15 Minutes in a Mumbai Local

Last week my boss and me were in Mumbai to tick off a few important tasks from our agenda. When we did our booking, my boss made absolutely sure that her America returned colleague does not have to travel via the over crowded Mumbai local. But alas! Destiny had some other plans for us and all the meticulous planning by my boss went for a toss as we entered Mumbai!

We were supposed to reach Dadar station at 10.55 am and as the station was nearing we asked one of the fellow travellers whether the next station was Dadar and he very authoritatively said yes. We got down at the Dadar station and were waiting patiently on platform 6 for one of our friends who was supposed to pick us up. We waited and then called him. The conversation between my boss and the friend was something like this –

My boss: D, where are you?
D: At platform 6, the station master says the train is running late.
My boss: We have reached Dadar. Stop joking around and come and pick us up.
D: Arey baba, seriously train nahi dikh rahi yaha. (I cannot see the train here)
My boss: Which direction is the train track from where you are standing right now?
D: Right
My boss: Then you are at the right side. Platform no.?
D: 6
My boss: Can you see an indicator on top? We are below that indicator.
D (thinking to himself, what on earth is she talking about?): What indicator?
My boss (started cursing): ****,*****,****
Me: Shweta, we have got down at Thane!!

Ha ha ha! That was it! We told our friend that we will take the next local and come to Dadar now from Thane station.

Image Via Indian Express

My face goes crimson red, no not due to anger but because of anxiety. My palms start sweating. Traveling in a local! I start thinking of various reasons to avoid it. I tell my boss, Shweta that I will go back to Pune. She thinks I am kidding.

She gives me the first lesson of Mumbai local travel – get your laptop sack in front so that people don’t pull/push you with your sack at the back. I think she is joking but then realise she is serious as she takes her sack in front. I still don’t do it thinking it to be funny.

The local arrives. Looking at the mad crowd, I tell Shweta let us take the next local. She pulls me in front of her and as numerous women board the ladies compartment I am automatically forced into the local. We have to get down after 3 stations and standing in that crowded local with luggage starts becoming a nightmare. Women are pushing and making way as the stations arrive. I am being swinged between poles. At one point I think of pushing everyone out of my way but cannot. I stand there amidst these Mumbaikars wishing Dadar comes soon enough.

I look at people around me. Pregnant women also travel in these locals, I feel embarrassed about my self. They can travel in her and I am making such a big fuss. I see college going girls very handily speaking in their headphones with their friends standing as if they are strolling in a garden and talking. I see women discussing office gossip. I hear women discussing home problems. I feel the pulse in the local of Mumbaikars for whom this is just another day unlike me. And then I realize, how a local binds all of them together where many of them spend a considerable amount of time in here traveling.

As Dadar arrives, I am pushed out with force easily with the women heading out in full speed to their respective destinations starting their just another day in Mumbai. While I thank God for letting me survive this ordeal and feel jubilant as we see our friend finally on platform 6 of Dadar station!

They tell me it was off hour and hence the local wasn’t crowded! I smile to myself thinking where would Β I have been in a rush hour local!

Salute to all Mumbaikars and their spirit for making each day count and making me realize in awe how each Mumbaikar repeats it every single day!

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