Why I might just be travelling by local train again…

It has been a while since I travelled by local trains and buses. Ten years perhaps. Ten years in a city like Mumbai is a very very long time. Things have changed drastically. The trains have also changed. Drastically. In the years I travelled by train, they were a dingy yellow and brown. The trains I see now when I pass on roads parallel to railway tracks are spiffy purple and have their destinations in electronic text format on the front. They look so sleek and graceful, and probably need the same amount of pushing and shoving, and stamping on toes skills to get a foothold on. I have lost all my Mumbai local train survival skills. Once upon a time I would jump into trains as they slowed down to stop at Churchgate station and grab window seats on the return home every evening. With stilettoes. Now of course, I would want the seat furthest from the window, what with folks randomly showering the ladies compartments with stones and resulting in eyesight being lost and such horrors.

None of my immediate friend circle travel by train too. We discussed this in hushed tones the other day. Just imagine, one moaned, we could have bumped into Rahul Gandhi. We could have shaken hands. We could have seen him jumping off the train. And if Rahul Gandhi can do it, why cant we? All we need to do is join up at a commando training course before hand. Change our diet to include more protein shakes and strengthening foods in order to push our way through the impenetrable flanks of women who solidify into a concrete wall in fast trains and become a door guarding mafia. Spend some time getting used to dark dingy smelly places like sewers etc, to be able to keep from barfing when the nose is crammed into an armpit, or some random beggar has used the ladies compartment as a public loo. Self defence to keep the druggies from cutting us up and taking our handbags and jumping off when the trains slow down between stations. It would also save us petrol. Given that every time I fill the tank up, I faint at the final amount that comes up on the machine and have to be splashed with water in order to sign on the charge slip, taking the train might be a good idea too. Then comes the issue of my world renowned clumsiness. I have been known to stumble and twist an ankle while just off the bed in the morning. I kid you not. This has happened. If there were awards being handed out for Ms Most likely to trip on the Red Carpet I would win it hands down, no contenders. Railway station overbridges therefore are contraptions I approach with a fear approaching panic. I have been known to remove my heels and walk down barefoot on one particularly precariously angled stairway on Dadar station (all the steps sloped downwards), and this was ten years ago when I was at my peak physical prime. Now it might be easier for me to just park my rump on the top step and have someone push me from the back.

Now Rahul Gandhi, in his detergent commercial white kurta pyjama can risk the encrusted layers of dirt on foot over bridges and such like, I might just have folks pelt stones and cart me off to an institution. Maybe I can just get myself on of them clear plastic raincoat kind of thingies to wear while doing the local train route and fold it and pack it up once I manage to extricate myself from the chaos that manifests itself outside every station. Also, would help immensely in protecting self from hands which move independent of their owners to suddenly touch random body parts. Maybe this is an idea which can be patented and marketed: Train travel Plastic overcoat. Arrive at work asΒ crisp and sparkling clean as you were when you set out from home. Added benefit: administers low voltage shock to unsuspecting gropers. I can just see this getting sold out and long waitlists for orders to be fulfilled.

Seriously though. After his election campaign which had him go to thousands of villages, and break security cordons and do the grassroot reaching out thing with a fair amount of sincerity, Rahul Gandhi had got me admiring him grudgingly. When he hopped onto a local train during his recent Mumbai trip, I swooned and passed out with admiration. To me this is the equivalent of John Rambo, stitching up cuts with needle and thread in the midst of tropical jungle. It does take a fair amount of courage given that your grandmother and father have both died under very gruesome circumstances caused by security breaches. And for those who had their black flags handy, they can go fly them in their own backyards. Thats the best they can do, given that doing anything to improve the city is much beyond their capacity.

For starters they might read this. Especially the part which speaks about the fundamental right of the citizens of India to have the freedom to reside and settle in any part of India.

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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25 Responses to Why I might just be travelling by local train again…

  1. SV says:

    all is not what it appears to be πŸ™‚

    http://ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/02/vip-security-down-memory-lane.html

    I am sure Rahul baba had similar if not more stringent security

    arrangements!

    I’m sure he did. We do know that 10,000 police were put on the station platforms to protect him. But nonetheless, I still feel that this gesture in one stroke completely nullified all the anti Congress campaigning that was going on. BTW, Sarojini Naidu has been quoted as saying (with reference to Gandhiji’s insistence on travelling third class) that he does not know what it costs the party to keep the Mahatma in his poverty (because the train would have to be filled with party workers to keep him safe). πŸ˜‰

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  2. Ronita says:

    Is it just me, or is Rahul Gandhi getting hotter by the day?

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  3. Homecooked says:

    I totally agree! If I was in India I would most probably have bumped into him…..given that local trains are my most perferred mode of travel πŸ™‚ All the pushing and the jostling would have been worth it I think.

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  4. CS says:

    Good for posting the link on fundamental rights on living anywhere in India. I almost puked yesterday night at a dinner listening to a well educated (well I don’t agree) lady who has been living in US for two decades kind of taking sidelines with raj thackery’s view. She said mumbai is getting crowded and other states should start attracting more developments . I asked but why should people living in street and poor people be harassed for this. Instead government of Maharastra should take step to downsize or stop issuing permit to start new industries . She said they need to find job in their own state and pressure their own state governments to get more industries. I decided to have deaf ears after this statement. But then she is the one who said I am already spoiling my son when she came to visit us in the hospital just a day after my delivery. I was babying my two day old infant :). BTW, she is second generation gujarathi settled in bombay : (. emm I wish Bal Thackarey should have done something to grab her dad’s job and sent them back to gujarat. All these years I am forced to listen to lot of her stupid arugments but this one really pissed me off. Insensitive people not feeling a thing about people working like dogs on the street to feed their families.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      CS: This is more common than one imagines. There is increasing xenophobia in our country for people from different states. That is scary. If we as a country start making differentiation, by that rule, people should not be allowed to emigrate and settle in any country abroad and live and work there too, right….

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  5. SP says:

    wow wow wow! I knew you exaggerate things, and use crazy similes to make your posts witty, but isn’t this just too much?
    “Spend some time getting used to dark dingy smelly places like sewers etc, to be able to keep from barfing when the nose is crammed into an armpit, or some random beggar has used the ladies compartment as a public loo. Self defence to keep the druggies from cutting us up and taking our handbags and jumping off when the trains slow down between stations.”
    Do you have any idea how many people travel by those trains every single day, and not just poor one, regular middle class people, getting to and from work or even leisure outings. You are super rich and so is your friend circle lady, but get off your high horse, and look around you, there is a real world around. This post just reeks of snobbery, and arrogance……

    SP, I just got off my high horse and got into office. My high horse is a yellow and black autorickshaw. My home is ten minutes from my office. Which is why I dont travel by train anymore. I also dont work fulltime anymore since I had my son. My super rich friends are stay at home moms who donot need to get into work everyday. I have travelled by train second class/Virar/harbour line/central line/ladies special for years (till I was around 31 to be precise, from the time I was a kid and travelled Bandra to Goregaon from Grade 5 through college, yes in second class). I am surprised that you think I dont live in the real world. It is the real world where I have experienced the train travel experiences I write about. I have been groped, robbed of my handbag by a druggie in the ladies first class, found a dead body of a beggar in an empty compartment, stood packed in one corner of the compartment while an entire side stays empty because someone has pooped in one side of the compartment, waited outside at the ladies compartment spot on the platform at Kandivali which was bang next to the public toilet, I have been packed like a sardine in Virar fast, and been thrown out at the wrong station. Arrogance and snobbery??? I’m sorry if that is what you read into the post. Because I am never mocking people. I’m commenting on the circumstances people travel under.

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    • Cee Kay says:

      SP, why do you think this post reeks of snobbery and arrogance? Kiran mocked the TRAINS not the people travelling in them. Besides, she called it as she sees it. Yes, she added a bit of humor but then that is her watermark, so to speak. What exactly are you objecting to? The “real world” that you speak of? Its not all roses and dew drops. It also has those crammed, smelly trains where women and even girls get groped and worse. No one is denying that not only poor, but even middle class and upper middle class people travel in them. Lighten up, will ya? This post is NOT mocking people.

      *wipes brow* Especially since I have been the teeming millions travelling on them trains meself for three fourths of my life.

      Like

    • SP_ that was really uncalled for. We all know Kiran is not being judgemental, she is speaking from her experience. I wonder why you are getting your knickers in a twist?

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  6. this post reeks of snobbery because it tells it like it is? YES, the middle class and the poor travel by train but you’re quite likely to bump into something smelly on the train too. to say nothing of the rapes and molestations that are known to have taken place on the train.

    are you trying to say that just because the middle class travel by them, kiran shouldnt express her opinion on them? for that matter i think Kiran has travelled longer on local trains than you could have read this blog and yet you choose to be judgmental about her??

    maybe you need to get off your high horse and take a second look at your comment which takes you about five notches lower than something you accused Kiran of.

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  7. Kalibilli says:

    Kiran, it sounds to me like you know a little bit more about the local trains than SP.

    Around 31/ 32 years of travelling on them?

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  8. Deej says:

    Ahhh I so get you re the Eau de Armpit. That was the main reason I avoided taking the tube into London to get to Uni. Being pint-sized meant my nose would be at armpit level for most of the great unwashed and I did not want to add the Essence of Barf to the Tube odour!

    And yes, and some fitness classes to develop upper arm strength etc won’t come amiss. You need to get yourself one of those all-enveloping ponchos,K!

    πŸ™‚

    Like

  9. dipali says:

    Public transport in India has never been for the faint hearted.
    Delhi buses are a nightmare if you don’t get a seat, and you can still get unwanted body parts coming in contact with you even if seated. Bags do get snatched and pockets get picked. Where’s the exaggeration, SP?.

    Like

  10. Cee Kay says:

    Where’d my comment go??!! :((

    Like

  11. surabhi says:

    Bumping into rahul gandhi is one thing- and not a bad thing- but the bombay trains- well, i can not stop loving them. i continue to travel in them, to escape the wonderful traffic jams our big big cars are clogging the streets with. i travel with my child too. and fellow passengers are ever willing to help… right from giving her their precious window seat, to applying nail polish on her little nails.
    ofcourse the women in the fast train from Virar formed a human wall not allowing us to get on at borivali, this was yesterday morning at rush hour. but then as they pointed out, there was a train starting from borivali in four minutes.
    ofcourse one women clung on stubbornly( no, it was not me)- most probably the human wall will curse and abuse and once the train picks up speed multiple hands will pull her in. oooh , she will face barbs, but she will be safe.

    Oh Sur, only you can put it this way…unfortunately no, I’ve seen a girl being thrown off the footboard. The one time I took Krish on a train in non peak hours, I could barely get him off at Malad….maybe its me!

    Like

  12. Ronita says:

    I wonder if SP has ever actually travelled on a Mumbai local train? Because that description was so bang on. Maybe you should climb off your high horse SP and go take a crowded Virar fast at office time. Second class.

    Yup. Been there done that. Not been allowed to disembark at Borivali and held back forcibly by the Virar mafia till Nalla Sopara…

    Like

  13. Goofy Mumma says:

    I loved traveling by the Bombay locals. They are crowded and overflowing yes, but I never found them as bad as you describe it. I have such wonderful memories of the years i traveled in them, the friends I made.In fact I agree with Surabhi here. But then I think since you specifically mention you don’t travel by them, and nor do your friends, it ends up sounding like you looking down upon the trains. maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but I guess that is what the hostile comment must have been in reaction to.

    Goofy Mumma: Well, I travelled in trains from the time I was a child till around eight years ago. I’ve travelled second and first class. And yes, I’ve encountered each and every episode I mentioned, poop in ladies first class, druggies snatching my handbag, getting groped, slipping on slushy stairs outside Dadar station and not falling right down because of the crowd, twisting ankles on stairs. I dont travel in them anymore because my office is ten minutes away from home, and the friends I mentioned donot work. What can I say?

    Like

  14. Sue says:

    LOL at Deej’s Essence of Barf and Eau de Armpit.

    And Kiran, here’s a thought to help you feel better about the 40s — Rahul Gandhi will be keeping you company there. πŸ˜‰

    Like

  15. Mallika says:

    That was a very realistic and vivid description of public transport . Although I have never travelled by locals in Mumbai I have taken them in Kolkata and the basic factors remain the same including Deej’s Eau de armpit which one encounters on public buses and the tube .
    SP I don’t know where she is exaggerating . But that could be because you don’t know what she is talking about and simply made a random comment for the sake of commenting ?
    I’ve never come across crazy similes either in her posts – but then you wouldnt know because you would have been too busy nitpicking to understand the blogger and her style perhaps ?

    Like

    • Deej says:

      My two-bits worth is – the train journey is very romantic and laabley for people who do it on random basis. If you have no other means of transport and are packed in like sardines day after day, have people trampling on your feet and grabbing your ass / boobs / assorted private parts, eventually it would get to you. Well, to humans, that is. The effect on trolls, on the other hand, is debatable.

      Like

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