Ulrica Dias

Local Madness in Mumbai

I shall never forget the day. I had to go for my first job interview in Mumbai and had to travel by train to Churchgate. Being from Dehradun, I had no idea how the Mumbai trains worked.

I sought advice from some of my more seasoned friends and they had said ‘Avoid rush hour” or “Be sure you don’t get into the first class by mistake or you will have to pay a fine” and “Ensure that you get into the ladies compartment”.

My friends forgot to tell me about the abbreviations or the numbered platforms. So, when I landed up at Bandra station, or to be more specific, Platform No. 1 at Bandra station, there was a neon board that said “A- 2 minutes’ I asked a fellow traveller “What does ‘A” mean? “ The train is going to Andheri”, she replied. “Will it stop at Churchgate?”, I enquired foolishly. She gave me a look of utter scorn and said “Trains to Churchgate leave from Platform Nos 2,3 and 5.

I crossed the bridge and went to Platform No.3. I was happy to see a board with “ C – I minute” on it. A woman asked me “Is this a bara dhaba or a nav dhaba?” Not knowing the meanings of the Hindi words, I just shook my head.
The train arrived. It was a twelve coach. I realized that I was standing at the wrong place too late and got into the correct ladies compartment just in time. I was amazed to see about a hundred women crushed into one “dhaba” I hadn’t seen so many people in one day in Dehradun. Just as it seemed the train could take no more people, a crowd of ten women got in at Dadar. One of the woman said to me harshly “Don’t touch me”. I replied“How can I not touch you? We are crammed up worse than sardines in a can”. The woman replied by entertaining everyone with a volley of curse words aimed at me. However, with a couple of moves that most gymnasts would envy, I managed not to touch her again.

I finally got a seat at Lower Parel and sank into it gratefully. I was trying to catch forty winks when a shrill voice interrupted me “Where are you getting down?” I replied “Churchgate”, wondering why she was bothered about where I was alighting. I knew soon enough when she said “ Last stop. No seat”. Another woman said she was getting down at Mahalaxmi and Shrill Voice ‘blocked’ her seat from Mahalaxmi onwards.

I was happy to see the train empty out after Mumbai Central and there were just half a dozen people at Churchgate. However, I was in for a shock when I went to the interview. The interviewer was none other than the woman who had told me not to touch her on the train. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. This was fortunate in a way because I got a higher-paying job within a week.

I promised myself that I would never travel by train again. As you can imagine, I broke the promise to myself. Today, after travelling for six years in trains, it has become second nature to me. I have come to the inevitable conclusion that no matter how crowded or filthy, a Mumbai local is the fastest and most economical way to get from one end of the city to the other.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Ulrica Dias.
Published on e-Stories.org on 03/04/2012.


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