Ever since the author of this article has begun traveling about 130 kilometers a day in the name of education, the author of this article has learned a lot. To enumerate a few,
This comes into play especially if you are-
A. Traveling a very long distance to a station which only one type of train stops at (like maybe Vasai)
B. A student who has an extremely strict and punctual teacher taking the first period of the day
C. Traveling by a mode of transport which is totally unpredictable (like the early morning Harbor line trains).
You know if you miss that one specific 7:18 Wadala, you’re going to be screwed. You know missing that one train will cascade down to not getting another train for the next twenty minutes, not getting entry into the first class of the day, and most importantly not getting that precious attendance. So you WILL move your arse early morning, maybe even skip your breakfast or your bath (or, god forbid, both) to get to that elusive 7:18 Wadala.
And if you get to the station and see the train just pulling onto the platform, it’s like a scene from a Bollywood movie- that one where the heroine is going away in the train and the hero has to get to her exact window seat in the exact dabba to be able to tell her he loves her. Remember how he pushes and shoves everyone in the crowd? It isn’t that romantic in real life.
Also that scene in Yeh Jawaani Hain Deewani (yes, I watch a lot of Bollywood) where Ranbir is trying to convince Deepika to get onto the moving train because Manali will be fun? Imagine your friends standing at the door instead of Ranbir and saying “Chal bhaag nahi toh ABCD Sir ka lecture miss ho jayega! Bhaag Hera, bhaag!”
Yeah, not so heart warming.
- The use of apps like mIndicator, even if you’re technologically challenged
“Oh shit, we missed the 7:18 Wadala. Check when the next Panvel train is!”
”Oh shit, the 135 which goes to Dockyard just passed me, check when the next 135 comes!”
”Oh shit, we missed even the 7:40 Wadala. Check kar Dadar-Kurla-Kharghar kitna time lagta hain nah?”
mIndicator and Google maps are very very useful while traveling by public transport, especially if the station is far away from you or if you’re traveling far away. mIndicator and maps is also helpful if you decide to go exploring around the new place and get lost or have a tiff with a rickshaw drive who then refuses to take you wherever you want to go. In places out of Bombay, like Virar and Thane (apologies, the author will always be a townie at heart) there are these funny contraptions called rickshaws, which collect at specific strategic locations called rickshaw stands. Now, the humans who operate these contraptions-
A. Are very united. Really, they could even lecture the Parliament on that topic.
B. Tend to try to fit their contraption into the smallest of spaces and openings
C. Can be ill tempered
D. Tend to act very pricey
Rickshaws line up at rickshaw stands and you must hail them as they come. Which means if you piss one driver off, you piss off the entire queue (refer to A). Another commonly faced problem is bargaining with them, especially if you’re not from that area and don’t know the rates (refer to D). These humans do not know of meters. A meter is just another contraption that must be placed in their bigger contraption, because the rules say so.
So, when you go to a rickshaw stand and say, “bhaiyya XYZ ko jaana hain.” and the driver says, “One million dollars lagega.” you tend to mentally tell him to go to hell and decide to just walk it or take a bus. Only, you don’t know the roads or the buses. Hail mIndicator and maps, your saviors! Now, mIndicator even has a red and blue logo, like the colors of Superman. It isn’t even a coincidence.
Another time mIndicator helps is when train lines shut down or become almost defunct. Now in Bombay, this is an emergency of Code Red levels. Stations become crowded, there’s no place on the platforms to stand, people get stranded, and there is an overall atmosphere of severe impatience and gloom.
In these times, you commonly hear dialogues like “Dude, check if there’s another train from Belapur.” or “Dude, see which bus numbers go to South Bombay from here, nah.” interspersed with “Ugh, why did I take this job.” or “Ugh why did I take this college!” or “Next year se pakka PG hi lenge yaar.”
This isn’t even a very rare occurrence, especially in the Harbor and Central lines. An overhead wire short circuits at Wadala, Harbor Line practically shuts down. Someone gets electrocuted at Thane, Central Line practically shuts down. Someone gets pushed off a train at Kurla (what was he thinking, it’s Kurla!), both Central and Harbor Lines practically shut down.
- Increased communication skills
Sticking together with people who are in the same difficult situation as you is a very common human tendency. Just like that, people who brave public transport together, stick together. ”Oh, you travel to Panvel from CST too?! That’s awesome! I’m Hera.” and you’ve made a friend!
In colleges and at workplaces, people who travel from far off often tend to become closer as they travel together. There is going to be that group of girls who all travel from Kandivali and hang out together too, or that group of guys who all live in South Bombay and have taken PG accommodation together, or maybe even that solitary girl and boy who get on together at maybe Chunabhatti and have become close during all those mornings when they were the only people from their class waiting for the same train.
Once, while the author was in school, she’d read an article about a group of ladies who traveled the Western Line and were best of friends. To begin with, they didn’t know each other from Adam, but over the years of traveling together in the exact same dabba every day, they became this group of ladies who all worked at different places, hailed from backgrounds, did different jobs, but still got along like a house on fire.
In some cases, you absolutely have to communicate with fellow passengers. Like in a full compartment when you’re trying to get to the door because your station is next. You have to ask the woman in front of you “Dadar?” or “Bandra?” so that she realizes she’s in the way, and must move to avoid getting trampled over.
4. How to deal with fisherwomen
Fisherwomen are very important. They deliver fish, which means they also deliver Omega 3 fatty acids and other vital trace nutrients to your doorstep. Hence, they take their job very seriously. Do not EVER cross paths or take a panga with a fisherwoman, especially when a train is arriving on the platform. You may end up in a puddle of slimy water (personal experience, and the author had an exam that day).
The method of dealing with fisherwomen is simple- don’t deal too much with them. Fisherwomen are easy to spot, in their nav vaari saari with a basket of fish on their head and a trail of fishy water behind them. Spot them early, and be wary. Step aside, let them pass, dodge them if you can.
If you have sensitive ears (which the author does not because of constant use of earphones), maybe carry earmuffs or other protective equipment. Fisherwomen who yell at each other across platforms can reach extremely high decibel levels. On the flip side, they serve for an excellent wake up call.
- How to accommodate
The train is just pulling out of Kurla station, and obviously, it’s packed to overflowing capacities (literally, one guy is hanging on with just one foot in the train), when suddenly, from the platform, a shout is heard. A guy, huffing and puffing, is trying to get onto the train. Only, he cant find a single open surface to hold and get on.
Immediately, the introductory tune of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham plays, and everyone gets melancholy. This man deserves to be helped. He has guts- he has chosen to get onto a train at Kurla, he definitely has guts.
One commuter, safely in the train, reaches a hand out to him, DDLJ style. The man instantly latches on, and is pulled up into the train. Magically, he fits into a compartment where even Sunny Leone’s lingerie would not. This is the accommodation capacity commuters on local trains have.
- Never buy earrings and hairclips from the road
Not because they’re not good quality, but because you’ll get the same ones in the second class of a Virar Fast for half the price. Not just earrings and hairclips, you even get pencil pouches, small clutches, and other miscellaneous, useful items.
Let’s not forget the advertisements on the walls of the compartments. Bengali Baba, who you can call if you have any ‘arthik samasya, shaadi mein kathinaee, baccha paida karne mein naakaamyabi’, or any such earth shattering personal issue. Or Santosh, who will give you a PAN card or Aadhar card within 24 hours, without documents. Or Deepak, who can get you a flat in Kalwa for the meagre sum of rupees ten lakh.
- How to manouveur yourself
It is common knowledge that if you’re in the middle of a full compartment, and your station is next, you’re screwed. Manouvering around a full dabba without stepping on any stray legs, sarees, children, baskets, or entire sitting women is a very useful talent. Manouvering also comes in handy when you need to get through a crowd to the train. All of us cannot be Bollywood heroes (refer to point 1).
The author has the following tips-
A. Always keep your eyes on the floor, that’s where the most obstacles are. Watch out for baskets of fruit or fish, women, and children.
B. Ask people at the door if they’re getting down too. If they are, no problem, just get swept off the train with the crowd.
C. Start moving up front when two stations are left for your stop.
D. Push and shove freely while in emergency. You may lose a few strands of hair, or tear your shirt if an angry woman grabs onto it, but nothing is worth missing your stop. Nothing.
- Always look on the sunny side
The ladies second class is completely full? No problem. You will get a full body massage for free.
The gents first class has no place? No problem. Maybe you’ll discover a new kind of perfume.
You’ve missed the 7:18 Wadala? No issues. ABCD Sir is anyway boring as hell.
Trains are running late? So what? Everyone will be late with you. You all have an excuse. You’ll even get attendance!
No 135 in sight for the past ten minutes? That’s fine, you can take a cab today! They’re more comfy too!
Public transport has a pattern- we cannot change it, because we’re not Rajnikanth. So we might as well just take it with a pinch of salt!
But on a serious note, let’s give it up for the Indian Railways. Nowhere else in the world can you travel such a long distance in so less. They’re doing a great job, but everything has its pros and cons.