for millions in the city. A pedestal of temporary respite where one can rest ones burden momentarily. It is a high point which encourages humanitarianism by providing an opportunity to people to help others. As bags of all grades are balanced on each other, a helping hand is always willing to stretch and make way for more items.

The gent’s compartment desperate for any conversation has it own brand of ‘bag’ ice-breakers. A series of grunts directing the apt placement of the precious possession, capped with a barely audible “thank you”. Also, it serves as an excellent support to hold on to, as the train quivers uninitiated and almost flings you in a very precarious position. An embarrassment is thus averted.

I am having visions of utmost distress. I foresee people standing in a cramped compartment with bags over their heads. Dabbas would spill due to constant agitation, staining the crisp white to a murky yellow. With both hands occupied, one cannot hold on to the handles above or protect their vitals below.

An exasperating itch on the shoulder blade cannot be subdued. A projectile of saliva and mucus lands squarely on your cheek. As you brush it off it disgust, the culprit sniffling explains that he couldn’t cover his face in time. Indeed, it is a ghastly situation.

Besides if a person wanted to plant a bomb, he can easily slip it below the seat. An underworld by itself infested with leftovers, lonely wrappers, scurrying arthropods and probably friendly leprechauns. Only the severely paranoid looks beneath the seat before sitting.

Removing the last left bastion of communal harmony is hardly an answer to curb miscreants. How about better surveillance techniques, more railway guards or better yet, an approachable friendly enquiry system. This would go a long way in safeguarding out trains.
The perpetrators of the 7/11 blast must be found quickly and brought to justice. They should be dealt without impunity and severely to serve as a deterrent to any such future designs.

I humbly appeal to the powers that be to avert a crisis in the lives of millions traveling by the local trains by restoring our racks, just as they were. Let us be free, as we were meant to be.


Journo death toll - 76.
Another journo killed while performing her duty.

Ms Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was found dead
Saturday afternoon from a bullet wound in the elevator of the building where
she lived in Moscow.

Such acts must be vociferously condemned.

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