On one of my frequent journeys from my hometown Belgaum, down the forested hills of western India, I remember seeing young boys kick down a 3 feet high anthill . In seconds they maliciously destroyed what thousands of ants must have taken months to build. They knocked down the red – mud – animal – made edifice, the home of thousands of ants. Suddenly hundreds of ants of all sizes were streaming all over the place! This scene came to my mind when I journeyed on a local Mumbai train in the rush hour and had the same sense of wonder ! I avoid crowds and normally do not travel on the local Metro, never at rush hour but there was no other route to reach my destination. Witnessing thousands of people rushing around, without anyone bumping into each other, all finding their respective platforms and all in a hurry reminded me of those tiny little ants!
That evening I entered a ‘ladies compartment’, designated only for women and was crushed between commuters between the ages of 18 to 60. I watched two young girls, they looked like sisters with black kohl lined eyes talking and laughing. They both had hip length, long, black and straight tresses which they swished from side to side in rhythmic coordination. A little like when you visit a dairy and see the cows swish their tails right left and then right and then again and again !
Young teenage girls returning home from college sessions, mobile phones held in their manicured fingers. Others with sweat streaming down their faces, fatigue in their eyes and the tension of having to reach home in time for them to supervise their children’s homework or dispense medicines to their ailing elders . It reminded me of a television documentary I had seen on bees. I was fascinated at how well organized bees were. Each little creature knew its mission, it knew where it had to go and carry out its duty. Its responsibilities ingrained in its genetic code ! The Queen , the drone , the worker bees all part of a complex scenario!
I remember visiting a snake farm once. On display was a giant King Cobra with bloated and dazed red eyes. You could sense him enjoy the feeling of satiation after his heavy meal. He was waiting for the wild hare he had eaten alive to digest in his stomach. I am told that giant King Cobras can ingest an animal like a calf or deer many times their size ! The train reminded me of a King Cobra as it slithered through its tracks passing trains on the other side. Very few people got out, more commuters entered squeezing those that were already there. I could hardly breath, I was being suffocated, bodies pushing me constantly. The combination of smells nauseated me – pungent sweat, a whiff of fresh jasmines pinned in the hair of the sari clad women in front of me, stale perfume and the smell of fried samosa’s, a popular fried savoury snack sold at most Mumbai platforms.
I got up from my seat, squeezed through and barely got out when the train reached my destination. I had this wonderful feeling of still being alive, I could breathe! I walked out of the station to the cool breeze and a full silver moon in the sky. For that moment I experienced bliss – I felt I had gone through the King Cobra’s alimentary canal and had come out whole and alive !!