Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I travelled by Mumbai's local train

  • Last month, I had gone just upto the railway station ( in western suburb)
  • Last week, I went over the station:) Crossed over from East to West side. I did not walk across the railway tracks, but climbed up ! It was drizzling & very filthy, to put it mildly. 
    • I had gone across to the private life insurance co office ( that is another story – my experience with this co !!)

·      Monday (23rd Jul 12): I decided to check out the train to travel within (humble) suburbs of Mumbai - to Vile Parle & back.
o   Primary reason was to save on cost. Also, to manage time,  finish off the work fast.
o   It was not raining. The weather was good. Did not bother to check the forecast. So, around 1330 hrs, I stepped out, to take a train journey, after over 5 yrs !!

·      I had to take the famous share-auto, could not go solo!
o   Once I reached station, I was the first to step out (last-in-first-out, LIFO). I pulled a Rs 5 note & extended to the auto-driver. He was already on phone (who is not on his/her mobile these days ? Whether people are walking, driving, riding a motorcycle... all are 'talking'!!)
o   I asked him, ‘how much?’, more thru gesture. He said, ‘Rs 10’ and resumed his important conversation on his mobile! ( 'itna bhi nahin malum' was written large on his face )
o   I paid Rs 10, mumbled ‘sorry, was not aware’… But the auto-driver has no time (or ear) for all those niceties.
o   So, over last few years, the auto-fare, on shared-basis, has actually gone up by a whopping 100%!! Power of Inflation !

·      At the railway ticket-counter, the rush was as usual. But Mumbaikar has a knack of getting in line & waiting, with a bit of patience. The moment the pace of his line’s  movement ( thus his own progress to the counter) slows, he would get restless.
o   Usually no one tries to act smart & get into the line. But, someone actually did try & a passenger, who was 3rd from the counter objected.
o   The villain blasted the guy in in queue.He derived his strength from the fact, he was ‘entitled’ to walk up to the counter directly ( first class ticket!) and he had an air of local-dada.  I also was planning to travel by first class & opted to stand in the queue
o   Amidst all the tamasha, there were couple of dogs sleeping soundly. Blissfully unaware of the ego clashes of the ‘master-class’, showing “no class” in handling a simple objection.
o   I wondered why was the villian not a little polite in handling a genuine objection? The villain had the right to go to the counter directly, but had the responsibility to be a little polite.
o   Changing values… I guess
o   I picked up a return ticket to Vile Parle & proceeded to the platform.

·         The suburban railway station has not gone any change over the last 5+ years. That was sad, I told myself. Mumbaikar deserves better railway stations &  trains.
o   I let go the first train, as it was a ‘fast’ one ( with limited stops)
o   I was tempted to pick up a mag & try out good old soda-lime drink (I had done that so many times, while working in Mumbai, commuting for client-visits)
o   I controlled myself and picked up only a mag
o   It was Business World – only after picking up I decided it did not have much value for me, as the cover-story was on “Richest Indians” - that is not my current pursuit... !
o   Chruchgate slow train came on time. I admire the punctuality. Had it been jet airways, they would have announced the ‘on-time arrival’. But fur Mumbai-locals, punctuality is in their DNA.

·      Inside the train, no much change either !
o   Thankfully, all those fliers have been taken off. It was clean to that extend. No ads – "free" medium to advertise for the over-smart marketeers & their clients ( NO free lunch pls !)
o   Earlier you would see many carrying newspapers, even if they were Miday, Mumbai Mirror or Gujarati daily/TOI, publications I don't really admire. But, that day not a soul carried newspaper. Was it because it was afternoon. Some were trying to catch a quick nap. Still, newspapers were very conspicuous by their absence !
o   Almost all were on their mobile phones, instead.
o   One of the passengers, sitting near window, was snoring loudly (I pity his wife/family!)
o   Many of them carried water-bottles. I was impressed! Mumbaikar is more health-conscious now?

I reached Vile Parle without much ado, completed my meeting & took a train back.
Return journey was no different.

People were too busy with their own lives, problems, etc. No one has any time for others. That is the reason, even after so many years/decades he is travelling in almost same trains. Mumbaikar is happy to have the life-line up & running. Never paused to ask, is he getting the best ? Does he not deserve something better?

PS : If I had travelled next morning, I would have not had such a pleasant experience. 10 to 12 trains were diverted for film-shooting & it rained heavily. I would expose myself to the vagaries of commuting in Mumbai, step by step, experiencing tougher proposition, at every stage.

More of it in future… if I actually try and come out safe!

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