Traveling by Mumbai local trains is quite an experience, and each time it can be a revelation.I feel fortunate that i don’t have to do it everyday! Anyone ,who has ever rarely travelled by train here will agree with me. Of course, hats off to our daily local travelers!
I along with my two other bum-chums decided to explore the streets of Crawford market on a weekday. We always move around in cars and it was a difficult decision to choose otherwise.
But Sonika and I, like the more experienced ones(if you consider 6 trips over 4 years in locals ,some experience), decided to beat traffic we must travel by the locals. If everyone can do it so can we .
Dressed in kurtis, sunscreen and sunglasses took an auto (almost begged him ) to the Goregaon station.
From our experience we knew that there is no line for the first class ticket, as it is far more expensive(to cite an example,regular fare from Goregaon to Churchgate is 15 rs/- and first class is 115 rs/-), so happily bought tickets and made our way to the platform.
“C 10.37 F”(I know i am missing a few details ,but bear with me ), I gloated and told them it means that a fast train going to Churchgate is arriving at 10.37 am, so we must quickly get to the platform as it is already 10.34. Time was less, but we did not want to miss the fast train as this would only stop at the important stations of Andheri, Bandra, Dadar, Mumbai Central and then become slow train. We could save a good 20-25 minutes, so we ran and then the search was for the ladies first class compartment. Best way to do that, (signages are confusing) find a bunch of ladies standing together. If that’s not first class crowd then they will atleast guide you correctly.Thankfully, I am not inhibited about asking questions,so this is my regular list; Is this a fast or a slow train? Where is the ladies first class? How much time will it stop at the station etc,etc?
Anyway, the train arrived and we got into a relatively less crowded compartment, much to our relief.
The next thing to do was to check with all ladies sitting down, where they were getting off, and decide and tell them to book the seat for you.Wow! Verbal musical chair concept,because if you don’t, no matter how long you have been standing , someone else will push her way and plonk themselves there. Funny, vague rules, but these are standard! Soon after we had occupied our respective booked seats,there were a string of vendors selling, namkeens, clips, bangles, wallets that did a round and surprisingly the prices were super reasonable. Small scale industries are thriving because of trains, I mused.
Suddenly, there was chaos and we saw a bunch of ladies beating a lad, one of them even retorted loudly, “How can a man board the ladies compartment?He must have some wrong intentions!”. Everyone agreed with her. Some choicest abuses were also uttered, much to my shock.The poor guy pleaded innocence, as he had boarded the train when it was leaving the station and had missed to check the compartment in rush. The women, did not simmer down and he was handed over to the railway authorities at the next station. Finally, we arrived at the Marine lines station,which is the closest to Crawford market.
On our way back from Crawford market, we boarded a Virar fast and this time by mistake we entered a second class compartment. One mistake we made was not to board the train from Churchgate,where it starts its backward journey, as it is mostly empty there.The second one was to board the second class compartment. Anyhow, we entered and decided to make a run for the first class at Mumbai Central where the train stops for a longer time. As soon as the train braked at Mumbai Central, we ran out to the nearest first class sign board, only to realize it was a men’s compartment! So we ran again, but this time the train outran us(the local train will not wait at any station for more than 2 min!)!
We had no choice but to board the next Virar fast which came right after this one. We did manage to locate the ladies first this time, but OMG! We were pushed in. Ladies could you calm down? This is not the last train leaving for Virar or the suburbs. Infact, the best part of the western railways is the frequency of the trains.
Never mind,we also pushed our way in, but Tanu, who is a novice to the whole local train thing was hanging to the door and all the horror stories started flooding my mind. Even before i could react, a lady just scratched my arm badly with her metal bangles and in all the tension I let out a loud “aaaarghh!”. She gave me such a, “whats your problem,weakling?”,look. Then she was all over me because I told Sonika that she had hurt me. “I did not hurt you, my lady, you got scratched!” and then she went on to make me feel nervous,”looks like this is her first time in train!”.
This is where I must have lost my self-control and told her “Thank God for my lucky stars I don’t have to do this daily!”, throwing it back in her face(I was upset!). Sonika, came to my rescue and told the lady categorically that a ‘sorry’ would have been a simple solution to this deed. Anyway, it shut her up. I am guessing what shut her was the fact, that she realised I wasn’t alone, more than her guilt. Tanu, was still hanging to the door, we had to push in to secure her. Her hubby will blame us if anything happens to her. I just picked up our bags, on my shoulder like the local vendors and pushed in further. Thankfully, she was now in. We had to change trains again at Andheri and it was crowded again, but finally we landed at Goregaon station and the ordeal was over. Whew!
Travelling by local trains is tough and it has made women competitive and bitter who travel daily.I realised it as soon as my temper cooled down, and have forgiven the unapologetic lady who bruised me because it is I who feel sorry for her. This was my train travel adventure. What’s yours? Would love to hear it.