Monday, 30th October 2017

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A pink towel on a Calcutta Metro train trip

A wet towel hung from the handrail of a Metro coach to dry travelled at least five stations on Wednesday afternoon

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
  • Published 8.08.19, 2:30 AM
  • Updated 8.08.19, 2:30 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
The pink towel hangs from a handlebar of a Metro train that had just chugged out of Tollygunge station on Wednesday afternoon Picture by Debaashish Bhattacharya

It’s pink and it’s aflutter. A wet towel hung from the handrail of a Metro coach to dry travelled at least five stations on Wednesday afternoon before its owner finally took it down.

Passengers had by then frowned, smirked and clicked pictures of the towel.

Most tried in vain to avoid the towel, placed strategically under a fan, and got brushed by it as it swayed and flapped.

Calcuttans have long complained that the Metro is not what it used to be but a towel left out to dry inside a coach is possibly a first.

A passenger who clicked pictures and sent them to this newspaper had boarded the Dum Dum-bound non-AC train from Garia Bazar station around 1.50pm, when it was drizzling outside.

He got into one of the coaches in the middle of the rake and got a seat in the row right in front of the towel. “It took me a while to figure out that the roof was not leaking and the towel had actually been left there to dry,” said Debaashish Bhattacharya, 54, a media professional.

The towel, he, said brushed his face every now and then.

The train was relatively empty and apart from a few murmurs of surprise, there seemed to be no protest. With each passing station, more people got in and the murmurs of disbelief and protest grew louder. Two teenagers in school uniform who boarded the train at Naktala, could not stop giggling at the sight.

By the time the train had left Bansdroni, the seats were occupied and several passengers were standing.

The towel brushed Bhattacharya’s face once more and this time he voiced his protest. “I wondered aloud who could do something like this in a Metro coach,” he said.

A passenger seated in the same row as Bhattacharya said something in a hushed tone to the man next to him. Bhattacharya heard the second man telling the first: Kichhu hobe na, shukote de (Nothing will happen, let it dry)”.

More passengers boarded the coach at Kudghat station. One of them stared at the towel for a few seconds before comparing Metro with a local train infamous for overcrowding. “Puro Bonga local hoye gechhe. Chhobi tule rakhi (Metro has turned into Bongaon local. I should click pictures),” he said.

But the owner of the towel and his companion seemed to care little.

The train had just left Tollygunge when the towel touched Bhattacharya’s face again. This time, he left his seat and announced loudly that he was about to click some pictures of the towel. He did, making sure to include the towel’s owner and his companion in the frame, before returning to his seat. The trick worked — before Rabindra Sarobar station, the owner packed the towel into his bag, this time without consulting his companion.

The city’s transport lifeline has seen several changes. Metro was once known for being a model of propriety with trains always on time, the stations spick and span, passengers speaking softly and announcements always audible.

Now, a train coming on time is rare and snags are common. Despite audio-visual warnings, gutkha packets on the platform and the tracks and occasional tobacco stains can be spotted. The rush to board a Metro is unruly at its best.

“The growing passenger volume, no hike in fares and the carrier’s inability to upgrade infrastructure have been its bane,” said an official.

The utility carries close to seven lakh passengers every day. The count was under six lakh two years ago.