Friday, June 21, 2013

In the Shoes of a Commuter

By: Madhur Prashant, Humber Student & International Centre Student Ambassador

Canada and more…
Many international students reel under the effect of culture shock, and some cozily warm up to climate shock. I feel a rare kind– it’s called Commute Shock.

By Madhur Prashant

For many, commute is a daily chore done at-least twice a day. For those that oblige their local public transport, it is taxing, but sometimes relaxing as well! When commuting, we bump into a hundred faces, each of which reads like a book. Watch carefully and you’ll notice the comedy, horror, suspense, thrill and drama of life come alive. Many, however, may find the company of ‘smart’ phones and smarter books more interesting.

Commuting is a job. It’s the job we pay to do. It’s the job we do sans bosses, sans subordinates. It’s a job that takes us near our loved and not-so-loved ones. During my 15 years of training in different parts of the world, I have no option but to use these into moments of observation. So I study the Job and do the job to Study! Ahh... whatever that means.

I blame my commute shock to habits acquired back home. Commute, in a city of over 20 million (YES!), has got to be something! Some keywords summarize the state of commuters in a well-connected and -serviced system back in Mumbai. These hopefully will fuel your imagination and reduce my writing effort.

7:30 am (Peak hour) - Queue, was-it-a-queue, you-were-never-in-the-queue, privacy’s-got-no-space-here, push, shove, growl, rant, pant, glare, stare, gasp, sigh, pointed heels dig into anonymous feet, three-seats-accommodate-four, thirty passengers-through one door, 400 passengers-packed in one car meant for 82.

Like I said, commuting is a tough job. Every minute and every seat is more precious than anything (in that moment). A window-side seat is a lottery. Having imbibed the valuable commuter traits, I began a new journey in a new country armed with old habits.

My First Day at a Torontonian Subway Station

I took a deep breath as I peeked into the dark tunnel, and waited for the train to light it up. “Will I be able to get into the train,’ was my first commuter-worry. The train rolled in and the doors slid open. I almost leapt in, only to jump back out as elegantly as possible so passengers inside could exit in no-apparent-hurry. I cursed them (in my head, of course) for their lack of impatience and ‘slowness’, and leapt back in, wasting not a second. I grabbed the nearest seat and patted myself for the quick and smart move – only to find empty seats in the car. Oh!

Then, I observed and worried about a potential crowd blocking my exit. My mind’s jaws dropped as I watched fellow passengers leave their seats only when doors opened at their station. Back home, commuters get ready three stations before their destination. That’s because there are many more passengers in Mumbai local trains compared to the Torontonian ones; and they need time to make their way to the door.

In Canada, I want to be part of this system. Often, I rush my way through an unperturbed crowd, get worked-up at the sight of them, and fret at an apparent ‘no-hurry-why-worry’ attitude. I try to change. I try to slow down. But my habits catch up and I begin to hurry again. I hurry out of habit. I fear being too fast and then too slow for this system and falling prey to a general ire. I pretend to be calm and hide my commute shock amidst local commuting habits. I observe others. I watch myself.

Our commute reveals a lot about people and culture. Hopefully, I will have acquired different commuter habits and have ‘happy feet on the move’.

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