Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The one thing which every non - mumbaikar dreads and hates about Mumbai are its local trains. The most common negative points being its over - crowded, people are rowdy, you never get to know when you get in and don't have a choice of when to get down. But what most fail to notice is that local trains and Mumbai are not two different things anymore. The city virtually runs on its Western, Central & Harbour Railway lines. And hence it is rightly called " the lifeline" of Mumbai. Nothing can keep a Mumbaikar away from travelling by a local train.
We Mumbaikar's get our first taste of local train travel when we start our college life. Its the most dreaded aspect for every parent whose child is off to college & will be taking the train for the first time. But slowly and steadily we learn the finer nuances. We learn the timings and adjust our routines according to the railway time tables. Yes Mumbai does run round the clock - or to be more specific round the railway clock. And as the years pass we slowly but steadily become a part of the Mumbai local crowd which is rowdy, noisy but which at the same time has a culture of its own.
Mumbai locals are culture on wheels. Daily lakhs of women leave their homes after a hasty breakfast and rush to catch their train. Every person has a particular train which he favours. The reasons are many & vary from person to person. For some that's the train which will drop them at office right on time, for some that train is less crowded as compared to the one that leaves later while some favour a certain train for a simple reason - FRIENDS. Yes! While the world cribs about the horrors of Mumbai local trains a Mumbaikar has already boarded his decided upon train & is happy catching up with her friends after a relaxing weekend. The local is a place where the ladies get ample time to chatter & gossip. Its where you stand by the door and catch the rain drops on your face as the train travels at full speed through a rainy morning.Its an ideal place to bitch about your bosses, saas & nanand. This is the place where women counsel each other, where girlfriends talk about boys, where the bookworms read to their hearts content & where the sleepyheads snooze off on their neighbour's shoulders.
Crowded trains also serve as best prospective markets. Women are found selling dresses made of cheap materials sold at even cheaper rates. This is also the place where you can pick up a best seller for just Rs.60. Men can get their shoes polished while women in the adjoining compartment are busy sifting through piles of hair clips & nail polishes. Its also a dream workplace for all thieves & pick pockets. A crowded train is all they pray for daily. For more the crowd more the number of mobiles, chains & wallets to snatch. Local trains also serve as second homes to many orphans who sneak in on rainy nights & catch a good nights sleep on the soft padded Ist class compartment coaches.
But the local's use is not limited to that of an home alone. Quite the opposite. They serve as restaurants where women celebrate their birthdays & throw baby showers. They serve as temples for many who sing bhajans from the start of the journey to its finish. They are kitchens where bhelpuri walas serve you with freshly prepared chat & sukhi bhel with just the right amount of nimbu in it. And no one has ever fallen ill after eating these snacks!!
And if this is the glory of the train it would be wrong not to mention the railway stations. These are again individuals with their own personalities. Where the Churchgate station boasts of its Victorian architecture, Mumbai Central & Dadar are hot spots for all arrivals & departures in Mumbai. The suburbs are comparatively quiter & unexplored by tourists. They are the best places to pick up pirated softwares, CD's & mobile parts.
Locals play an extremely important role in making a Mumbaikar what he is. Its here that he learns adjustment. Its here that he learns the true value of time. Its here that he gets a closer look at poverty. Its here where many of us die when the locals are chosen as sites of attack by groups of terrorists. And its here where we all Mumbaikar's return the next day to start a new journey with memories of yesterday's terror but with a new will that we will survive & fight this battle called Life. That's what locals teach us all. They teach us how to live life in the present!!!