Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mumbai local - Lifeline or life-sucker?

There is the first class, the second class, the third class and much below that at the very bottom comes the cattle class. I have the rare privilege of travelling in the cattle class or as we Mumbaikars proudly like to call them, the local trains, every day.

Like thousands of Mumbaikars I travel to office everyday by public transport. But instead of getting into the trains like normal humans do, we get dumped, or to put it politely, herded into the metal box. Trust me when I say, travelling by train day in day out is nothing less than a main event fight night. The only difference here being instead of two fighters slogging it out for gold, here it is a free-for-all. The 'gold' in this case is a place to sit or during peak hours a place to stand without being mashed from all sides. So you can imagine when I say that the journey each way feels like a lifetime. Two lifetimes if I don't get a place!

Look carefully and you shall find two trains hidden in the crowd.

Try as I might I cannot find a single point that I like about the local trains in Mumbai except that it is the fastest way to my office, albeit not the most comfortable. I hate the crowded trains. It is like a living entity in itself, living and breathing a different life. I hate it when people forget simple manners and etiquette in their quest to find a tiny amount of space. Though I do generally tend to slip in and out of the crowd, there have been times when I have been elbowed on my face or stamped on my foot. I hate it when a man having got no time in the morning to visit the loo, let's loose an anonymous fart so toxic that if used to make a bomb can destroy half the world. What’s more, that person will be the first one to shout and blame someone else. This incident happened on a Monday morning of all days on my way to work. I had to get off two stations before my destination to breathe in fresh air. No need to state the obvious but it destroyed my morning all together. The only other smell that can rival it, is the ‘chameli ka tel’ on a guy’s head. Travel to Bandra by train and more often than not you shall find such a guy. And what's more, he will be of that exact height so that when he stands in front of you his head will be just under your nostrils. Ever heard of nose hair burning? This rare phenomenon happens only when travelling in a local train. I also hate the so called 'seats' which are basically wooden planks you park your asses on and also the fans that do spin, but do not what a breeze is. 

But above all these, what I hate the most is when a woman enters a general compartment during peak hours and in that acute scarcity of space expects to be treated like a lady. Yes lady I will give you as much space as you want, but tell me where the hell do I bring it from? And if that wasn’t enough, she goes and gets a small kid and expects more sympathy! If there was no place for you in the first place, where do I get some for your kid? Haven't you ever heard of a ladies' compartment or a ladies special train? We grumble and complain but at the end give her a space enough to seat two grown up men. This happened to me this evening on my way back from office and is what prompted me to write this post. If I hadn't written this on the train, I'm sure I would have exploded like a time bomb.

So this is how life is inside the local trains. They maybe the lifeline of the city, but they surely suck the life out of you.