April 18, 2012

8.55 Goregaon Local

Family, Peer, School are some of the key influencers in creating a person’s personality. In addition, there is the city you grew up in, especially if it is Mumbai. As for me, Mumbai is now in my genetic code. I always have the urge to write about it. So today it is about Mumbai local trains –the life line of Mumbai.
I lived in Suburbs and my office was in Nariman point. So for four years every day I commuted by train to office. The train started from Goregaon station at 8.55 a.m, people arrived before the train arrival, so that they could board the train even before it stopped to get a place to sit. Every minute mattered, if you came a minute late, it could mean a standing journey of 45 mins. In just couple of minutes after the arrival of the train, it got fully crowded like it is taking an entire town from one place to the other. The ladies compartment indeed is like a self-surviving township. And the people in this township can be broadly categorized into five types. Each type had a different character and a different story. 
The Regulars – These are the founder members of this train township. Their body language is like of the proud owners with their right on the train more than anyone else’s. These are women who have been taking the same train for ten, twelve, fifteen plus years. These are usually the employees of government offices in south Mumbai. After finishing cooking, cleaning, school, kids, husband tiffin, all household chores, they come to the train, a place where they will finally sit in one place for 45 mins.  So they somehow look forward for the journey. They have regular friends and this forms many such mini groups in the train. They vent out about mother in laws in the mornings and bosses in the evenings. With a lighter heart they then discuss TV soaps, Bollywood and the latest sari designs worn by these heroines. Along all this, they even shop in the train. There is a mini-bazaar behind those rusty old windows of the trains.  Vegetables, beauty accessories, bindis, bangles, nighties, under garments, chappals, you get everything here, that too coming to your door step, I mean seat step. They buy vegetables in the train and also cut them in the train itself, saving the cooking time. These are the real super women. If there is any award for multi-tasking then it should go to them. If trains are the life line of Mumbai, then these women are the life line of the ladies compartments of these trains. 

The Entrepreneurs – These are the business women who see the train as an opportunity of potential buyers. They are all kinds of small businesses here; Insurance brokers, Amway dealers, tailoring, homemade papads and pickles, imported purses etc. While the regulars who are happy within their own regular groups, these women like to make new friends in the train as they see that as possible new buyers. They are the true negotiators with commendable selling skills. This is their second income over and above the regular jobs but this comes across as their real passion. They are the ones who teach you to never give up. 

The College girls –These are the short distance travelers going to their college, which is usually not more than 4-5 stations away. So these young girls keep coming and going at different stations. They come in small groups of two three girls. They increase the fashion quotient of the train. Like all girls this age, they are usually talking about boys and affairs in the college. They believe that their life is outside the trains and this is just a temporary arrangement. They like to stand near the doors instead of sitting, as if they want to keep their association with the train restricted and don't want to really get into the epic entre of it. There is hope and excitement about life and trains don’t currently feature in life they see for themselves. 

The Young working women – These are the employees of big corporates. They have only recently started travelling. They take different trains every day so don’t really have regular friends. They are either reading a book or listening to music. Mentally they are still pre-occupied with work – boss, targets, and delivery deadline and so on. The train is as indifferent to them as they are to the train.  

The Sleepers- This is the most impressive type for their amazing skill of falling off to sleep the minute they hit their seat and to wake up exactly in time for their station. No noise or chaos in the train can ever disturb them. They usually run to grab the window seats so that they can rest in peace. 

I learnt more about Mumbai and its daily lives, in these four years than ever. This 45 minute journey unfolded so many stories and insights which have gone a long way with me, in my life even beyond these four years.

To end, some interesting and amusing facts related to Mumbai local trains:

o   The system carries more than 7.24 million commuters on a daily basis. It has the highest passenger densities of any urban railway system in the world.
o   40 trains per hour arrive and depart on every station and on every track
o   A train is made to commute 1700 passengers at a time. But it carries 4500 passengers
o   Mumbai local trains have Super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing passengers per square metre of floor space. Thus the idea of personal space is no one actually standing on your toes.
o   Train timings (9.27, 10.49 etc) are really important events of life in Mumbai.
o   In Mumbai, you spend more time each month traveling than you spend at home.

If my thoughts trigger a thought of your own, do leave a comment. I love reading your comments.


sunil deepak said...

If I was a woman, if I was living in Bombay, if I was travelling by local trains, I think I would have been a sleeper! :)

Loved reading it, thanks.

Saru Singhal said...

I was in Mumbai for a month in 2007 and traveled in locals. It's a mini universe. Quite an interesting read Ekta.

Ekta said...

@Sunil, Even i straddled between the young working women or the sleeper. The only difference is often missed my station and had to get off at the next one.

Thanks for stopping by.

Radhika Gupta said...

Hi Ekta,
Well we don't have Mumbai like local trains in Delhi.. But we do have Delhi Metro and as a collegiate, i was a regular commuter for four years... and yes, the "women only" coach sounds pretty similar... especially the sleepers!!

Rahul Bhatia said...

Lovely reading about Mumbai locals! I too was a regular between Andheri and Churchgate for sometime and found people playing cards while standing as the most interesting one, and the bhajan singing ones too:) Very well written , Ekta!


very nicely penned down !

Ekta said...

@Radhika, It's true women are women everywhere.

@Saru, Rahul M, Am really glad that you enjoyed the post.

@Rahul B, how could i miss the mention of the bhajan singers in my post. They were truly interesting. Thanks for reminding me and for reading my blog.

KayEm said...

Do the macchhi walis not travel in the ladies' any more? They used to in the 80s. We all used to give them a wide berth. And what about the beggars? The rest sounds wonderfully familiar. I used to love the sound of the train - it was like music. Lovely post, Ekta.

Prasoon said...

Liked the way you categorize the commuters:)
I have never been to Mumbai and hence never traveled in a local. Would love to travel one day and experience it. Friends from Mumbai keep telling interesting stories about them.

Good Job Ekta! :) :)

shooting star said...

very very interesting post..now that delhi metro has a ladies coach....i have come across all the types of women/girls you describe here!!!


indu chhibber said...

I have never traveled in these train but your post paints a vivid picture.......must be interesting to watch all these happenings--but i guess only for an occasional traveler.

Malte Zeeck said...


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indu chhibber said...

Hi Ekta,thanks a lot for passing on the versatile blogger Award to me.

indu chhibber said...

Hi Ekta,thanks a lot for passing on the versatile blogger Award to me.

Dark Knight said...

Nice post, I like the way you categorized the commuters. Interestingly enough, I also wrote a post on trains called "Boss On Land!". Check it out when you have a chance.

Ekta said...

Hey Dark Knight, Am glad you liked my post. Will definitely check out 'Boss on land'

Ekta said...

@ Radhika, Indu, Rahul M, Rahul B Kay em, Shooting Star, Sorry for such a late response. But am glad you enjoyed my post

Nitin Jain said...

first time on your blog..really nice work you are doing here...having lived in Mumbai for few years, I admire the spirit of Mumbai women...I think the local trains and public transport, though is bit fragile and overloaded but has proved to be a efficient and reliable tool !!

(mymoonlog) said...

nice pictures

zunnur said...

Quite scary to know that they try to get up the train before it stops, and yhose multi-tasking women, they're really productive. I'm really surprised that they cut the vegetables in the train itself!
I really enjoyed your post.

Women Care Services Jaipur said...

great post using real-world examples. Keep it up!

Abeesh said...

Really interesting to read your experiences on mumbai trains :)

Neo Prady said...

wat a stuff to read. I loved the classification you made with just enuf explanation about each type. Awesome writing Ekta. Wud love to read u more.
Do find the time to drop in at my blog and comment.


KayEm said...

Don't know what it is about Mumabi locals, Ekta, but I love stories about them - especially the ladies compartment. I've seen the sleepers and been amazed at their instincts myself. And as for the regulars, the word for them is "comfortable". They enjoy their discussions and they enjoy the treats they pass around and before they know it, they're at their destination.

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