Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mumbai diary 4 :Survivor's guide to Mumbai local

This blog is for all those brave souls who want to travel Mumbai local for the first time. Without  the experience of Mumbai local train you will never experience Mumbai in its true sense.

There are three main local train routes, namely Western, Central and Harbour. Having decided to take a ride on any of the lines. Here is step by step survivor's guide to take a trip on Mumbai locals.

Firstly, make sure in which compartment and which class ( there is first and second class for every local train)you want to travel. There are many categories of compartments on local trains. For e.g. ladies compartment ( no men are allowed to travel in these)or luggage compartment or compartment reserved for handicapped and senior citizens and lastly general compartment. You will understand this only after few days of regular travel. If you are confused , then simply ask the hawker or newspaper vendor on the platform and he will point out the coach which you want to get in.

Next, orient yourself towards the compartment to get in just 30 seconds. Do not stand still or you may get pushed down by the crowd trying to come towards you. Move along with the crowd. Here comes the art part. Remember the birds who fly in flocks? They fly in perfect harmony and unison like one entity. Now suspend all your logic dissolve all your ego and BE THE CROWD, just like birds in flock. Time will STOP for you. You will never know how you entered the compartment. But you will.

 Allow yourself to be pushed and pulled, while maintaining your balance. As the train starts moving you might be still somewhere 'inside out'. But be assured some one inside will be pulling you in and some one outside will be pushing you in. In few moments you will regain your Ego and you will realize you are finding hard to breath. As you gasp for fresh air you scream out loud, "move in"
( andar chalo). Don't feel ashamed for shouting in crass way. You are just voicing all the passengers mind. Slowly mass of passengers starts shifting slowly like a tectonic plates beneath the earth ; adjustisting  making space and slowly moving forward and backwards. Now You have to make a split second decision weather you want to alight next stop or get in side compartment for the last destination. Here is a warning . You have to be really quick. Or you may get abused both physically and verbally. Take it a with a smile. This way you can practice  dharma of non violence.

Once you  decide to move in the inner enclave of the bogey you will notice there are seats on which some commuters are seating.  You have no chance of getting a seat as the women who are occupying them have reserved them from the starting destination and they will probably occupying it till the last destination. But don't loose heart. You look around and scan the the people then take a guess and see anyone looks kind enough to share her seat for a while and start moving towards her.  If you are lucky you may even get a seat for 15 minutes of the next one hour journey.

By now, you can barely stand  straight as  weight of other women is crushing your back. But hold on.  You will very soon forget how miserable your condition is. There is lot of entertainment even in that crushed situation. Very soon a vendor will appear making way with  bunch of accessories. Earrings, bracelets, hair clips, bindis bangles you name it  and she has the latest fashion accessory in her cardboard box. Some seated passengers will  take the box and will rummage though her goods . You watch her go though the process of selecting , bargaining and buying a small hair clip worth 5 rupee for next half an hour. You are so engrossed in observing the  drama that you forget that you are standing in most painful position. By now half of your journey is over.  Crowd has reduced by now as some of the passengers have disembarked in between stations. You are little comfortable as you can stand straight.  You look around taking a deep breath for the first time. A woman who is seating in the corner is calling you. Yes she is stranger to you and yet she is smiling at you and making a gesture to come near her.

You make a decision and  push towards her seat. She gets up and says" Take a seat. You have been standing for a while". You are bit confused but the friendly smile tells you that you are lucky today. You some how push on that small space and as your legs gives in you  land with a thud . women seating next you gives you a dirty look yelling “You are seating on my chunni . " Oops! Sorry, I am very sorry" that's all you need to say.

As you settle in the seat the woman who offered you the seat thrusts her hand bag in your lap. You are supposed to carry her load for her kindness and remember you can occupy the seat strictly for 15 minutes. This is only a courtesy seat that needs to be returned to its owner with gratitude before the final destination. Train meantime will be somewhere near to its destination. Start preparing for disembarkation.

The art of disembarking is as delicate as art of alighting Mumbai locals.
NEVER, and I say never  stand next to the door or you will get 'washed' away like the force of tsunami of oncoming passengers.  In Mumbai local the rule is you allow the passenger to get in first and only then you get out. Although  railway announcement might be informing you other way. Remember  the rule how one had dissolved the ego and entered the the compartment? Allow the the 'ego less crowd to scramble in the compartment. You mean time hang on tight to the bar next to you. Within few minutes every one who has to enter in has grabbed a seat for themselves, you prepare to get out of the coach . You have just  30 sec to disembark. Hurry! run towards the door and jump on the platform before the train starts moving again. Thank god for landing you safe on your two feet.  Once on the platform merge with the moving crowd.

Congratulations!! you have successfully completed your first journey on Mumbai local.

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