Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

The other day I boarded the train at the last minute. Normally in the mornings I take the same train everyday. Missing the train has a ripple downstream effect on my day. The rickshawallahs become unruly, my focus time in the morning gets shortened, traffic increases and what not. So it is prudent for me to take the same train everyday, much in advance. But that morning I was delayed. I had forgotten my wallet at home so I had to buy a ticket, lest I get caught by the TCs who are anyway out there with a month-end target to complete.

So with a ticket in hand, I dashed for the train which was moving out of the station and jumped on it. I found a corner to stand near the doorway and then I got busy with my phone. Around Andheri, the passengers from the row behind me started to come out. They said they needed to get out. We found it puzzling but when we looked back, we realised that a young chap had had an unfortunate emergency.

He was just zipping up after having squatted between the rows to relieve himself. His face was sweaty and filled with embarrassment while he kept apologising to all of us. His face bore a helpless expression but he had to answer that nature’s call urgently. His co-passengers had got up and given him the space to finish his business while the train continued its journey. That poor chap dozed off on the seat after as everyone vacated that row and came out near the passageway. I got down at Bandra but this incident kept playing on my head throughout the day. Was it an extreme case of IBS or was it something serious that led to zero bowel control for this young man? I wouldn’t know but it was a dire situation for sure.

And how come none of us were disgusted or angry or repulsed by it. All of us were stoic and deeply empathetic in that moment. None of us flinched and took it as a matter of life, such things happen, we said to each other and we just moved on, giving that chap some respite and saved him the lectures or worse, abuse. Civic sense is also about looking out for the other person and in that local compartment, the passengers showed very high amount of civility.

It was a stark reminder that these things could happen to any of us. And we must be thankful for a good start to the day with a healthy and complete bowel moment. With that thought, all of us remained quiet and let the situation be. Some times the city annoys me, but it never ceases to surprise me. I wonder how a group of passengers travelling in the first class compartment elsewhere would have reacted to a moment like this.

The human spirit is a fragile one. It is susceptible to tampering and often can be manipulated to serve the needs of a few. But in this moment, all of us including his immediate passengers moved away the path of ridicule and just adopted silence. Some continued the journey but moved away while others got down.

Nobody muttered or murmured anything like they do when the crowd becomes unbearable. Maybe they don’t have the time to ponder over these things, they just want to get on with life. In either case, they could have kicked up a fuss. But they didn’t.

It was an incredibly sad but a hopeful moment that morning. The day went off as it did but I couldn’t stop thinking about the collective spirit of the group in that moment. So this week’s column on BforBombay is dedicated to all those passengers who showed a very high degree of empathy and helped out a young person, clearly in dire need of support, even at the cost of their own convenience. Salaam!