getting away from the sky

The BEST bus turned sharply out of the Santa Cruz depot and blocked a tempo and the rickshaw I was in. The rickshaw backed a little, the tempo driver maneuvered his vehicle until the bus could pass. The bus driver meanwhile yelled at the tempo and the rickshaw drivers, “I need more space.”

I said, “Didn’t he think about it before ghusao-ing his bus?”

The rickshaw-wala, a small man, with a black hexagonal french beard, and a delicate crochet black and white skull cap decorated with lots and lots of little hearts, said to me, “Madam, stay calm. These guys are all like that. This is what they always do.”

A few meters ahead, a car came straight at us on the wrong side of the road, one motorbike lurched at our windscreen, another swerved past hastily.

The rickshaw-wala said, “They are all in a hurry, they all want to get somewhere. God knows where they want to get so fast. Wherever they go, they will be under the sky, won’t they? Or do they think, they can leave the sky behind?”

That evening, while exiting from the lift, a woman struggled with 5 shopping bags and her purse. I put my hand against the door to stop it from banging close on her. A neighbor had his hand on the ‘door open’ button. But hassled as she was, she did not acknowledge our gestures, probably didn’t even register them, as she walked away.

The neighbor, a small man, clean shaven, with white shirt tucked into black trousers, black briefcase and a blue tie, said, “She was trying to make a call at the same time while picking up her bags and leaving.” He shook his head with a wry smile and said, “We’ve all become so impatient in Bombay.”


    • Dipali, I guess it’s the same every where. Not just in Bombay. But the scale here just pushes it in one’s face.

  1. I can so identify with this one. I also hold the lift for people and they just take it for granted, while I feel quite grateful when someone holds a lift for me. Can’t imagine people being too busy to say a simple ‘Thank you’! Btw, I like the rickshaw wallah’s observation!

  2. Yes, everyone is so busy in Bombay. That’s what I noticed when I visited two weeks back. But, you know one great thing about the city is that there are always people like you to hear and help us out. Thank you for that๐Ÿ™‚

    • Memsaab, I think rickshaw-walas in general, become very philosophical. They have to be, to cope with the noise, traffic and pollution here, through the day.๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I think that the woman was not impolite. I too hold the lift when people with luggage have to get off, and I don’t expect a “Oh thanks a lot, dear Sir.” That’s because when I’m with lottsa luggage, those same people will and do hold the lift for me. so you see its actually a give and take relationship. Thank Yous are not needed. That’s BOmbay !

    • Vinay, we were not expecting a ‘thank you’, certainly not, ‘dear sir’. But there’s an acknowledgment of another person, without words, but sometimes people are too busy and preoccupied even for that. If that’s BOMbay, it’s nothing to be proud about. Anyway I don’t agree that this is BOMbay.

      • I disagree with you, but lets agree to disagree. I think you’re looking for a tinge of Victorian courtesy in the smallest of acts. They can’t be offered every time. You gave the example of a lift. You really don’t expect ‘helpers’ and the ‘helped’ to turn around and give an acknowledging nod or smile in a local train at rush hour, buses, on the busy road…….and even in the office lift which is n times busier and crowded than a “housing society” lift. If you still feel offended, welcome to Bombay !

        What would say to Tokyo ? or New York ?

        • Vinay, it’s not a big deal. Believe me, I am not expecting anything. It’s just that this was not a local train, or a busy office lift, just a small lift, and 3 people. And anyway, it was not so much about her acknowledging us, but just the fact that she was trying to do so many things at the same time, and was therefore hassled. And she could get badly hurt doing that, because the lift doors bang shut quite quickly.

          But all said and done, I guess I am a little Victorian in my tastes.๐Ÿ™‚

          • I think it is never old-fashioned to wonder that people can’t offer simple acknowledgements. I believe that the world would be a far happier place for that woman if she looked her helpful neighbors in the eye and smiled. Banno is happy because she is helpful, and she appreciates these moments of connection (she and the other neighbor had that moment to connect which made the day a little nicer for both of them too).

            I’ve noticed that people who are always in a rush are the sourest people on earth and I thank God I am not one of them๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t know about Tokyo, but in New York City there are plenty of courteous people, and plenty who aren’t. Even in small towns it is the same! If you don’t have time for others they will not have time for you eventually when you really need them…

          • Oh Memsaab, I’ve never been to New York, but people in Tokyo, in fact, Japan are so, so courteous. Being civil is just so much part of their culture. I was awed. It reflected in everything, their toilets, the way their cheapest, tiniest hotel rooms were designed, the way people sat in theatres. Of course, the Japanese woman who was our host at the film festival said that this extreme regard for courtesy could also be stifling, especially for young people.

            But I was all for it. Of course, the bus drivers there were as maniacal in their driving as the BEST drivers here.๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I guess its a malady of our times Banno . We all want to get at the same place , at the same pace and the same time . Bound to create a log jam .And the less said about people not acknowledging small gestures the better .
    Only do it if it makes you feel better .

    • Eveslungs, jams are a way of life. As for small gestures, and acknowledgments, our observations, were more about how preoccupied people are these days, and how they want to do so many things at the same time. The hurry! Well, I am a slowcoach, so I guess it amazes me all the more.๐Ÿ™‚

  5. No I think sometimes people expect others to do things for them. . If one was carrying six bags and someone held the lift door open , one would surely notice , no ? Its callousness pure and simple . As well as rudeness . Maybe I’m getting older but I find it difficult to tolerate such people

    • Eveslungs, I feel older and old-fashioned, most times. I think Memsaab is right, that such people are just sad. Well, I hope for the woman, that it was only a bad moment. And she’s not like that all the time.

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