My tryst with the Mumbai local train

Ever since we came to Mumbai over a month ago, I have been looking at the locals and wondering if I would be able to put my foot inside one of them and to travel as I used to do all those years ago. But pragmatism advised me to take it easy since the old bones and eyesight were not the same nor were the crowds. ‘But I travel by the Delhi Metro,’ I told my pragmatism. ‘Sure, you do, but that is a cakewalk compared to the locals,’ jeered pragmatism. Browbeaten I kept quiet.

The last time I was here, it had been for a short time and so when I looked at the local train I would remember the times I used to commute by it. But this time since my stay has been for a longer period, I began going down memory lane.

Now, the difference between remembering and going down memory lane is like the one between an anecdote and a story. The former is short and to the point while the latter is replete with situations, events, people and even emotions and rambles along. Since recounting my trips down memory lane would be lengthy, I am sharing some of my remembrances of commuting by second class in Mumbai locals:

  • How getting out of bed just two minutes after the alarm went off at 5 AM would become a cumulative delay of a whole half an hour as you missed your 8.25 bus to the station and then the 8.53 local to work and then had to stand in line for the share taxi to take you to office – all adding up to 26 minutes of lateness.
  • How you have to surreptitiously keep glancing at the clock even as the little one clung to you in the morning and wanted you sleep a little longer.
  • How your commute friends reserved a seat for you when you managed to get into the compartment.
  • How a girl on the footboard had fainted and would have fallen off had a eunuch not held her till the next station. And how, at the end of it, the eunuch was a hero.
  • How with just two minutes to spare for your train, you had run all the way from the bus stand to into the station, over the bridge, down the stairs and into the compartment a fraction of a second before the train pulled out – and then had your heart thump for a whole twenty minutes – yes folks, I had timed it!
  • How you missed the beggar who sang so well and made you wonder what Bollywood music directors were doing hunting for talent all over the country.
  • How you narrowly escaped falling out of the train when a fisherwoman lifted both your legs off her basket where your feet had landed as you boarded!
  • How housewives who got place to sit cleaned greens and shelled peas to save time while cooking after reaching home…
  • How the hawkers of everything from trinkets to scouring pads bring their wares in cardboard boxes and give them to the ladies as they wait for them to pick what they want and pay for them. There is so much trust in Mumbai that it is something one has to see to believe. It would never cross the mind for the women to sneak an extra pair and it would never occur to the hawker that this might happen!

Whoa, even the memories are so many. I could go on and on about hundreds more. That is what makes the Mumbai local train travel so full of life and interesting.

Coming back to the present, age has caught up with me. Had I been commuting regularly, it would not be difficult but with a gap of over two decades the prospect looked daunting indeed. The younger one shot it down every time I mentioned taking a local anywhere. But the day before yesterday, I decided to find out if I still had it in me. I was near the station  and before pragmatism opened its mouth I went and bought a ticket and got into the train!

It was just as crowded as the Delhi Metro during peak hours, only it was off-peak hours in Mumbai when I boarded the train! So what? I had boarded it and got down at the right station too, didn’t I? The announcements of the next station on the line made me relax as it sounded like the Metro announcements.

Having successfully completed a dry run, I went the whole hog yesterday, starting during off-peak hours and returning during peak hours – even changing lines – all in a second class compartment! I forced the L&M to get me a second class one and first class one for himself.

When the younger one called and I told him that we were waiting for the train, he screamed in alarm, ‘Amma, you will not be able to make it! Take a cab and come back!’

‘Appa has bought a first class ticket,’ I said and cut the line. I wasn’t telling a lie, was I?

The train came crowded as expected but I managed to be among the first few to board the compartment and then quickly got a ‘fourth seat’ in the seat for three, precariously perching in the few inches conceded by the third-seat-wali, with most of my butt hanging in space. I braced against the seat across the aisle and kept an eagle’s eye out for any seat falling vacant.

The girl on the third seat told me that the woman in the opposite seat would get off at the next station. Regular commuters know who gets off where and park themselves strategically near those and quickly occupy the seat as the person gets up. As I said previously, trust is an important part of life in Mumbai. It is simpler to be honest and follow rules. Ultimately you save time and THAT is an important commodity here.

So I trusted the girl and got up to ‘stake my claim’ to the seat. And it was a second seat, which meant that it was comfortable and I didn’t need to squeeze myself too much to accommodate a fourth one! Now, that was an accomplishment, wasn’t it? I sent off a text message to the brat about it and relaxed.

I might not be able to do something like this on a daily basis any more, but I had proved to myself that I could still do a lot of things I used to do all those years ago – guage the speed of the train and get into it careful not to lose a chappal, and then hunt for seat before plonking myself on to it.

For the moment, I felt as if I had indeed come home; for you can take a person from Mumbai, but can’t take Mumbai out of her and certainly can’t take the Mumbai local train out of her!

Image courtesy: Burrp.com

76 comments

  1. I used to travel by the Bombay locals in the 80s and 90s. The macchhiwalis used to spill a little water from their tokris and everyone used to move away giving them room. Now, I thought they’d started using separate compartments. Also, we all used to peek into the newspaper of the woman who was doing the Midday crossword, itching to tell her the answers we knew! You’ve started us all off Zephyr 🙂

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    1. Oh yes, they did that to give themselves enough space. Who would want to go to college or work smelling of fish 🙂 There are as many memories of the local trains as there are commuters, I guess. Go on, share them 🙂

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  2. Very brave of you, I would say. I had my first tryst with the Mumbai Local a few months ago. Still can’t believe it wasn’t rush hour then.

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    1. You can never enjoy the local trains unless you are a Mumbaiyya at heart. As for the crowds, that’s why I like the Delhi Metro. It is comfortably crowded at the worst peak hour too and practically empty at other times.

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  3. Wonderful narration.

    Travelling on the trains is an experience in itself. Most people start with fear of travelling on the train in their mind, but when they conquer these barriers, the happiness knows no bounds.

    Loved the last lines!!

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    1. Are you a Mumbaiite too? I mean, you need not live here right now, but you know what I mean? Well, happiness out of the journey can come only when you love the city and the locals. Some people can’t wait to stop commuting. Julia had said in her comment that she left Mumbai to get out of commuting!

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      1. Yes, I am 🙂

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  4. This is an awesome rendition…Whenever I used to go mumbai i used to be awestruck with how people manage to do this daily. My aunt used to travel daily used to tell how u just need to reach the station u dont need to put an effort to get into the train…even if u dont want to in a min u would be inside one…..

    I can say am still used to it because I had gone to mumbai but after marriage once my peaceloving husband came with me to mumbai he was spooked out of his life seeing the mayhem as we just got of the train and was supposed to get into the local:-)

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    1. LOL, actually there is a method to the madness. It might look like you will be swept in and out of the train if you stand facing the right direction, but it is not so, as you discovered 🙂 there is a specific way you brace you body, run your eye over the crowd waiting to get in and place yourself strategically and then at the precise moment, jump in or out, as the case may be. Do read Maddie’s comment.She has described it graphically and too well 😀

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  5. Unless you get down in the terminus, you need to know which side of the train the platform will be; within the 30-40 seconds it stops at a station, you need to force yourself out of the train.
    I remember groups singing bhajans and aarties and groups playing cards unmindful of the crowd.

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  6. Saru Singhal · · Reply

    It’s a universe in itself, brimming with life and experiences. Sounds fascinating and adventurous. I used to commute in Haryana Roadways bus and that taught me a lot of things. You feel like Bipasha Basu in beedi jala le with all the rough men dancing around me. Believe me, travelling with jats is hell of an experience, specially when you are a tiny creature as me. I have traveled in Mumbai locals but my stint was very short and I enjoyed it. For delhi metro I all want to say it – I love it. It’s the lifeline of NCR.

    Thanks for writing this post. Loved it!

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    1. Haryana Roadways? I regularly shuttled between Chandigarh and Delhi for nearly four years a decade ago.It can be an ‘experience’ indeed 😀 If you could enjoy the Mumbai local even for a short stint, you will love it in the long run, of course with all the cursing and cribbing regular commuters do, mostly good naturedly. As for the Delhi Metro, there is no comparison. One is a technological marvel and the pride of the nation while the other is the lifeline of a city and a marvel of human nature 😀

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  7. Who said you are old woman, Zephyr? You cannot be old if you travel by a Mumbai local train at peak hours and live to tell the tale. 😉

    I haven’t commuted by Mumbai’s local trains for the last 15 years or so as taking a BEST bus to work is more convinient. But if I have to travel to South Bombay, it is always by train. And every journey is a gentle or sometimes not so gentle reminder of how I take so many things for granted. And nothing is more stark than when I am returning home after attending a concert or some theatre performance. I am always humbled by many visibly tired women getting into the train after completing a second shift at work, and yet manage to chat and catch up with one another.

    Many people I know tell me that I am lucky that I do not have to travel by local trains. But sometimes, and especially when I hear or read about train tales, I do wonder if I am missing out on something !

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    1. You know, like riding a bicycle or singing, commuting by the local train is something you never forget how to do, I guess 🙂 And ahem..I am pretty agile when it comes to navigating crowds, of course during the day time. Like I said in reply to another comment, the local train can teach valuable life lessons to us if we cared to learn them. And yes, you may be right in that you are indeed missing out on something. But enjoy the more manageable BEST rides when you can 🙂

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  8. Your post has made me nostalgic and brought back memories of my college days. Travelling through the locals is an experience in itself. Getting into the train is an art, specially if you are travelling second class. It’s like a battle or war. You stand on your toes, strain your neck and see the train coming in slowly into the station. The chats and murmur stop and there’s a silence as everyone plans their strategy to board the train. You see a sudden shift in the attitude of all the commuters. Their body language changes, the women adjust their pallus- dupattas are tied around their waist, purses and bags held in defensive positions, elbows and arms in attacking position and then tora tora tora -attack! Once you have made it inside the compartment there is a sense of superiority and achievement. 🙂

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    1. That’s exactly how they do it, right? I had practised quite a lot to be able to jump into the empty train as it came into the Churchgate station,just as I preactised jumping in to a crowded one. Oh, for a foothold! And if you get a seat, facing the direction of the train, it is nirvana! Your description of the whole exercise made me laugh aloud 😀

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  9. Rashmi Shetty · · Reply

    Now this hit the heart right away!!..GG i met my best-est friend ever courtesy Indian railways!

    All that u explained in points are what my train memories are made of..its been 5 years since i used the train regularly but i cud connect with all u said just like that!..its the lifeline of mumbai..and here u see the generosity of spirit, the adjustments and the infinite ability to smile through all of lifes ups and downs..

    Oh when i was pregnant with aadi i remember how everybody wud look after me..i was offered fruits, popcorn, water etc etc:-)..

    And as mentioned earlier i met Anjali – my personal angel courtesy indian railways..what began as 7:52 am train friends is now a lifetime friendship!!..super loved this post!!

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    1. Those who love Mumbai would always have a special place for its local trains, because without it, the city has no life. And yes, we can see the best and worst in people here, but mostly it is the best! Super happy for you to have met your best friend in the locals. If that is not enough to hold it dear, what else could be?

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  10. We must have travelled daily around the same time years ago, I think. Your amazing post brought back all the memories. I still go from time to time, whenever I have to visit the “city”, and have my own old memories about the macchiwalees…..(a perfectly made up, not-a-hair-out-of-place, tall stauesque, model type stood blocking the central area near the door, and refused to respond to the machhewalees entreaties to move aside as they gathered their baskets to get down . Finally, they called out to her “Aga Padmini, zara side denaar ka ?” and the lady moved side with great fashionable disdain 🙂 while the compartment cracked up….)

    And about the Eunuchs. Read my story :

    http://kaimhanta.blogspot.com/2007/09/encounters-of-touchable-kind.html

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    1. Loved the bit about ‘Padmini’ 😀 These little asides and jokes are what made the commutes bearable and even interesting. Not to speak of the great ideas for a feature! It feels good to remember the good things doesn’t it? Read your lovely post but couldn’t post a comment. I will do it tomorrow morning. Open Id acts up in the evenings.

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  11. G.N. Balakrishnan · · Reply

    It is a realistic portrayal of a hectic life of every citizen of the metros. One has to pay the price, if you bargain for such thrills, till you are on the threshold of oblivion. But at my age, I can ill afford to take the risk of landing at the lovable BOMBAY, though I would very mush like to.

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    1. Long commutes ensure the life of an automaton for those who live in large cities. But the human angle and the interesting encounters make it all easy to take, though sometimes the grind gets to you. If you haven’t had experience of the locals in the city, it would be difficult to try and venture into them now. 🙂

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  12. Zephyr, your ability to crank post after post that draws in the readers is remarkable. I’ve travelled just once by Mumbai local train, and yet felt compelled to read through! I loved the line “For the moment, I felt as if I had indeed come home”. I guess we derive comfort from even the most uncomfortable rituals from our past for the memories they hold for us.

    As for my only local train experience, it was in college and with a group of classmates. One of us got pickpocketed (we had Madrasi written all over our foreheads, I am sure). We did figure out who the pickpocket was and gave chase through the train and at the next stop. The guy disappeared faster than money entrusted to Suresh Kalmadi.

    Look forward to an article on Chennai (my hometown) from you these days. cheerio!

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    1. Thanks What ho! I am glad you felt compelled to read it despite travelling only once by the local and despite being a victim of pickpocketing. That should be proof enough that a nagging strain in the writing does exist and people are suckers for being nagged 😀

      And the reason you got relieved of your wallet has nothing to do with being a Madrasi but that ‘asadu’ was written all over your faces. *runs away before being clobbered*

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  13. Lovely Zephy! The only thing you forgot to mention was a game of cards played while standing in the local train in Mumbai! Something to be seen to be believed! I roughed it out for an year and can relate to everything you said, in good old days:)

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    1. You forgot that I travelled in a ladies compartment and have heard about it, not seen it 🙂 There are bhajan mandalis too, much to the chagrin of the other commuters! The best thing about the locals is that after a while these things either stop bothering you or become part of your consciousness. But of course, that is true of all things in life, isn’t it?

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  14. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    Lively observations! I guess Delhi metro ride is different from the Mumbai local experience.
    I haven’t been in a Mumbai local train, only seen it in movies.
    Today I took my first metro ride from Gurgaon to INA……pleasant experience. Even though I had to pole dance for most of the time. It was crowded.

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    1. Mumbai locals are stuff of Bollywood stories, indeed. I used to get the stuff for my articles by observing the commuters and letting my imagination run amok. Metro crowd that ways is more professional and reserved except for groups of students. Maybe in another decade or so things will begin to be like Mumbai locals, though we will never have the vendors or the beggars to add colour and character. The Delhi Metro is the pride of the nation that way.

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  15. hey, that is a beautiful piece, I could almost see you hanging out of the elusive “fourth” seat on the train. very nice.

    the time business about Mumbai is so right. decades ago, i stayed for four days and the friend who was driving me to the place of business, would be anxious about “catching” the 8.29 green signal for a signal free corridor or something like that. I would gape at him disbelievingly wondering what would be so wrong if he did not and then I realised that it meant a whole “15” minutes delay and going by Mumbai standards, that is a “sin”.

    great piece. I hope you are going to publish your blog pieces some day.

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    1. Nice to see your beautiful smile here after a long time 🙂 The fourth seat is really a pain, but one which you can’t pass up because of the possibility of it becoming a third one 😀 As for the cumulative delay, I couldn’t afford to be late for the simple reason that I needed to come back on time too — with two kids and a home to run while my colleagues were mostly single and could afford to come late and leave late. So the tension of catching the precise local.
      As for publishing the pieces, I wish I could find a publisher, but tumhare munh mein ghee shakkar for suggesting it 🙂

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  16. I love travelling by trains-local or otherwise. So many people to see, so much to hear. And one place where even in a crowd I could be alone.
    but for the past couple of years have not ventured on the local alone. Too afraid to try but your post encourages me… maybe this summer I will try 🙂

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    1. Do it. One way to conquer fear is to take it head on and then dare it. It usually is there as a mental block which goes the moment you step into the adventure. It gives you tremendous self confidence, especially if you have become slightly handicapped and have needed some help in the recent past. If I can do it, so can you 🙂

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  17. Tee hee. And then, bam!

    Am born and brought up in Mumbai, so a healthy dose of train-traveling is inevitable. Started immediately after finishing school. Teenage wisdom led us to play pranks for thrills: Get in a 2nd class compartment of a Virar fast at Churchgate, move your way across to the other side, and get down at Andheri. Bets for 100 bucks.

    Over the last five years or so, have mostly lost touch with it all. For almost a year I traveled the wrong side – Andheri to Borivali – so the very much existing wrong side traffic was useful in a sense. But other than this stretch, I’ve been very sporadic in my travels. Nowadays, I value my time a bit more so prefer autos and taxis, rather than trains. Thanks to this, I totally lost all touch with what ‘closeness’ really meant.

    Some weeks back I traveled by train after almost a year – and what a reality check it was. The crowds and noises that I had been used to were unsettling me now. I was shocked at the change in myself – this was not the real me. I would like to think that a feeling I was used to, I would never forget. But this was surprising. And the revelation even more unsettling. Deep introspection took place, and after a couple of weeks when I retook the same journey, I was more comfortable.

    Ages back, Readers’ Digest had a beautiful snippet on the trains, let me try recollect:
    “As a man pushes through the crowd trying to lunge at the door of the running train, not sure if he will be able to make it, a number of hands come out like a flower opening its petals, and pull him in. They all know the hurry, the pain, of reaching office late, or the delay caused by missing the connecting train. The compartment is jampacked, yet they have pulled him in. They did not see whether he was Hindu or Muslim, Black or White, or what clothes he wore. He is just a worker, struggling to make ends meet, just like them. Come on in, they say, we’ll adjust.”

    AFAIK, this was after the riots/bomb blasts. 19 years to the day, so kindly adjust if I am mistaken somewhere in the writing.

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    1. I have known the local trains to do a lot of things for a lot of people, being a lot of things to more people, but never imagined it to be Bodhi Tree! Wow, Grondmaster! It is true that as we go forward in life and age, we change and sometimes go away from our true selves, sometimes away from the world around us, even if we remain rooted there. This is what must have happened to you. It is all part of our evolution. Loved the quote from RD. That is also the spirit of Mumbai, which again is undergoing a change and let us keep our fingers crossed that the spirit of camaraderie, empathy and compassion prevail over more trivial things.

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  18. Mumbai has been and will always be meri jaan since I left Nagpur 22yrs ago and local train is a prep school that prepares you for a life in Mumbai.Nothing matches up to that experience.I hardly take the local way to commute now but boy do I love them…..they are the life line of this city like blood rushing through the arterial network of a body.Gawd I just get carried away when it comes to Mumbai.
    Did I tell you I loved the post? 🙂 🙂

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    1. Thank you for loving the post. Another one from Nagpur who came to Mumbai and stayed to love it! I remember the time when rains had paralysed Mumbai in the late 80s but the locals ran braving the elements and bringing a modicum of normalcy to the Mumbaikars’ lives. It is indeed the greatest teacher of life.

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  19. Wonderful post !! I love commuting by public transport too and Delhi metro and buses are not scary for me. Many a weekends we just take a public transport and visit places in purani dilli or otherwise too. Some of your remembrances were just scary, the one where the eunuch played hero and where you landed in the fish basket …
    I am yet to experience Mumbai locals , the locals in Chennai were a treat tough, especially the one we used to take from airport to the beach 🙂

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    1. I can remember many many more incidents but didn’t want to bore everyone. It is nice to know you still enjoy going out by public transport in Delhi. I take the bus only if it goes directly to the place I need to go otherwise it is the Metro and auto for me.

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      1. Yes, even I choose the bus if it directly goes to my destination, Metro and auto are other options, but this way i get a lot of opportunity to walk. I love walking long distances when time is not a constraint 🙂

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        1. Taking the bus or Metro is the best way to catch up on walking isn’t it?

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  20. Zephyr, old habits die hard. They are also sometimes our links to the past.

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    1. That was a soulful pun, USP. Sometimes links to the past are broken irreparably.

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  21. *Hug* this is what I love the most about us Mumbai people. The last line sums it up all 🙂 Mumbai and its locals, no matter how uncomfortable they are, they are a part of our lives and have defined us. Loved this post and can relate to each and every word here!

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    1. They are no less than the lifeline of the city! Thank you for the hug. From one commuter to an former commuter, I presume? 😀

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  22. Dearest Thangam,

    Am visiting your blog for the first time…..and I absolutely loved your style of writing. Its racy, anecdotal, funny, witty and laced with sharp observations … This piece in particular, has perfectly captured the essence of the local train commute 🙂 I’ve travelled for donkey’s years by train….though not in the last 11 years, and I could write a note or two on my experiences. One thing, I will dispute….and that is your belief that honesty and trust rules. I have seen numerous kleptos whack a piece here and there from the hawkers….sometimes, the hawker wamoozing off with your change. But, by and large, trust does prevail. You gotta admit, the latest styles and fashion accessories can be bought here….and the bargaining that goes on, is a sight for sore eyes.
    Another remarkable feature of the local train commute are the beautiful friendships that are formed here. They see you through an essentially lonely and stressful commute….and not to forget the birthdays that are celebrated on board….right down to cake cutting and snacks distribution. 🙂 At the end of the day, its humanity and a comradeship amongst fellow humans that make your travel time bearable.

    Prema

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    1. Why, Prema, that’s wonderful praise. Thank you so much both for the visit and the comment. You would surely have had great experiences having commuted by the Central railway where all the machchi and bhajiwalis make their presence felt. 🙂 I agree with your observation of there being bad eggs in the basket as far as dishonest hawkers and buyers are concerned. But the level of trust and honesty I see in the city is not to be found in other cities. I love looking at the trinkets too but have never bought any. I do buy other stuff that are useful around the house, though. And of course, it is the people that make any train journey memorable especially daily commute. Visit again, Prems 🙂

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    2. Very nice post. But can’t help without spoilling the mood of readers. Have travelled local for more than a couple of months and trust me, there hasn’t been a single day when I have liked to do that. It is coz I have a 2-wheeler and I can’t drive that to office during rains that I have to travel by trains. Otherwise would never do that.

      And where did ‘trust’ come from? Do not mistake ‘fear’ for ‘trust’! People wouldn’t sneak into these people’s basket due to fear of getting caught and being beaten / abused like anything. I have got 3 umbrellas stolen from the side-pocket of my office bag in one monsoon season!! Can you beat it? And you may now suggest that I could have dropped it. But it may surprise you – I have seen other people’s umbrellas getting stolen and nobody alarms the poor looser.

      I think now I should keep my mouth shut and not make this post a battle ground betweeb Delhiites and Mumbaikars or else Zephyr would stop visiting my blog 😉

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      1. Loved your reasoning of ‘not making the comment form into a battle ground’. Don’t worry, Zephyr will not let an adverse comment keep her away from friends 🙂 But Mohit, there are Delhiites, Mumbaikars. Banglorean and so on. You can live in a city for years and not become a person of that city and live somewhere for a few weeks and become a city person. That explains a lot of things, doesn’t it? Like how someone ‘hates’ a city and how someone cant have enough of another one. As for me, I am an all-city person and can get settled anywhere I go, without missing another one. But that doesn’t prevent me from discovering the joys of one which I have left years ago or months ago 🙂

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  23. Having never lived in Mumbai or commuted, can’t comment on the “Mumbai” aspect of it, but totally can relate to the daily commute and the rituals associated with it. Memories of 3 years of traveling to college by bus and then 1 year of commute train travel in Chennai filled me; I was lost in memories for a few minutes. Commuting by public transport and a routine one at that, has a charm isn’t it – while I didn’t embrace it with all my heart then, now I miss it so much as commuting by public transport is not even an option here 😦

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    1. Anything to do with old times evoke nostalgia and regret about losing it. So it is with your train commute in Chennai. But Chennai local trains are no match for the crowds that the Mumbai locals can pack in a coach though the Chennaites would not agree with this as would Delhiites agree that the Metro is less crowded. Mumbai locals have a flavor of their own. I would call it character, than just flavour.

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      1. Oh… absolutely. I didn’t mean to compare the trains of Chennai with Mumbai at all, having heard so much about them friends & family who live there. I just meant that some of the anecdotes that you had quoted (like regulars saving a seat etc) sounded familiar.

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        1. Sorry about the typical ruffling of a Mumbaikar’s pride at the comparison between their beloved local with that any other city 😀

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  24. You brought back so many memories of the Mumbai local trains for me. I remember buying those trinkets on many occasions and once holding my breath for so long to escape a macchiwali’s stench. If you dare make a face, they might just tilt their basket and drench you in foul-smelling fish water. I did my journey to Vile Parle from Grant Road, as I had done umpteen times when doing my MBA on Jan 1, 2010. I was going to meet a batchmate, but this time the journey was with my hubby and two kids. The train was totally empty, and we could sleep and go if we wanted. The kids had so much fun, as I recounted many tales. How I would know that Bandra was approaching due to the stench preceding the station, and the times I had dosed off in the train just too tired after a day’s work. I loved that trip back and forth, but I doubt if I would dare do what you did :). Oh yes, my (to-be)hubby and I had a memorable local train ride too. That was the first time we met, and I took him from Andheri to Bombay Central in those days :). This was evening and trains used to be less full in those days. You brought back so many memories for me of my beloved city!

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    1. Oh yes, the machchiwalis were a touchy lot and frowned if you wrinkled your nose. They had no business being in the ladies compartment anyway, but that didn’t make any difference to them. It is nice to know that the local had even played a role in your courtship 🙂 I am glad the post brought back so many good memories for you.

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  25. Lazy Pineapple · · Reply

    I understand how you feel 🙂 I made this trip in off peak hours to meet up a friend who stays in churchgate. It is such a wonderful feeling. Atta girl!!!

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    1. You should go during peak hours to really get the feel. But all this is fine if it is a one-off thing.To do it on a daily basis really requires a lot of effort. I salute the Mumbaikars.

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  26. Hey Zephyr,

    I traveled by Mumbai locals when I was a kid. I don’t remember anything about it. Although I enjoy reading R’s Mom’s tales Mumbai local journey. Loved this post. You landed in a fish basket? I was ROFLing there.

    All I could relate to in this post was – ‘Appa has bought a first class ticket,’ I said and cut the line. I wasn’t telling a lie, was I?. I always do this, neither lying nor telling the truth, but selectively saying only a portion of what needs to be imparted. *cunning grin*

    Regards,
    Seema

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    1. The landing in a fish basket was anything but ROFL. Imagine screaming to be put down when she lifted both my feet and I was clinging to everyone and everything in order not to fall off 😛 Hiding the truth doesn’t hurt, but psst…don’t let the kids hear you say it 🙂

      Like

  27. That was a nice trip down the memory lane.I’ve always loved train journeys and used to take trains in college.In trains we meet all sorts of people and friendships (that lasts only a few stations) develop.

    Like

    1. Especially in a daily commute you meet the same set of people with whom you form good friendships over a period of time. You might like to read the post ‘Train friends and tiffin carriers.’

      Like

  28. What an excellent piece and so, so, very true!!

    I have left Mumbai many years ago, precisely for these reasons. But, its getting the same at the Delhi Metro at peak hours – try Rajiv Chowk to Huda City Centre at 9.30am!!

    Julia

    Like

    1. You left Mumbai for Delhi to escape the crowds? Poor you, and now the Metro is becoming the same! I have changed not only from Rajiv Chowk, but also at Kashmere Gate in the morning peak hours and I can understand. The worst is that unlike the local trains, the Metro coaches are closed and during summers can become too stuffy and stinky despite the AC.

      Like

  29. Sighs! all my DTC memories came rushing back. And the Delhi crowd is far from pleasant.
    Don’t think I’ll ever be able to board a bus again. But then God has strange ways to prove you wrong again and again 🙂

    I am sure Vineet can’t stop bragging about his plucky Mom.
    Have they nominated you for the bravery awards yet?

    Like

    1. DTC memories are stuff for another post, one which I had written long back. But they have undergone a sea change and are not so unpleasant today, partly because the Metro has taken a chunk of travellers, I guess. Vinni is still zapped and hasn’t been able to come to terms with his old woman’s feat 😀 I was hoping to get nominated by one Purba Ray for the awards 🙂

      Like

    2. “Sighs! all my DTC memories came rushing back. And the Delhi crowd is far from pleasant.”

      Agree to deepest core!

      Zephyr – please excuse me if I am not praising your post but expressing my feelings on everybody’s comments. Kya karu, kuchh zada hi yaad a rahe hai mere wo local-mein-beetein din

      Like

  30. great!!!! good to hear that you managed fine in second class!! can absolutely understand the wonderful feeling u get after such a feat! that too after so long!!

    this inspires me to do a post on my remniscensces about the days i travelled by the local trains too… of the time during the riots when hindu women went all the way home with a bunch of scared muslim schoolgirls, making sure they reached home safe, of the time i tried to get into a running train, got pulled inside by some helpful women, who then spent the rest of the journey lecturing me on my foolishness! needless to say, i never tried that again!! i can go on and on and on….but these days, as u say, i try to stick to non peak times, since samhith is usually with me… but i miss the camaraderie with the regular commuters… did i mention that i learnt crochet only in the train? that too while standing? not sitting!

    Like

    1. Learnt crochet standing up? wow! I have slept many times standing up, snug in the knowledge that I wouldn’t fall down even if I nodded off. It is a nice feeling of cosy closeness inside the compartment and if you are lucky not to have a fisherwoman’s basket in the vicinity even standing up all the way to your destination is fine. 🙂 I felt great mainly because it was done after a break of so many years and with some handicaps.

      Like

  31. Yet another inspiration for me to visit Mumbai..:)
    wanna visit the city soon..

    Like

    1. Visit soon. We will be going back to apni Dilli very soon!

      Like

  32. I loved this post! You have captured the mood of Mumbai train commuters…anyone who has travelled by trains in Mumbai(including me) will relate to this..

    Like

    1. Any average train commuter will feel an empathy. But if you are a reluctant traveller or even forced to take the local, you will rebel big time and find it unpleasant. Thanks for liking, Rahul. 🙂

      Like

  33. Last month I’d been to Mumbai on a vacation. The first I traveled in taxis, like a big shot..Next day onward, only local trains..It is an amazing experience! I remember being squeezed like hell in the peak hours, but the convenience and cost factor, Wow! I so wished Bangalore also had trains..We’ve to wait for the metro, I guess!

    Like

    1. Yes, the cost is absolutely wonderful. Why taxis, even regular commutes by autos can burn a hole in your pocket. But once you get over the fear of the crowds and the train itself, it is easy.

      Like

    2. Oh Please Keerthana. All fun-time-in-local-and-all-money-saving-thing aside, please do not wish Mumbai local trains should be replicated in any other city!! Please kuchh to dayaa karo :-S

      Like

  34. Did I tell you that I love you?

    loved loved loved this..and can relate to EVERYTHING..well you know that dont you 🙂

    Like

    1. Oh yes, R’s Mom, but I would love to hear again and again 🙂

      And your local train posts are wonderful. Only today you are experiencing in the first class what we did in the second class those days. 🙂

      Like

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