Crores of people. The hustle and bustle. Huffing and puffing up and down the stair bridge or across platforms. Different commute lines – Western, Central and Harbour; and now the Metro. 7:07am, 8:47am or 5:23pm; are all important time. It is not just about the time, you see; it means planning and strategy – how to reach the platform ahead of time, ensure you are standing at an appropriate angle and in front of others so as to board the train before it halts.
Phrases like ‘Kahan utarna hai (where are you getting off at)’, ‘Dahisar?’ or ‘Mahim kaunsa side?’ are very common. Important too, for navigating through the crowd. At times, just a hand gesture is enough to get you your answer. Hint: A tap on your shoulder is a question to know if you are going to get off at the next station!
Relationships fostered during the commute can last a lifetime – be it friends, colleagues, partners or enemies. And trust me, you don’t want the latter. Falling asleep during the commute is natural, but waking up before your stop is a skill, honed to perfection with the amount of time spent travelling during peak hours. Be rest assured, if you have slept through until the last stop, you will be woken up by the next set of commuters who check on you.
My love for travelling by a local train was inculcated in me by my dad who ensured my brother and me were taken around only by public transport, in particular, trains. ‘Be ruthless’ he said, if you need to travel in one piece. Well, I was never that. Being the shortest among my friends helped and ladies in the second-class compartment can be really kind and lovely. Well, most of them are. I learnt the tips and tricks from these pros during numerous train journeys even at odd hours. The trains are never really empty. If you can find place to stand comfortably, it is termed as ‘Trains are relatively empty’. Finding empty seats is truly bonus (happens during off peak hours only).
Come rain, sun, wind or even the terror attacks, this mode of transport has barely stopped. A huge portion of Mumbai’s population depends on this. “Local” (as it is termed) is truly Mumbai’s lifeline.