• Roopa Raveendran-Menon

From Dubai metro’s mouth

Well, my earlier post may have established how differently the Dubai metro and the Mumbai local trains function. To those sobered down by Dubai’s good living the whole metro travel can be quite a drag. But here I was defiantly clinging to my Mumbai local train eye and ear. Once in a while I would let it rove and find little tid bits or some odd visuals that would make me sit up or even chuckle. And sometimes it would open a can of stereotypes that would make me cringe and crawl into a hole.

It was one such day at the metro.

I had boarded the Rashidiya bound metro, found a seat, turned to my book. By the time we passed few stops, the seats were occupied. At the Sharaf DG stop, two men boarded the metro and sat next to me. From their accents I learnt that they were from Pakistan. Just as they had settled down a young blonde woman walked in and stood in front of our seats. One of the men offered the seat to the woman but she politely declined, and thus began their conversation.

“No, thanks. Are you from India?” she asked. “Close, India’s neighbor Pakistan.” one of the men said. And then he added, “Are you afraid of us? I know what you must thinking- all those stories- we are not all bad.” The tone was breezy, even self-deprecating with a hidden arc of concern.

I sat up without as much as twitching a single bone in my body. My face, masked by the book, burnt with uneasiness. The rest of the conversation passed with the girl, originally from Netherlands,(she introduced herself) pulling out the stories she has heard of how unsafe Pakistan is etc while the man tried to portray a different picture of Pakistan, a Pakistan that he had grown up with and the unfortunate turn of events etc. As they plunged deeper and deeper into their conversation they had lost me. I was just sitting there thinking of that line. Of the far reaching impact of how a country’s sordid reputation can directly impact its citizens. It is similar to a son being embarrassed of his father who was booked for criminal charges. A shadow cast on his reputation. The world he faces penetrating him with suspicion and contempt leaving him in a sticky web. It is a dreadful place to be in.

And then I thought- what if in the light of the beyond brutal gang rapes that is occurring at an alarming rate in India these days- will I or any of my fellow compatriots have to resort to a similar opening line? Will all the smiling faces I received when I travelled across Vienna, Egypt introducing myself as an Indian spit at its reflection?

Had I just stumbled into my potential conversation with complete strangers?

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