Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Memories: Shoeless on suburban train.

I don’t remember where I came across the following stanza or who the poet is:
“I had the blues
Because I had no shoes
Until upon the street
I saw a man who had no feet.”
But what I am writing about now is not in this context.

Bombay, 1957-58. I was undergoing management training. As far as I know, there was no MBA courses those days. My programme was to work with different companies for fixed periods, moving from department to department. Mr. PR Hariharan, the well-known Chartered Accountant, was coordinating it. He was my guru.

I was staying at Buckley Court on Woodhouse Road. A good friend from Bangalore (where I did college), Jacob Matthan (Sushil) was living in his father’s flat in Meher Mansion facing Cooperage – about two hundred meters away. But we never used to meet during that time. Once or twice I did come across two college friends, Atul Shenoy and Fazal Hathiari. Unfortunately I lost touch with Fazal but was happily able to re-establish contact recently with Atul in Canada by email. Incidentally, Sushil who now lives in Oulu, Finland, is the inspiration behind me starting my blog.
Initially, my training was at Mr. Hariharan’s office in the Stock Exchange building on Dalal Street. Work began at 11 A.M. That suited me because, like W. Sommerset Maugham, two things I hate are going to bed, and getting out of it in the morning. (It is actually a Parayil family trait.) The bad part was that often we had to stay on till late at night.

After a few months my training was shifted to Automobile Products of India, Bhandup. They used to manufacture scooters. I bought a first class season ticket and would board the train at Victoria Terminus (now Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus) with a copy of the Times of India. The compartment was usually empty because the morning rush was towards the city and I was going the other way. I would take off my shoes, put my feet on the opposite seat, and read the paper till the train stopped at my destination.

After a few days of this routine, I found my shoes were missing when I reached Bhandup. Apparently, someone had stolen them. I caught the next train back to VT and on alighting, shuffled towards the exit. I was highly embarrassed thinking that every one of the thousands on the platform was looking at my feet and wondering about the fellow travelling in his socks. Actually none of them was likely to have even noticed.

From then on I was very careful and used to check for my shoes at every stop between VT and Bhandup. But the alertness waned as time passed and sure enough, I lost a second pair.

Then onwards I threw my civic sense out of the window and started placing my legs on the opposing seat, shoes and all.


Also see:
Travel: A round trip by train

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess in those times people cared more about civic sense. These days, you rarely see any sense, much less civic sense!