I curved out of the auto rickshaw in the mid-morning heat to stride on the road towards the ticket counter adjacent to platform no.1 … I’m an infrequent train commuter and I deem myself fortunate, for if you ever visit Mumbai you need to experience its local train journey especially during the peak hours (overcrowding situation also known as Super-Dense Crush Load) – when ordinary Mumbaikars commute between their place of work and home because the Mumbai Suburban Railway connects all the areas in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai; and is economical, reliable and fastest means of transport in Mumbai (phew).
To continue with the commute … I do not worry about the length of the queue at the ticket counter because mostly it shortens quickly, as the clerks behind the counters achieve proficiency after days of doing the monotonous task. Amid the commotion where few are lounging, some are in swiftness and for many others it’s a routine so they tread in their droning velocity, I securely place the ticket inside my handbag to self-confidently step towards platform no.1 and I apprehensively peek at the huge digital indicator, a formal invitation, which columns the timings of train arrival at different platforms along with the station names.
Then I ascent the lengthy staircase of the overhead bridge, this is the annoying part of the ride (My complaint: The stairs are not properly built, the distance between two steps frequently varies) but then everybody is in a hurry … yet everyone is busy watching at the erratically built stairway because chances are – if in case you trip you take several along with you on the fall; however I do have an INEXPENSIVE, EFFECTIVE but dull suggestion for obese Mumbaikars who go to gyms to lose their excess weight – commute to your place of work by trains.
Among most people who behave like robots on the overhead bridge, I enquiringly gait. Once I reach the platform, I pause to breathe easily … because often the trains arrive few minutes behind schedule, this interim effectively grants time for prying people to scrutinize others ( – the figure, the attire, your status) but nobody ignores the boring tempo of recorded announcements stating the time of train arrival.The train gushes on the track towards the platform with its ear-piercing honk and gently jerks to slowly halt. The commuters who want to step-out hurriedly and nervously dash out as the commuters who want to board are an enthusiastic and an impatient bunch.
I usually board slow trains, because they are less-crowded, which absurdly halts at each station. Slow trains of ladies compartments (Mumbai local trains have separate compartments for women and men) are bazaars for small-time vendors; it’s the best place to buy women’s accessories, a wide variety of snacks and seasonal fruits at very cheap price. Noticeably the metallic walls of the trains are plastered with advertisement posters.
I accidentally board fast locals to commute back home and I feel like a slice of cheese in between numerous slices of different variety and colours of raw vegetables in a veg-sandwich perhaps I am making it sound very colourful but it’s a hell situation. The routine commuters manage to well-utilize their time during commute – they keep themselves determinedly engaged to their smartphones.
And after I irritably haul myself out of the crowded train I coolly remind myself, “I am lucky for I am not a frequent train commuter”.