March 25, 2010

Books Travellers Read in Mumbai Locals – Part I

This is Part I of my ongoing attempt to note the books my fellow travellers read in Mumbai local trains on their way to work and back.

I ride the infamous Mumbai local train network to work each day, unconsciously observing my fellow passengers when I’m not squeezed breathless or pounded into submission in the surging crowds that bring a new meaning to the concept of pressure.

While it is not always easy to move around once inside the train, it is sometimes possible to pull off a picture of the reader and his book. The readers will rarely look up from the books they’re reading. They don’t need to, tuned in as they are to approaching stations from years of travelling on the local train network.

In each installment I intend to feature 7 readers unless I happen upon the same person twice. While this is rare, it’s a possibility if you’re a regular on the suburban locals in the morning rush hour and the fellow traveler loves his books enough to bring a new one along every once in a while. A few others I might meet on trains on my travels around the city on weekends.

I had never heard of Fluke before chancing upon it one evening returning from work. The light was low, yet he barely moved his head from the narrative in his hands. I could make out the rear end of a whale on the cover but little else.

“I found the story interesting. It’s about a whale,” he told me, impatient to return to the narrative.

And I let him dive straight back in even as I wondered what the book was all about, mentally tracing a story I imagined about the whale in the book. In another’s hands there’s much a book cover can tell you if you look at it long enough, and frequently enough. It shortened my journey by much.

I hope Kindle keeps its nose out of Bombay local trains.

On his site, Christopher Moore introduces Fluke thus:

Just why do humpback whales sing? That’s the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me.

(a) Christopher Moore’s Website, (b) Fluke reviewed on Blogcritics, and (c) His Essay: Teaching Yoga to an Elephant.

A blood red cover is bound to attract attention. More so if the book is titled: What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School.

I usually steer clear of advertising lines especially if they strut around on the cover, daring me to ignore them.

But as the train rolled along and the gentleman, for the better part of the hour didn’t so much as look out the window, my curiosity bubble was pricked. I consented by a bit and allowed myself another look at the cover before turning away. I was not done yet.

I imagined the stand-up lines most likely peppering Mark McCormack’s Harvard narrative, the kind of Smart Alec repartees you sometimes get to see in Twitter timelines of urbane, and occasionally Americanised Desis, often passing for conversation while they secretly strut at the brilliance of their tweets. Narcissus would’ve loved Twitter. All the more reason to stay away from the blood red I told myself, turning to the window for inspiration.

And that might’ve been the end of the story but it wasn’t, not by a long way.

One morning, sunlight streaming through the door and what do I see, again? Take a guess.

What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School


He looked every bit a student studying for a Management degree at one of the many Management Institutes in the city.

And when I saw him again a month later, this time immersed in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, I had little doubt that here was a Manager in the making. I had no way of finding out though. Not that it mattered.

If I thought that was the end of the Harvard narrative in Mumbai local trains I was mistaken.

The Harvard narrative returned with The Firm, John Grisham’s gripping tale of Mitchell Y. McDeere, a law student who graduated near the top of his class at Harvard Law School before finding himself in a dangerous bind at Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a law firm in Memphis he had joined on a fat salary.

This time around I would’ve been surprised if the gentleman immersed in The Firm would’ve so much as looked up from the book as I slid into the seat opposite him.

I was left with little doubt that for some reason the Harvard narrative must relish the sweltering confines of local trains driving Bombay’s beat, if for nothing else than for the demands the local trains make on managers surviving their daily commute to their offices.

Published in 1991, The Firm was made into a film in 1993 by Sydney Pollack, starring Tom Cruise in the lead role of Mitch McDeere.

On his website, John Grisham introduces The Firm thus:

At the top of his class at Harvard Law, he had his choice of the best in America. He made a deadly mistake. When Mitch McDeere signed on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis, he thought he and his beautiful wife, Abby, were on their way. The firm leased him a BMW, paid off his school loans, arranged a mortgage and hired him a decorator. Mitch McDeere should have remembered what his brother Ray — doing fifteen years in a Tennessee jail — already knew. You never get nothing for nothing. Now the FBI has the lowdown on Mitch’s firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, with no choice — if he wants to live.

For more, visit John Grisham’s site.

Arthur Hailey is among the authors favoured by travelers on Mumbai locals. Spotting Wheels in the hands of a reader brought back a few memories. Wheels happened to be the first book I read of Arthur Hailey’s.

I had returned to Goa from Bombay after picking up the much used copy of Hailey's Wheels from a roadside vendor in Fort, off Flora Fountain. Those days Fort was happily overrun by second-hand book sellers, and no trip to Bombay was complete without the customary pilgrimage to Fort, and the pavements heaped with second-hand and pirated books.

While there’s no love lost for Muhammad Ali Jinnah in India, even considering that many people will reach across the aisle to tell you in no uncertain terms that we should be glad that he carved Pakistan out of India, happily adding the common refrain: “Imagine being saddled with those Pakistani masses that can never be redeemed from the cult of violence that runs in their veins.” Strong opinions.

It’s rare to find travelers in local trains seeking succour in political narratives. So when I found a college student immersed in Rafiq Zakaria’s The Man Who divided India, I shot him the question - Why this book?

“I was curious of the role Muhammed Ali Jinnah played in the partition of India,” he told me, hence this book,” before continuing, “Much of what they teach us in college is from textbooks. I was curious of Jinnah’s portrayal outside of our textbooks, to read more since textbooks can only cover so much and no more.”

Note: Read Part II and Part III in my series noting the books my fellow travelers read in Mumbai local trains on their way to work and back, and sometimes on their way elsewhere around the city.

A Request: I started out photographing travelers reading books few years ago to build up sufficient numbers that could be converted into posts. I’m all for this concept and my series involving traveling readers pictured with their books being taken forward by others in their cities and I would appreciate it very much if you would note/credit and link back here if this inspired you to do a series or a variation of the series of your own.

Since this is a part of my larger India Book Project involving books and the reading people, I’ll be counting on the link-back for continued and further participation of new readers.

Related Posts in my India Book Project Series

1. Granthayan, A Mobile Book Store
2. Indian Copy


Anjuli said...

What a fantastic post!! How interesting to see the books people read en route to work or home. The diversity is refreshing.

Riot Kitty said...

Interesting - especially the last one. I just finished reading a biography of Gandhi and Jinnah was referenced quite a bit in that book.

Riding public transportation in Mumbai sounds much like riding it in New York, where I went to college.

As always, a delightful post.

Amrit said...

Nice pictures.Well written.

Anjuli:- Why am I not able to see your blog?

pink dogwood said...

I love this post - I will be looking forward to more of this. What are you reading these days?

Niranjana said...

I'm an unashamed voyeur of other people's reading material, so this post was just lovely. And so heartening that the crowds and crush don't deter these die-hard readers. Someone give them a medal, please.

Granny J said...

Hey -- an inspired idea for a post, Anil.

Anuradha Shankar said...

Absolutely superb! loved this one! you reminded me of some wonderful hours i spent in trains everyday, learning so much from my fellow travellers.. while books were of course, a permanent feature, in the ladies compartment, it also used to be handwork - such as crochet and embroidery - and i picked up some wonderful designs on trains!!

Serendipity said...

Fantastic idea :),wow , what a wonderful way to meet new people and thoughts :)!And might I add , I hope you come up with a book of all these compilations , I'd sure as hell buy one!

TALON said...

"Wheels" was the first Arthur Hailey book I read, too. Then I read "Hotel" and "Airport" - all of them my Dad's.

This was such a great post, Anil, and so fun to read. You're right about the Kindle - there would be no interesting covers to ponder. I look forward to more "what they're reading on the train posts"!

Ugich Konitari said...

Having done this trudge (till some years ago)in the trains for a while, I was thinking how interesting it would be if you could have been a fly on the wall in the ladies compartment. Very few would be reading fiction, as such. Several would be quietly going through their ritual reading of some scriptures, a book small enough to fit in your palm. Some would be looking through papers, presumably written by students, and marking them; a few would be engrossed in newspapers, now available to them after the domestic early morning dabba cooking rush; and a child in a uniform, sitting with an homework on his lap would be laboriously transcribing something , timing it perfectly , to finish 5 minutes before disembarkation happened.

This was in 2nd class.

Great post, that inspired these reminesces...

Mumbai Paused said...

This is one of my favourite hobbies too. Reading and looking at what people are reading. And I think the number of people reading and solving crosswords have reduced in the last 4 years.

That's also because more people now listen to music or watch videos on their mobile phones.

The stock of books in the Wheelers have also reduced. It's only magazines and newspapers these days.

Anonymous said...

nice topic to blog on!
I too am guilty of reading even in packed trains with a book dangling from my fingertips

Anil P said...

Anjuli: Thank you. The diversity is quite interesting even though, over the years, many of the books I noticed people reading in public transport were those hyped up in the print media.

Riot Kitty: Thank you. Jinnah is widely seen in India as a person who did very little to push the British out in the years leading up to the Independence movement, but conveniently stepped in after the dirty work was done to raise the stakes by what most people believe here were bloody riots engineered by his Muslim League to force India to concede Pakistan on the back of corpses littering the streets, with the British said to be only too happy to fan the divide further.

This is one key reason why Jinnah is reviled in India. People will tell you that nobody recollects seeing him in the forefront of the freedom struggle like say a Mahatma Gandhi, a Jawaharlal Nehru, a Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a Lala Rajpat Rai, a Subash Chandra Bose, or say a Govind Vallabh Pant - out on the streets battling occupying forces.

I was happy to see him reading the Jinnah book, sometimes more perspectives available to a reader helps develop a better rounded opinion, not always though.

A: Thank you.

Pink Dogwood: Thank you. Joseph Mitchell's Bottom of the Harbour.

Niranjana: So do I :-) It has to be one of the best things of travelling, the books you get to see in fellow traveller's hands, sometimes different covers for the same title if it happens to be a popular paperback.

Reading spaces in public transport, atleast back here in Bombay, are not the most comfortable around.

Granny J: Thank you.

Anu: Thank you. There's so much to be seen on the public transport that it's entertaining to say the least.

Just watching the book cover while the person opposite reads the book there's much one can imagine of the plot. Many a time it is possible to catch the blurb as well.

Serendipity: Thank you. Hopefully that might still happen. Thanks for the faith. :-)

Talon: If not for the book cover visible, if not for knowing what book the traveller is reading I might not've observed the face as closely or attempted to strike an occasional conversation, or worse still we would not try and imagine the personna behind the person reading the book, or even be reminded of our own memories of reading this title or the author.

So there's much to lose if Kindle takes over.

Ugich Konitari: Thank you.

For that to happen the Railway Officials will have to bend the rules keeping men out of Ladies compartments :-)

Much of what you listed is the case when travelling by local trains in Bombay, especially the aspects related to vegetables and cooking, knitting one gets to see in Ladies Compartments.

Watching them go through the tasks is quite an education in humility.

Even in the Mens Only compartments in the local trains I find many dutifully reading the Hanuman Chalisa.

Mumbai Paused: I'm glad to see a comment extending beyond the customary one liner :-)

As compartments have gotten more crowded it's become all the more difficult to read in local trains. This might be one reason why fewer people read books.

The other key reason could be the fact that students have discovered other convenient distractions on the Internet before they could develop the love of reading books.

It's everything to do with whether one is prepared to put in an effort beyond reading the first few lines be it a book, or a newspaper article, or a blog post or risk missing out on interesting narratives. I feel it is this that will eventually determine the health of the reading habit.

Idlichutney: Thank you. Join the tribe :-)

austere said...

Didn't quite expect so much Harvard.

Solid post.

Tanuj @ Live on Campus said...

Very interesting idea. Shared with others on :

Nisha said...

While my favourite hobby is to observe people during travel but rarely click them.

I applaud you for this. it's difficult and different.

Lucy said...

Every now and then someone comes up with an idea for a photo post that is inspired and original yet at the same time you wonder why no one's done it before! This is a great idea, gives en extra insight, and is also a great way to photograph people without your being too intrusive or their being too aware of it! The faces of the readers are wonderful, alert but in repose, and compositionally they work well too, the juxtaposed shapes of books and faces are very satifying...

And I like the way you include personal and general associations about the books and their subjects too.

Wonderful, please do more!

Doli said...

interesting pics :) Harvard seems to be in demand! I might trying reading that book.Although I wonder if you ask the readers before taking their pic? if I was reading, I wouldn't want mine to be taken... just a thought..

Anil P said...

Austere: Thank you.

Tanuj: Thank you for linking up. Glad to know you liked the idea.

Nisha: Thank you. Reading in public places usually means making do with crowds, jostling, and the disturbance along platforms, all of which and more also impact the ability to take pictures.

Lucy: Thank you.

It's striking the calm in the faces as they read the books, even those one would expect to be fast-paced and action-packed.

Their not knowing it helps retain the candid factor to the picture.

There'll be more in the series.

Doli: Thank you. Harvard? That would appear to be so. The might actually be interesting.

As for your question - I usually do not ask for permission before taking pictures in public places. I might've if it was on their premises or in their private space.

Sometimes subjects do realise I'm photographing them but say nothing to the contrary. Out on the street, many a time, I will at times assert my right to take pictures even if I am obstructed. Not all the time though.

On the street most social documentaries rely on the candid factor to come up with images. Without which there's a risk of society, its mores, its expressions being lost to generations to come.

As an art form, street photography, it appears, is struggling in the West [America and Europe] on account of privacy issues in public places even, if I understand it correctly, with no specific law forbidding its practice.

radha said...

Did the people know they were being photographed? Interesting mix of books! Didn't you find anyone solving a crossword or puzzle? You would have ... if I was on the train!

Sudha said...

your post brought back memories of my train trips in mumbai...I have the local train here and people are equally intersting...:)

Anil P said...

Radha: In most cases, no. Reading in public places can guarantee you an interesting mix of books.

Many solve puzzles, usually the crossword puzzles appearing in marathi newspapers.

I restricted this to books.

Sudha: Thank you. Out there, I'm sure travellers on public transport read more books than here in India.

Anonymous said...

wonderful post.
Very interesting topic. I always wonder why people read the books they do.I know I read any and everything!

Pink Mango Tree said...

Hey Lovely! That wud have been an effort!

Anyways, if not anything else, these train journeys compel people to spend time with books!


Indian Bazaars said...

I really liked : "In another’s hands there’s much a book cover can tell you if you look at it long enough, and frequently enough. It shortened my journey by much"

I moved away from Bombay 14 years ago but each time I've gone back, I've made an excuse to be on a local train, just to be with the familiar - a people who never tire of daily hardship, always cheerful and creative about how to handle it!

Absolutely fantastic idea for a blogpost!!

Dave King said...

I'm with Granny J, an absolutely inspired idea for a post and extremely well executed. Fresh, original and full of interest. I don't have time now, but when I do, I'm back to look at the rest of your blog. Thanks for visiting mine, it brought me to yours.

Kamini said...

Interesting series!
I must speak out in the defense of e-readers. I, too, am an avid "real" book lover, and I pooh-poohed the idea of Kindles, E-Readers and other similar devices. However, I was fortunate in having been gifted one, and I must say, that while it will never replace a "real" book in my heart, it does have tremendous value. Think of all the paper saved - my E-Reader can hold around 250 books, and since it is not back-lit, the impact on the eyes is similar to that of paper. My reader comes with a cover, so that it does feel as if I'm holding a book. After all, it's the content that counts, not so much how it's packaged!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I thought the locals are too crowded to take out camera... Good to read

Meri said...

What a great concept for posting. The photos are colorful, people-focused, and food for the book lover.

Julie Wilding said...

This blog is outstanding. Thank you for the kind comment--and for your idea to take pictures of these readers! How incredibly interesting. I'll be back.

Anil P said...

Anon: I could never figure out why people read the books they do. I suppose each reader thinks similarly.

$$: Thank you. It was quite an effort to document it.

I doubt if local train journeys compel people to read. Actually it might be the opposite. They read inspite of the local train experience.

Kiran: Thank you.

They do tire of travelling by the crowded local trains, except that they're tired of speaking about it for want of an improvement in their situation.

A people will go silent beyond a point when they are resigned to their fate, or when they've no hope of anyone improving their lot. Other times they will explode.

The Bombay local train experience for the regular traveller is nothing short of hellish.

Dave King: Yes. Granny J's blog is among my favourite blogs. Thank you for your kind comment about the post. It's a pleasure to have you visit posts here.

Kamini: E-readers of e-books make a choice they're happy with. Nothing wrong with it per se. And I've nothing against their choice except maybe feel for what they might be missing out on.

E-readers are a convenience to the hurried, nothing more. An efficient convenience for one who might not be looking for anything beyond the book content.

As a traveller I might see it differently. I see travel as a sensory experience even when I travel to work. Without a community there're nowhere to travel 'into'. Folks reading books in public places are a community, even in the silences that mark their reading.

A book is a sensory experience. I get to see the cover, read the blurb when the reader holds up the book, and maybe be reminded of the author, or another book by the same author. It might give me an opportunity to strike up a conversation seeing the book a fellow traveler is reading opposite me

Then there's the pleasure of browsing bookshops, of second-hand bookshops on the streets, of browsing through pages and coming upon dedications noted in books gifted to people, warm, sometimes touching dedications. Dedications by people we do not know, to people we do not know.

Imagine how much poorer would streets be without bookshops displaying books in their windows as we walk by. Or what it will be like when we do not have bookshelves stretching end to end, books reaching out all at once as we walk past, pausing, retracing, even as we notice the books others in the room are browsing.

And I'm not even saying anything about books gifted me years ago, the dedications that I now read with fondness, reminded as I am of people who've now passed away, their handwriting holding my gaze, and my memories.

Kamini, books are not merely a convenience as you might make out e-readers like Kindle to be, books are a culture.

Srinidhi Hande: Most times it is more crowded than one can ever imagine. Occasionally windows open up for imagery.

Meri: Thank you. They're completely immersed in the books.

Julie: Thank you. You're most welcome.

grantmebookshelves said...

That's a fantastic idea for a post, Anil. Shame you can't go into the ladies' compartment and check out what they're reading, because, from my years of commuting on Western Railway, I can assure you it is VERRRRY interesting. Soft porn novel called "Silver Angel" was most memorable, more so than Danielle Steele or Mills and Boon.... and this is the time to say that there was definitely some amount of cheap erotica being passed around in a brown paper cover!

grantmebookshelves said...

Oh, wow.... just went off and took a dekho at Amazon, and guess what--- Silver Angel is available!

calgal said...

nice post..very unique. Thanks for visiting my blog. I took more than 30 pictures of that bird, even I felt the one was there except my family and that bird in that beach. I was captivated by the sand, very coarse and they dont stick to the feet. I haven't seen a beach like that.

alexis nicole said...

I loved this post and your blog!!
I will now be curious of what people read in public! You have some beautiful photos throughout.
I have never been outside the U.S.A. so I appreciated the view!

Carrie said...

Love this series! What a glimpse into the hopes and fears of your neighbors.

Unknown said...

How a journey will pass on a train with a book! Thanks for this interesting post and the effort put into it. We lament people do not read enough here and reading on the trains is not obvious at all!

christopher said...

I haven't commuted by train in quite some time. I can't say that I miss it...but I do miss those extra minutes of reading time.

Kcalpesh said...

This is such a coincidence! Just today I was going from Bandra to Malad in a local train and noted a man reading a book named "The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan". Sounds like an interesting book to me :-)

Great observation and a nice series of pictures of traveling readers.

Anil P said...

Grantmebookshelves: Thank you.

And how I wish I could have. I would imagine women in the Ladies compartment read more than those in the Gents. The few ladies who do get into the Gents compartmentsinspite of the crowding are those usually accompanying their relatives or husbands, so rare chance they'll be reading books then.

What you mention is most interesting, and what a furtive attempt it might've been :-) I'll check the link.

Only once I saw a reader with a book covered using a newspaper in the Gents compartment. Curious to find out what he was "ashamed" of reading, I soon realised when he opened the book. It was 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat. No wonder he had it covered :-)

Sak: Thank you. Might the bird have been left behind by its flock, or did it choose to stay behind, I wonder.

Alexis: Thank you. It's a pleasure to hear it.

You'll have a great time noticing the books people read in public places. I sure do :-)

Carrie: Thank you.

Keats The Sunshine Girl: Oh yes, unless the sights outside the windows are more interesting.

There's a good chance that people might indeed be reading less if we were to take the ratio of readers to population at various times over the last few decades.

Christopher: And there's usually company to be had of other readers on trains or other public places.

Kcalpesh: Oh yes, the book is a great account of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the Tamilian Brahmin who shook the world of mathematics with his magical insight.

The Man Who Knew Infinity should make for a great read even if it might be a tad difficult to a lay reader of the mathematics of Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Coffee Messiah said...

I remember one of your posts way back when, about the booksellers on the streets and they're sale of bootleg books, which I never thought about, or see here in the states.

The facial expressions tell much and I was wondering why no women reading.

Never thought about separate areas for men and women.

Nicely done, Thanks & Cheers!

Anil P said...

Coffee Messiah: Yes, the post you're referring to was titled Indian Copy, about a vendor selling pirated books. I suppose in the US, IPR is enforced very strictly and it is a good thing, at least for the survival of the publishing industry.

There are separate compartments for men and women in local trains plying in Bombay. Women are allowed to and sometimes do travel in Mens Only compartments, but men are not allowed into Ladies Only compartments.

The separate compartments are necessary for, it's next to impossible to breathe in Mens Only compartments in rush-hour traffic. It's maddening and nothing will ever prepare you for the experience. The nearest analogy would be the last train out of a war zone with everyone clambering onto it!

jane said...

this was so much fun! i love it!! besos!

mandira said...

i used to travel frequently by trains in my last job.. but i never ever thot of doing a blog post on the kind of books ppl read while traveling! may be because i used to sleep while the world used to read/buy vegetables/talk to the maid on the phone/chat to the neighbour!

indicaspecies said...

I'm a fan of Grisham's books and his The Firm is a real thriller.
Your interesting post reminded me of the time I used to be employed in Mumbai, and of those times when I too would discreetly peek at the titles of books people read while on the local trains.:)

chica said...

Love the post! Great idea.. keep updating us on this. One of the reasons I love travelling in train is picking up a book from the station book stall and reading it. It's so interesting to see what others are reading and specially the regulars!

Bethany Rae said...

How thoughtful of you to read book reviews coming from people's actions concerning what they are reading. It says a lot about you, and I find that very interesting, too.
Thanks for following :)

Anil P said...

Jane: Thank you.

Mandira: Sometimes it can be a lullaby the sounds of folks buying vegetables in trains, or cutting them, or all of the rest you mention.

Indicaspecies: Along with Jeffrey Archer, Arthur Hailey, Sidney Sheldon, and Dan Brown, John Grisham's books are among the more favoured.

Chica: Thank you. That's interesting. Usually most of the regular readers in mumbai local trains bring their books along, either their own copies or as is more likely those sourced from circulating libraries.

Bethany Rae: Thank you :-)

Soma_G said...

Hi Anil,
It was a fascinating read. Reading is like breathing to me, so much so when I sit around at various classes my 9 attends, i always have my current read in hand.

As a concept it is interesting. Waiting for II, III, IV .... more.


Pix E. said...

what a fun post! I went thru a Grisham phase -- reading on the subway is the only way to make the trip nicer. I will read ANYTHING on trains. Once I read a scientific book on Endoxyla leucomochla ( some kind of grub ) that someone left on the train and I was glad to find it, since I'd left my own book someplace. Grubs have more interesting lives than you'd think.

Nancy said...

This was a fascinating "read." I personally loved The Firm, including the movie. I also liked Tipping Point. I know I shouldn't be surprised to see these books on a train in Mumbai, but I am. I guess I just didn't expect so many books to be in English. I think I need to get out into the world more.

But I agree, looking to see what people are reading is interesting.

Serendipity said...


im just amazed. and fascinated!

Sunita Mohan said...

Great post,Anil!
In the ladies' compartment things are a bit different. Most of the ladies seem to enjoy having the time to peel and dice vegetables to pop into the cooking pot as soon as they reach home. There are the usual bookworms too but I'm fascinated by these super-efficient time managers.

Anil P said...

Soma_G: Thank you. It'll take quite an effort to actually get the remaining parts going, but it should be fun doing them.

Squirrel of Nyack: I can well imagine the phases. I went through them as well. Growing up, each time we discovered a new author we had to run through the entire list of titles by the author. John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Arthur Hailey, John Le Carre, Agatha Christie, Alistar MacLean, Ayn Rand, and the like. all of them.

I used to read books on trains before, the long distance trains that is, when travelling out of town. Now I prefer to look out the windows, watching India flash past.

Nancy: Thank you. I find Grisham's The Firm one of his better books.

There're many languages spoken in Mumbai, possibly more languages and dialects than is spoken in most cities. English language is among the more widely spoken in Bombay.

Reading spaces in public transport make for fascinating observing of people and their reading habits.

Serendipity: Thank you. It's very encouraging to see you liked the post on people reading in public places.

Sunita: Thank you.

Ladies have additional responsibilities to handle as well :-)

The bookworms you mention, well the books might be their only escape from the realities of academic and corporate life :-)

Lynn said...

A wonderful sociological observation here, Anil. I took a research class once in which an assignment was to observe people in public places and write about it. I loved observing people on the commuter train anyway, so that is what I did.

Just one thing that happened - a man was reading a book about serial killers. He read intently for a while, then put the book down, looked at me and said, "They should put me in a room with Ted Bundy and I'll take care of HIM!" I said, "Ted Bundy is dead - he was executed several years ago." He said, "Well - if he wasn't dead I would take care of him!!!!" :)

Namrata said...

what a fun project

Gauri said...

What a super theme Anil !! Absolutely looking forward to reading successive posts:) Good luck

Bhakti said...

:)Seeing the impressive line-up of books mentioned here makes me feel a lil sheepish for the times i have surreptitiously read an M&B in the ladies compartment of the Mumbai local!

The teaser on Fluke mentioned here is quirky enough to make me want to check it out!

Very interesting blog!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

I live in Mumbai and have often travelled by train, though not to commute to work. Never looked at book-readers in quite this way!

Tall Guy said...

I must say that I am surprised the number of people reading books in the train, have not come across them even once :(

Good post and thanks for the enlightenment too.

Ms.N said...

firstly - wow on the 60 comments.

everytime i take the train (which is not too often, thank god), i always have a book or 2 tucked. But i find it more interesting to watch fellow passengers, and most often the book is forgotten for the moment.

I also have to agree I havent seen too many book readers on my transit. I also havent seen the see the legendary housewives cutting vegetables on the train scene also - makes me wonder if it is an urban legend.

On an unrelated note, in my recent trip to goa, i was reminded of some of ur descriptions. but sadly, stuck to lazing in the beaches most of the time!

Natasha said...

Fantastic post. I travel by the local train too (in the ladies' compartment), and the only book I seem to find people reading is Two States :-(

Anil P said...

Lynn: Thank you. That's an interesting exercise. I would've enjoyed doing it if I was in the classroom assigned that exercise.

Readers in public places take their books and reading seriously.

The Bundy narrative must've touched off a raw nerve in him.

Namrata: Thank you.

Gauri: Thank you. More of the series should be up in the coming weeks.

Bhakti: It's surprising the book titles one gets to see in the local trains. I hadn't expected Fluke in there. Thank you.

Manju Joglekar: Thank you. Sometimes all one needs is a trigger to look at things more closely than one did before :-)

The Survivor: Many train travellers read books in the locals.

Ms.N: 60+ is a first time here :-) A pleasure really to have feedback coming, more so as their own experiences.

Vegetables, they do cut them. Depends on the space available, and the destinations they're headed to, usually women headed to outlying suburbs. Some buy pre-cut vegetables.

The beaches of Goa can be a powerful draw. But were to experience the other side the beaches may not remain as powerful a draw :-)

Rayna Iyer: Thank you. Add the 3 Mistakes ... to the Two States ... :-)

What About The Girl? said...

So now I am eager to learn what this student is going to read after The Tipping Point!

I tend to browse other people's bookshelves!
And yes, I also look at what people read on the train, or anywhere else for that matter :-)

Ida/FarEastLogbook said...

This is such a neat idea!! I, too, always try to get a little peak at what my fellow commuters are reading when I go to and from work.

PalSin said...

Great blog, thanks for following mine! More later once I have browsed through it :) cheers, pallavi.

Janaki said...

Nice to see others also observe these things.. but am far more curious about how do you'll actually read?? Am told the general compartment is far more crowded than the ladies compartment..

Shyamanga said...

Excellent! All queued up for Part II. Hope you find someone reading Paul Theroux's "The Great Railway Bazaar". Guess he will be quite a character reading the book on a pressure-cooked Mumbai local train ride.

Amber Star said...

I love to see what others are reading, but we have very limited public transportation here in Texas. I'd love to have a high speed bullet train to Houston so I could run down to visit more often. It is a 5.5 hour drive and we are tired when we get there.

Your choice of topic is wonderful. It got a lot of response from your readers.

If you have time or the inclination to play we have been going to our first photo folder, taking the 10th photo and writing a story about the picture for others. I've tagged you, but only if you would like to do this thing.

Anil P said...

TGF Cherry Blossom Street: What a coincidence. Even I was wondering the same. I do not remember happening upon him again, even if I did he must not be reading then else I would have noticed.

Ida Nielsen: It is so much fun. If it's a book one has read before it brings forth memories.

PalSin: Thank you.

Janaki: Readers are so engrossed in the plot that they carry on even when squeezed badly in the local train rush rour traffic.

The Gents compartment is more crowded than the Ladies compartment.

Shyamanga: As a matter of fact I have come across one instance of a traveller on the local train reading the Paul Theroux's railway title.

Amber Star: Thank you. If the US had a robust public transport system I'm sure there'd be many more readers on it than we might see in India.

Thanks for thinking of me for thePhoto Folder. I might have to pass it up, having stuck to a tight travel theme here.

karen said...

This is such an interesting idea, and most fascinating reading through the comments, too! Looking forward to the next one in the series, at some point. In some ways I would love to commute by train, and get a lot more reading done. However a 5 minute drive to work does have its benefits too! :)

Anil P said...

Karen: Thank you. Trains are fun for the community, but if only they were not as crowded here.

Most folks in Bombay would give their right hand to you to be able to exchange with your '5 minute drive to work' :-)

am said...

As a reader from childhood until the present time, this post and photos of reading Mumbai local trains delighted me.

I thought of my father who commuted on a train, 25 miles to San Francisco and back each morning and evening. He didn't read books, but he did read the newspaper. He devised a way to fold his copy of the San Francisco Chronicle so that it was narrow enough not to bother the men on either side of him on the train. When he brought it home in the evening, he would hand it to me, and I would unfold it and read it, spread out on our living room floor.

Anil P said...

AM: Thank you.

Like your father, most people travelling on Mumbai local trains read newspapers. Only a few read books.

I can relate to your description of your father folding newspapers. Folks on trains out here fold newspapers the same way, and for the same reason - to avoid bothering fellow travellers on either side of them.

Nimmy said...

Great idea! And so well written! :-) And what a superb conversation you have going around many people sharing their thoughts and experiences!

Come to think of it, I just realized/remembered that I have never ever been able to walk past someone reading a book without pausing to find out what book he/she was reading. :-P

Also, whenever I travel or commute, I always carry some books...but I tend to get distracted by the people/scenery as well. I sometimes wish I could focus as much as some of your 'subjects' here. :-)

Some Nostalgic Moments said...

really great writing....i too travel everyday between Kalyan and Bandra twice to commute between my office n home....came to mumbai from delhi on 1st of January this year....initially watching people n listening to their conversation on phone was great...but soon the charm faded...

n then u will laugh but yes thts true "Two States n Three Mistakes of My Life" which some of fellow travellers were reading motivated me to spend my time reading in trains....I too read the above two titles in train n yes i too shamelessly flaunted them as if i was onto some classic

Anil P said...

Nimmy: Thank you. The conversation, yes. Reading books goes a long way for each, so many memories associated with the reading.

I'll put that down to innate human curiosity in wanting to know what a fellow human is upto :-)

I prefer to look out the window too, even though I'll seen the sights a thousand times. Something primal about looking out the window.

Some Nostalgic Moments: Thank you.

That's quite a long haul, enough to make the novelty of fellow company in local trains fade away quickly.

Still, the loud phone conversations are quite something :-)

Having to travel by Mumbai local train - State of life, a job that involves travelling by Mumbai local trains in rush hour - a Mistake most of us are hardpressed to rectify :-)

Unknown said...

What an interesting idea. (Am kicking myself why I never thought of this before - tho in the Ladies compartment, women are usually cutting veggies). Very entertaining post.

That's me said...

This is an interesting read.I have lost count of the number of books I finished reading while travelling by locals. A few months back, the only book I saw in the fellow commuter's hand was Two States by Chetan Bhagat. Thankfully, they have graduated to better books.

Superb article :)

Anil P said...

Smita: Thanks. Absolutely, have seen too - women in ladies compartments of Mumbai local trains do cut vegetables, and many other household chores as well.

That's Me: Thank you. Books keep one great company on mumbai local trains, helping one escape momentarily the chaos about.

At one time Chetan Bhagat's books spread like an unwanted summer rash in the local trains.

sony said...

I love your idea of taking pictures of the readers. Very Interesting. I myself read on my daily commute and usu finish at least one book per week :) I can relate to these book readers. Even I hate it when someone wants to interrupt while I am reading my precious book(s). Currently I am reading Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks.

Anil P said...

Sony: Thank you. I can relate to your not wanting to be disturbed when reading an interesting book.

Nothing quite beats being transported by an engrossing book.

I haven't read the book you mention.

Arunima said...

very interesting post. Read the 4th and came back to the rest. Will try out some of them though management books are a no no for me.