Move

I took the metro to get to town yesterday for a reading date I had with D. It was an impulsive decision I made when my cab was taking longer than anticipated to get to me. So I quickly switched over to an auto to get to the closest station and then made a swift 17 minute, 20 rupee ride to town. A ride that was otherwise going to cost me approximately 100 rupees and about 40 minutes at the very minimum.

It made me so happy to be in a coach full of women, women about town, women getting to or back form work, women with things to do and places to be. And I found myself smiling, thinking I need to do this more often. There’s joy in having this ease and liberation in getting to places unencumbered.

Eventually, the economical efficiency isn’t super promising (for short to medium distances, at least). If I were to get to specifics, the auto ride to the metro station for example, cost more than the entire metro ride. It helped that my destination was across the road from the metro station I got dropped off at, else there’d be another auto ride to account for. However the efficiency in terms of time are really hard to beat. 17 minutes versus 40 minutes — there’s really no doubt which one I should choose more often. Plus there’s the added win from contributing to one less car/cab on the roads. En route to my destination, it was a good time of day and since I was going against rush hour I was able to get to the ladies coach, which was not crowded at all, and even got myself a seat.

On the way back, I tried briefly to get myself a cab or a rick and both had insane waiting times. So I braved the snaking queues entering the metro station and came home just the same way that I went out. This time around the coaches were chock full and I had to hold my breath to fight the mass of melded end-of-day body odour and the fart one unthinking person had let rip.

There’s no denying the tightening up of my stomach and the need to hold my bag close and keep my eyes open and vigilant for the random grope or pinch I cannot predict. Being in such a crowded coach did give me mild anxiety but I looked around at the many women around me, casual comfortable, and breathed easy. Once I switched lines and was on the last leg back home, the coach was so full I actually didn’t even have to walk out, I was simply carried out by the throng that poured out of it. And yet, I was enthused and amazed at how many people do this every single day. No sense of distress, just a surrendering to life as it is happening. It was all kinds of inspiring.

It was such a departure from my life of luxury and the undeniable disconnection it causes from the grit and grim realities of what life asks of so many millions in this city. I seem to only see the difficulties I face, and invariably, on close inspection the pale in comparison to what so many in this city endure day in and out. This past week I’ve taken more than one metro ride and each time it has brought home the need for me to connect and be grounded more.

This was my fourth metro ride in under a week and I have to say the appeal is growing on me. I’m considering making myself a pass as a means to encourage doing this more often. I’ve done it before and every time that I do, I feel the benefits and promise myself to be a frequent metro user when I can. But the issues with last mile transit always makes me choose a shared cab instead. However, it may just be time to push thru some of that resistance.

In Goa this time, I really felt the lack of public transport palpably. It was really beginning to annoy me, that I had to drive 40 kms all by myself to drop and pick VC up from work. As much as I love driving in Goa, and driving in the rain specifically, the sheer inefficiency of doing this from a fuel, carbon-footprint an ecological point of view, and doing it every day for a month, just didn’t sit well with me. Every time that I had to take my car out all by myself for the smallest errands it was beginning to get to me. The brazen lack of any other options at all are something I just can’t get by anymore.

Whenever I travel outside the country, public transport has always been a reason to love a city. Access and ease in this sphere gives me a serious high. I have fallen in love with the most crowded cities just simply because they have a smartly planned public transport system that gives me this sense of movement and ease — a sense that the city is on the peoples’ side. I’ve waited many years for Bangalore to come up to speed. We’re still way behind where we should be, with so much still remaining to be done and so much of what’s done also falling severely short on so many fronts. But I have begun to feel a sense of responsibility for the very things I complain about here — the traffic, the pollution, the chaos and congestion. And so I’ve been feeling like I need to do my bit, just with what’s available and where I am — to just begin, by choosing better means of transport whenever possible.

Did I mention I’m finally beginning to feel at home here?

One year ago: I eat the city as I leave the scene

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