would you like to live life on the wild side? rough it out for a while? try out some dare-devil stunts? you can experience all these and more and you don't even have to travel too far (well, at least not if you are a mumbaikar - a mumbai resident)!
no, i am not talking about bungee-jumping or hang-gliding or fighting the leopards from the sanjay gandhi national park bare-handed. all you need to do is travel by the 'mumbai suburban train' during peak hour!
you have led a secluded, deprived life if you have been to mumbai and have not travelled by the 'local' as the suburban train is called by the locals.
but first let's put things in perspective. to give you a sense of what i am talking about, let me share some statistics from some credible sources here.
"Along with its neighbouring suburbs, Mumbai forms the world's sixth most populous metropolitan area with a population of about 25 million. According to the BBC, Mumbai is certainly set to outstrip Tokyo as the most populated city by 2020."
(source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumbai)
"Bombay suburban services are run by CR and WR. Both run many hundreds of trains every day, and carry around 6 million passengers a day, roughly evenly divided between them. CR services connect the eastern suburbs to the city, whereas WR services connect the northern suburbs to the city. [4/02] CR runs around 1090 services daily, whereas WR runs around 980 services. Supply has not kept pace with the demand, however, as the number of passengers grew about 2.5 times as fast as the capacity of the system through the 1980s and 1990s."
(source - http://www.irfca.org/faq/faq-metro.html)
"Due to its extensive reach across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, and its intensive use by the local urban population, overcrowding has grown to be a compelling problem (4,700 passengers are packed into a 9-car rake during peak hours, as against the rated carrying capacity of 1,700). This has resulted in what is known as Super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing passengers per square metre of floor space.
(source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumbai_Suburban_Railway)"
you might think that commuting by these trains every day is a horrifying experience. but for the seasoned veterans (viz. the season pass-holders) the daily grind actually is an uplifting, spiritual experience of sorts!
and if you are a first-timer, and for a moment lets assume you actually managed to overcome the panic gripping you when you actually see the 'Super-Dense Crush Load' of people, and you actually manage to get into the train (maybe you actually changed your mind about getting in but then you got swept into the train by the rush) you will very quickly realise that there are some unwritten golden rules that everybody follows. and the sooner you learn them the better the chances of your surviving the trip! (and till then you stick out like a sore thumb even though you don't have enough leg-room to place both your feet squarely on the floor! not to mention that you, and not just your thumb, end up feeling sore all over after the trip!)
so here's my own short & sweet rule-book (or survival guide) on how to commute by the local and live to tell the tale!
but i'm running beyond my self-imposed 'post length' here. so i'm going to have to share these 'life secrets' with you in my next post.
p.s. other 'travel-war veterans' among the readers here are requested to send in your list of rules so that i can filch them and include them in my list :-)