i got the overwhelming go-ahead from innumerable people which prompts me to continue with this series. and if you think i am going to share more details of the numbers, you can think again :-)
many non-mumbaikars might wonder why any sane person in their right senses would want to inflict such torture on themselves and willingly contribute to the 'Super-Dense Crush Load' (SDCL) by commuting in local trains everyday?
no, its not mass-masochism! it just happens to be the most reliable way of commuting across the two linear stretches of mumbai city (known as the central & western lines). let me give you an example of what i mean.
just last week i had to attend the wedding reception of a friend, in a suburb called kandivali, which happens to be the next station to malad (which is where my office is located) on the western line. i left office at about 7 pm and all i had to do was cross over from malad west (all of mumbai is divided into west and east as bifurcated by the railway tracks) to kandivali east. the distance which is about 3-4 kms should have taken me all of 30-45 mins by road, given the rush-hour traffic. well, i walked into the reception at 9.15 pm! give me the SDCL any day!
coming back to the rule book of local train travelling in mumbai, here goes -
1. if you are a male traveller, never make the mistake of travelling by the ladies' compartment. you will most probably be told off by the ladies and some might even pull the alarm chain to stop the train and have you hauled off by the local constabulary, who would only be too glad to do the needful, if only to earn a few additional rupees from you!
2. if you are a lady traveller, never make the mistake of travelling by the gents' compartment. you would most propbably be told off by some of the men for doing something as rash as this. (it is not exactly a pleasant experience to experience the SDCL, even if all the men around you are paragons of virtue and are ignoring the fact that you are a woman in their midst!)
3. during rush hour (which happens to be almost any time of the day) when the train (especially the virar fast) pulls into the terminus at either end of the suburban line, wait at some distance from the door and allow the people scrambling in to such in and grab whichever vacant seat is available. you should also try getting hit by flying hands, elbows and office bags.
but at all other stations in between, you should allow the people to alight first before you allow yourself to be swept in by the crowd. (the trick is to position yourself such that you enter at an angle to the door; else if you position yourself bang opposite the door you will only get swept away by the alighting crowd leaving you with little chances of boarding the train).
4. at each station the train halts at, you should remember to get in or out only from the rear-half of the door (which is demarcated by a vertical bar for people to hold on to). the 2-3 men/women standing in the front-half will just not budge if you are trying to alight or get in.
5. if you have to alight at a station you have to start inching towards the door from the previsou station itself. you keep asking the person ahead of you if they would be alighting at the next station. if they are not, they will automatically make way for you till you reach the person who will be alighting at the next station.
6. if you are travelling in the second class compartment you can ask the 3 people seated on the seats to squeeze in and perch yourself on the edge of the seat. but if you are travelling first class, you don't do that. even if you do try, you will only get scowled at!
7. if you are carrying a bag, you can ask the persone next to the overhead luggage rack to help keep your bag on the rack. nobody ever refuses.
8. and if you have dozed off, somebody will shake you by your shoulder to wake you up once the train arrives at the terminus. and most people around you will nod and smile understandingly.
9. an altercation in a second class compartment could end up in blows while in a first class compartment it usually ends up in loud vocal fights. but 9 times out of 10 the situation is defused by the other travellers who will ask both parties to cool off.
10. it is acceptable to ask a fellow traveller for a sip of water (if he is carrying a bottle) or his newspaper if he has finished reading it. very rarely you will be refused.
11. and it is completely acceptable to sing aloud if you are travelling in one of those compartments which has a group of singers. these singers usually travel together by the same local every day. you get a choice of bhajans (devotional songs) or film songs.
so that was my own version of the survival guide for mumbai suburban train travel. if any of you have more tips to contribute please send in your comments.
(in some future posting i will also list out some of the major benefits of suburban/local train train travel in mumbai!)