The Bombay Local


Update for week ended 7 May 2010

A local train ride in Bombay can be quite something. Imagine standing in long queues for tickets and then being hackled by the ticket sellers to “tender exact change” in a language that some may not comprehend. Then running towards the “foot over bridge” to the platform where the train is expected to arrive. Then getting confused on which time zone you were in – as the next expected train was scheduled for 18:88! And then peering out at railway tracks that seem to merge in the horizon; – as though that exercise would actually result in a train emerging. And finally when the train thunders in with its over-spilling passengers; being thrown off balance by the crowd around you. And then the muscling in begins, where only the fittest will survive. The others should only hope that someone’s umbrella handle grabs your trouser pockets and pulls you into the train; or a burly group of passengers literally herd you in forcibly. Of course, at this stage, there are risks of injury, hurt and losses (including your wallet or mobile phone). Once you are in, you heave a sigh of relief! But not for long, because you start gasping as your abdomen is squeezed in as you feel like in a sardine can, without the brine or oil (thank God for that). And various sights, sounds and smells stun you into staying alive. Sights of shocking advertisements that promise a lot; sounds of quarreling co-passengers or the routine song prayer groups, bhajan mandalis; smells of various hair oils, under-arm sweat, mouldy clothes (don’t want to go further). And if you are not near the door or a window, forget about fresh air. And did anyone wonder why I never mentioned the sitting comfort – well that doesn’t exist; all the seats are taken by the seat mafia that capture these even before the train enters the platform – now how they do it, even the great Magicians or conjurers will never fathom. And before you disembark, you should prepare at least 3 stations ahead. Get in line with the door facing the right side for alighting, and then get ready to literally flow out. There is no room to stop or to take a careful step out of the coach and onto the platform. And you will keep moving till you find a way out of the flowing crowds – else you run the risk of being pushed into a waiting train on the other side of the platform, and returning back to your base, to start this off again! Now is also the time to check your belongings, especially your train ticket; else the ticket checker is bound to harass you; and mind you, please beware touts who pretend to be checkers, but are actually ticketless travelers looking for rookies from whom to bum off; so they don’t get caught and you do! And then to add woes to a traveler’s travails, imagine the motorman going on a hunger strike, so getting lethargic and tired and sleepy, so running his train slowly; and thereby delaying other trains, and crowds swelling on platforms, and trains getting impossible to get into.

The local train strike early this week was the harbinger of bad news for all denizens of Bombay including the D Street Boyz. So if they shed a few kilos on Monday trudging home because they could not get into the local train; they lost more on Tuesday when no trains moved. On Wednesday, when some normalcy was restored, they got worried about a suspected terror activity aboard a flight to Kolkata – but thankfully that was a false alarm, and so they recouped some of their losses; And on Thursday, everyone waited with bated breath on the verdict (not some European country bailing out some other lazy and overpaid ones) and though the verdict was as expected, the enthusiasm died down because of fears of delays in implementation; and on Friday morning, when everyone expected a meltdown on D Street, they toed the line and dropped their favourite SENSEX a token few points down. So on Monday it was down 172; while Tuesday saw the massive 250 down; followed by Wednesday down only 50 (recouping at least 150); doubling on Thursday to 100 and ending Friday 218 down – sending the SENSEX down by an overall 790 odd points down to 16769 ( 4.5% down).  It was like sliding down a Greeced Pole!

The positive outcome of the train travel is the deep tissue massage one gets to ease some of the tensions of work and the travel. And the running into and out of the trains and stations keep the cardio-vascular system in shape; while the climbing up and down the “foot over-bridges” will ensure shapely calves and thighs. The holding onto the overhead handles while inside the train will ensure good stretching for all those muscles which most fitness trainers recommend to keep you supple and lithe. And if the trains don’t ply, then many Bombayites walked, cycled to work and back (like early this week); which is also healthy. So healthy benefits… thanks to the Local Trains.

Have a nice and healthy weekend. And if you venture into a local train tomorrow or on Sunday, do drop in a line on your experiences. I am sure it would be interesting to read.

Cheers….

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