ON MOST days, around 6-7 pm, you will see a blazer-clad man playing a flute by the window seat of the local train coming from Churchgate. Some days, the flute is replaced with a pen, a pencil or a camera and 27-year-old Rajib Sarkar is seen either vigorously sketching his fellow commuter or capturing the scenes around him.
Mumbai, Sarkar says, lives in its trains, and he has made these local trains his playground for over four years now. He interacts with strangers and entertains them, either with his songs, photography, or, if they are lucky and have sharp features, a sketch.
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His sketch of an elderly gentleman, standing at the footboard of a crowded train, clasping his bag with force, he said, describes the hurried pace of the city.
Sarkar, who resides in Santacruz and works as an assistant manager (branding and communication) at Deloitte, has been using his three muses — photography, sketching and music — to connect with strangers during his local train journeys. Some of the passengers, of course, think he is “pagal (crazy)”.
He travels in first class as it is less crowded, but chooses the coach adjacent to the second class compartment so he can interact with passengers. “I carry two flutes, one that I play and the other to have jamming sessions with any other musician on the train. Or else, I jam to the sound of the train,” he said, describing his daily twin-train commutes. “If I notice someone looking downcast, I start playing music. It feels good if my music brings a smile to their face. I am a people’s person but I do not want to be intrusive. Here, I can make people feel good without being intrusive,” he said.
He, however, has had his share of unusual experiences. “I like playing in the coach for the disabled as they really enjoy it. But once, a ticket collector fined me for traveling in the coach meant for the disabled. Another time, I was playing the flute at the platform while waiting for the train, inviting a huge crowd. A cop then asked me why was I playing music at the platform, implying that they only allow blind beggars to play music.”
His sketching too is often considered ‘weird’. “When I ask people if I can sketch them, they think I have lost my mind. Some women think I was a pervert. People are too insecure about their looks and sketching is my way of telling them how beautiful they are,” he says, adding that he carries two 15X8cm sketch books with a pen and a pencil to train everyday.
“I have never been bothered with people thinking if I have lost my marbles. I want to do every thing in this one life I have. Many people appreciate my efforts too and ask me for a copy of the sketch,” adds Sarkar.
Sharing some of his experiences, he said often people are seen clasping on to the handles in the train with much more force than necessary or someone traveling from Vashi to Chembur with just one leg on the footboard. “It shows the sense of responsibility the man has. He may have a family to feed and would need to reach office at a particular time. He has no option but to travel that way. These little gestures bring to the fore the emotions that commuters go through while traveling in trains. I could not sketch every little image and started carrying a camera,” he says.
For Sarkar, this is also a process of creativity. “People say they have dull lives. It is because of their attitude. One needs to let go of their fears. One shouldn’t be afraid of interacting with strangers. If you have same experiences everyday, things tend to get monotonous. For there to be creativity, you need to have newer experiences, for which you need to meet new people, interact with them and sometimes allow the randomness of life to take over you,” he adds.