Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The lifeline of Mumbai

It used to leave me awestruck even when watching through the idiot box or the silver screen.  Thankfully, the first day experience was somewhat comparatively less scary, as I was with someone who knew the tricks of the trade.   After the first day experience, now, having passed the ordeal alone, for a couple of times, I still have that awe-inspiring feeling. 

Mumbai local trains, the throbbing nerve of Mumbai city, counts approximately 7.24 million of daily ridership. It always appears to be fascinating to me. Normally, I am very much afraid of big crowded places; almost find myself daydreaming that I am dying of suffocation and stampede. Still, Mumbai local trains, ladies compartments, busy stations with the adjoining skywalks, people, things, though made of the commonest and the simplest aspects of this world, have something very unique about them.

 As if the lifeline of Mumbai city, every journey on the local trains come up with experiences. Uncommon stories of common people, simple but intriguing, pointing out to the trifle as well as serious facts of life. Facts, that can be ignored, but can never be escaped.  

The daily exercise of catching the train on time, involves thousands of hurried paces, some casual walks, some nervous footsteps, some urgent expressions, some eyes with rapt attention, a few indifferent pair of eyes, some enjoying the regular activity, some just be there. Students, workers, office-goers, hawkers, lovers, pickpockets, beggers, eunuchs, what not! Everyone is busy running, the platform act as a small pause; the train journey remains the reality.

Photo: www.themumbaicity.com
Mumbai city is overflowing, with everything good and bad, mainly population and related hazards. To know Mumbai, one must experience the local train journey, which gradually introduces him to the true Mumbaikar culture. Mumbai is incomplete without its trains. 

Apart from love, separation, heart-breaks and loneliness, the local train symbolizes fellow-feeling and friendship as well. Though never seen, but I heard that the early morning daily passengers bring their breakfast and have it on the go, just to enjoy the sharing with their co-passengers. And also, they never fail to offer daily prayers to the Gods, without interruption, on the train itself! 

I was wondering initially, am I hearing things? Hallucinating? No, I was not. In the mornings and evenings, if I am travelling by train or waiting at the platform, invariably I will hear the sounds of cymbals playing with high-pitch kirtana or bhajans. Finally, one evening, while travelling back to home, I saw a group of passengers organizing a devoted bhajan mandali in the running train, welcoming all to participate. They even distributed dry prasadam to the passengers during the kirtana!

Perhaps, this is called adjustment in true sense, just like one of my friends who keeps on saying, “I cannot change the course of the river, so I adjust my sail.” To earn their bread and butter, they must travel very far by train, leave home with first coo of the morning bird, and reach home late at night. But that does not stop them from worshipping God. They found a way, on the go! Hence, again proved, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Again proved, ‘where there is a will, there is a way.’ And this is how the local trains spread their roots in the lives of the Mumbaikars, and in Mumbai itself. 

Soon, it will be a part of my life also…or may be already is. 

I'll come back with new observations or realizations...till then,

Keep the faith.


  1. Great write up. When I was posted in Mumbai High Offshore oil field I had experience of commuting by local trains sometimes. During the initial phase it was terrifying. But later on slowly got used to it though I was not a regular traveler.

  2. But unfortunately I never had the opportunity to board the ladies' compartment :p

  3. Mumbai is always buzzing with life and activity...being the commercial hub of India. Good that you're getting a taste of that!


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