I travel by them, oh sorry, the whole of Mumbai travels by them, the life-line of the city as they call them; fast, punctual, convenient, cheap, no traffic, special compartments, no pollution, reliable, the very spirit of the city, Mumbai local!
Now mind you, traveling in a local is not a kiddy’s job; and in second class during peak hours? Sorry boss, even I would avoid; and I am somebody who has had this as a part of her daily schedule since the last 4 years or so. Even-though traveling by First class isn’t all that big a deal, every journey is special for me. It is not like bus-routes don’t join my place of residence to my daily destination; I just prefer the rail-way better. [No! I am not saying so coz my name resembles that of a train!!]
Now, just a background for non-Mumbaikars :-) .There are three basic “lines” of local railway in Mumbai, yea, one doesn’t suffice :-P These are, the King Central line, the Glam-sham Western line and the Underdog Harbour line. These have various sub-routes and slow and fast types which I shall not get into. So, to reach my college, I have to change a train from Harbour line to Central at Kurla Junction; the most deadly railway station on planet earth!
Across this background, shall narrate my every-day ordeal…
I am late to college, every single day. To reach on time, I am supposed to catch the 6:43 local and I leave home at 6:40 whatever time I get up, Thus, obviously my train is gone. So, I am supposed to catch the next local come-what-may to reach 10 minutes late; and if I miss that, I reach at 8 o'clock for the 7:25 lecture *straight face*
Papa drops me to station; the drive takes 6 minutes, so it is 6:46 already. The walk ahead is that of 5 minutes and my local is that of 6:51, just enough time. During these whole five minutes probably the scariest and craziest thoughts come to my mind! What if the train’s one minute early? What if it’s canceled today? What if the timings have changed suddenly? Etc. You get the picture?
As I enter the station, the announcement of my due train is made. My sensors turn on, but I still don’t run. I walk down the staircase, look at people coming from the opposite direction, switch on my iPod and adjust the volume for the journey, and then! I hear it, yes I do! This is it! The train entering the platform! That is the time when my legs just don’t wait for my brain to give any signals and sprint towards platform no. 3! The train just halts when I board the stairs and my mental stop-watch switches on. “10 seconds”, I tell myself, 10 seconds is the time for which the train shall be there! 10, 9, 8 , first half of the stairs done, 7, 6, 5, yay! I am on the platform, 4, 3, 2, towards the Ladies 1st class coach, 1, 0, damn it… the train’s started, -1, -2, dive, boarded! :-D
Then begins the hunt for the seat, every-day a new trick works. And then I get my 15 minutes of peace before the second more-challenging half of my journey begins, remember? I change trains..
To get off at Kurla is no-job at all! You just have to stand amongst the fellow passengers; even if you don’t wanna get off, you shall find yourself on the platform. When my train has just stopped at the station, the other central line train is about to enter the station in just about a minute. So, I have to go through the over-bridge full of people from platform no. 7 to platform no. 3 in that much time, reach the ladies compartment and also board the fully crowded - over-flowing train! I put the volume of my player on full and run for my life, through the 1000 odd people coming from all direction! The only time ever when I regret being short is this. You see, my nose just reaches the arm-pits of majority men, ahem. Well, but there is also a bright side. I am also lucky for not having considerable height, I can act jerry and run through all these people just by a little excessive use of my elbows :-D
I get off the stairs while the train is still arriving, so yea, mental stop-watch ticks on all over again. I reach, the train stops and a sea of people land on the platform! I wait patiently for people to get in, coz I am supposed to get off just after a couplea stations, so prefer to be near the doors. Train blows its horn, “move inside people!” The train takes off, “make room! I have just some toes inside!” one leg, then both in the pair board in the train, as my wahan picks up speed.
Gradually as the train leaves the station behind, the whole of me is ‘in-side’. I hang my way to Dadar as I hear some-one calling my name, “Shatabdi!” I turn; try to locate the source among the whole lotta people. I notice; there is a little clearing in the surface mass near the wall. I see a hand waving towards me, and ah! I know who it was