In order to create “deaf spaces”, where “deaf sociality” and sign-language use are the organising principles, hearing-impaired people strategically board particular trains and particular compartments, and sometimes remain in the train beyond their original destination, according to a paper published in the Journal of Cultural Geography.
The article focuses on the bonds created between Mumbai’s hearing-impaired people who travel in compartments reserved for disabled people, chatting and exchanging news and information.
Mobile phones are used to coordinate meetings in the trains and stations, and to spread information on events, which are typically travelled to by train and further discussed in the trains. The diversity of people meeting in trains is high, with regard to gender, age, religion, caste and class.
In Mumbai, the movements of such people are planned “from above” in that they follow train schedules and use existing infrastructure. At the same time, and equally important, mobilities are staged, performed and lived “from below”: hearing-impaired people board particular trains or compartments for the disabled depending on time of the day, the destination, distance from foot overbridge at origin/destination, and desire to meet or rather avoid (particular) people.
There is a combination of punctuality through clock time (train schedules) and fluid coordination through mobile phones. Because these compartments provide a diverse range of deaf people a space for daily meetings on the way to and from their workplaces and families; they are very important spaces to maintain and expand networks in the wider Mumbai deaf community, the paper states.