After moving to Mumbai (India) commuting from one place to another was a big problem (as we didn’t have our own vehicle). It seems Mumbai local trains are the most efficient one carrying millions of people everyday. Getting in and out of local trains is one of the hardest tasks particularly during rush hours which every mumbains has to undergo at least ones in their life. So, lot of advice was given from Santanu’s maternal family who are staying here for more than 15 years. Being given lot of advice the matter aroused curiosity within us.
So, on first day things seemed to be very easy unlike the situations which were being narrated to us. Even getting seats were not a problem neither getting down nor boarding was difficult. Thus our first trip by Mumbai locals was quite easy and calm.
By the time we have already traveled twice or thrice for short distance in non rush hours. Now one day we decided to go to Mumbai central and particularly towards south to meet one friend. But, that day our boarding station was quite crowded then ever experienced before. We mustered enough courage to board a train together which was again an experience in itself. While waiting for our train, at platform we saw lots of women were waiting at one particular place which we soon realized that this might be the spot where ladies compartment would be coming.
Normally, all seats are taken by burly or experienced people who time their jump onto moving train with perfection may be comparing them with urban cheetah will not be out of place. By the time train leaves platform its overcrowded with half of people hanging towards outside either to get fresh air or are waiting for next station to arrive. Hardly any place is there for a little fly to get in through the door.
In that crowd you can see people from different walks of life where some are reading newspaper or some are listening to music so loud as if he is playing for his co-passengers or some are snoozing or some are staring while others maybe observing people like me. Even staring at women who has dared to be there in general class is quite common as Mumbai locals don’t believe in chivalry. Being only woman I looked around myself where I found few people are standing like fortress around me, while others staring at me and when I look at those staring eyes I found many people pretending not to.
Santanu is very possessive in certain matters by keeping his arms around me so that no one dares to say or touch trying to make a protecting shell. Somehow after a while we got some place to sit for few stops in the mean time we learnt that if we have to get down at requisite station then we have to leave our seat atleast two stations prior in order to prepare ourselves to get down.
While sitting one experience many other things like depending on your height one get following views - someone’s armpit across your nose; well oiled hair poking right inside your nose; a newspaper across your face; people shouting over phone etc. That’s not last if you want you can look outside even where you see many sitting beside railway track, brushing teeth, answering natures call and what not. Anyhow with the crowd we managed somehow to get off from the train without losing our handbag, sandals or any other personal belongings.
In Mumbai, there are three main train lines, with few junctions where people can change train. And there is no single station where all these three lines connect each other. So getting in or out at any of these junction station is really ultimate one…. rush squeezes to the limit which something I have never experienced before - its intimacy at its best and privacy at its worst…. it’s co-passengers who will make you get off the train where you don’t need to put any effort to walk out. One good push…and you find yourself at station and thanks to god that we found ourself in one single piece and moreover with all our belongings intact and within seconds you realize that crowd which helped you in getting off the train is already dispersed.
And we took a long deep breath…..maybe something new to us but its just one more day for all other mumbaians. While walking past the platform I thought what about those disabled handicapped people, children, aged people, or pregnant ladies…..is there anything for them like in western countries. In certain matters, India needs lot to do to improvise its commuting system for every kind of its citizen.