If you remotely heard about Mumbai in your life time, you have heard about it’s local trains. In a city where “Taxi” automatically means it’s the Black and Yellow Cabs and not the suave Ubers and Olas of the world, I happen to use local trains as a mode of conveyance like the many million Mumbaikars. These trains are simply referred to as “Locals”. It’s been 4 days of commute to and from work in the local and I have already experienced empty locals, full locals, full beyond capacity locals, and full enough for you to never even get close to the door locals. While the experience is a little overwhelming, it’s also something I always wondered about as a kid. Yet, whenever I swung my Mumbai as a kid I had insisted on taking a Cab, errr Taxi instead of locals. Those monstrous trains could be scary, astonishing, but scary.
Numerous known and unknown people have told me that in Mumbai locals are your best friend and I would agree with them now. Much like how every best friend would every now and then pull a prank on you, the locals did that to me just yesterday. While on Day 3 of my prestigious travel back to home in a local, I casually stood in the compartment as the train filled up. I travel in First Class which makes no difference apart from the expensive fare that you pay. I was standing there in between 2 exit gates of the compartment and around me was a hoard of people. I couldn’t move an inch even if I wanted to. In my mind I was sure that when my Station “Andheri” arrives, the ones standing near the door will get off and I will get off with them. Then Andheri arrived.
I stood there waiting for people to move forward, get off the train. They didn’t. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Why aren’t people getting out, it’s an important station I thought to myself. So I decided to be a true Mumbaikar and push my way out. The moment I launched myself forward I was thrown back by a bunch of guys coming my way. Where did they come from? It was pandemonium. In a compartment with no space, there were people boarding the train instead of leaving. The train only stops for a few seconds and at this point I had made up my mind to forget about getting down at Andheri. I was at the crowd’s mercy now to alight at the next station.
Call it an Adrenaline rush or just foolishness, in a last attempt to save myself an unwanted trip and the risk of getting caught without a ticket as my monthly pass is only upto Andheri, I shouted “Muje Utarna Hai” I want to get down. Immediately the man in front of me turned to look at me. He saw the sadness that was lingering on my face, and the embarrassment of not knowing I had gotten on a long distance train and wasn’t standing near the gate. He smiled, I was relieved. Then he said, “You can’t now, you are stuck”. What do you mean I am stuck? I was furious, about to cry, the city I am calling home for more than 2 weeks had begun to show its colours. I didn’t like it. But, this is where I live now. So, I became a true Mumbaikar and pushed again shouting “I have to get down”.
The universe was on my side. It had already been more than a minute and the train hadn’t moved yet. I sprang ahead tapping people on their shoulders, asking them to move so I can get out. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was easier for Katya and me to get out of the Duke Dumont Concert we attended in Krakow than it was for me in this bloody train. With the fear of train leaving almost any second now, keeping a check on my wallet, my laptop bag, and my phone, I kept pushing, moving ahead, shouting, pleading and most importantly enjoying. The fear was gone, the urge to get down that train had given me a new sense of rush in my mind. It was the goal and I was supposed to reach it. And I did reach it.
The last yard was a difficult one. The people on the door didn’t want to move as they feared the train would move as well. Ultimately the other guys shouted with me to let me out and it worked. 3 people got off the train to give me room to detrain and I did. I had won. This small victory was a stamp of achievement in my Mumbai Diary, in what will be, hopefully, my city, my Mumbai. I hadn’t realised that all this time another gentleman was piggybacking on my efforts to get out of the train as well. As he got down, he shook my hand and thanked me for helping him. When he was gone, I checked my wallet, Phone, Bag and my watch. Everything intact. I left the train to catch the metro home.
I took my phone out to catch a final picture of the train as I took the stairs. That is what it looked it.
The next morning, today morning, I came to station to find a train so full I didn’t board it. I had no intentions of being a Mumbaikar and pushing my way in. I patiently waited for another 8 minutes for the next train and boarded it. I managed to get to office on time as well. Life isn’t that difficult here, but trains, they surely are.