T'was the day before Christmas. Packed like Sardines, I was heading to my nutrition class at Dadar, Mumbai, in the famous Western Local Train. The lifeline of Mumbaikars, yes. I remember wondering about how to strike a personal conversation with my heavily cute and heavily pregnant instructor about her marriage as marriage was on my mind too, and she was a Marwadi wed into a non marwadi family.
My chain of thought was jolted as soon as we reached Dadar, and I was pushed out of the train. One of the perks of travelling by train is that you seldom need to expend energy in alighting, unless you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The narrow foot over bridge entrance was swamped with passengers wanting to get the hell out of the Train station, and except for a lady carrying fish in her basket- she was allowed ample free space to walk, because of the fish and all- all the rest were clinging to each other, so to speak.
In instances like these, where you walk a centimetre a minute, jostling against the crowd, strategizing at times to find the best route out, giving up and just following the flow, there is usually someone who starts encouraging the rest by shouting "chalo, chalo”! Not that it helps speed up the procession though, but you find someone like this more often than not, this time, the encourager was, in my estimation, an old woman who was shouting behind my back, and she seemed in a hurry.
Mumbaikars usually mind their own business, and so did I. I didn’t turn around to look at who she was, despite of her enthusiastic shouting. She must have been in a hurry, I surmised.
When my thoughts were again being drawn to the Maadu Instructor- did I mention she was heavily cute?- about midway onto the stairs of the bridge, the encourager started getting creative with her language. I had never heard such colourful language, such abuses, and such panache in giving them, at least not from someone who I thought was an old timer.
She wanted me to rally along with her too, and started pushing and prodding me, asking me to do the same to the fella ahead of me. His eyes met mine, the fella’s, and we both smirked at the lady’s language and insistence, and as is the case in Mumbai, went back to what we were doing; ignoring her.
It is then that….it happened. I felt a sudden pinch on my buttock. It wasn’t one meant to hurt, it was a naughty pinch, executed by someone who knew the mechanics of a good pinch. It was deliberate, unmistakably so. And mildly embarrassing. I immediately seethed in anger and turned around envisioning the smackdown that I was about to lay on the poor man. Yes, in my fit of rage, I thought it’d be a man, perhaps a homosexual who was taking advantage of the crowd.
I have nothing against homosexuals, more power to them. But since I am not one, I take offense to being pinched in public by one.
My raging fit melted, and confusion set in when my mind recognised the Pincher, and acknowledged and appreciated the situation I was currently in.
I had been pinched on my buttock, playfully, mind you, by an elderly woman who wasn’t the least bit apologetic about it; au contraire, she was beaming her smile, with most front teeth missing.
In those moments, we reached the bridge, and I was too confused to do or say anything. “Bheed mein aisahi hota hai uncle”! This is what she said to me, nodded her head naughtily-forever beaming- and disappeared.
I felt.. Violated. An old woman had pinched me in broad daylight, and I was completely unequipped to handle the situation. I could see this wasn’t her first tango, going by the mastery of the pinch, and the absolute nonchalance with which it was delivered.
Half laughing, half embarrassed, I trudged along the bridge towards my classes, feeling sad for the women who have to endure such bullshit each day.