Mumbai locals, a much clichéd topic in a Mumbaikar’s life! Nearly everyone has at least once travelled in the cramp packed ‘life-line’ of Mumbai. Spread over 465 kilometres, the suburban railway operates 2,342 train services and carries more than 7.5 million commuters daily. It is one of the busiest commuter rail systems in the world!
With such astounding numbers of daily services and riders, some minor delays, breakdowns and overcrowding are expected…“Bade Bade Deshon Mein Aisi Choti Choti Baatein Hoti Rehti Hai” and these locals are no less than a country. In a previous blog, I shared a few “tips” of surviving the local trains. But they are not all that bad. Here are some things positive of the Mumbai Locals:
- You can make some amazing friends, of all the age groups. They make your journey eventful with all the gossiping and train kitty parties. You have a friendly face to accompany you on a tiresome journey, a person on whom you can always bank upon to help find a seat for you.
- The hours spent on the train are quite like a “me time”. You have time to contemplate your life, just sit and ponder over silly things, get your knitting work done or sort/pick out your vegetables. And you can also catch up on your sleep!
- Or if you like to write or read, like me, you can just do that! This travel time is the only time I get to connect with the creative side in me. You are reading something that was written while commuting.
- Mumbai locals are an excellent place to shop! No matter how crowded it gets, where there is will there’s a way! You can buy absolutely anything on trains, from lingeries to food and jewelry! Mumbai can actually add this in its tourist attractions, a train market!
- One of the most important things: Train travel teaches you to adjust and co-operate! You will find a few kind hearts who will accommodate a child or a pregnant woman in the crowds, giving them enough space to stand or seat. It shows a humane side of the otherwise robotic life of the city.
- Yet another unique feature of the Mumbai locals is the “Bhajani Mandal”. Music is a very integral part of Indian culture and the Mumbai locals no stranger to this. Long and boring journeys are made enjoyable by singing songs. There are many such regular travellers who board a specific train every day and engross themselves in singing bhajans (devotional folk songs) or some funky Bollywood music accompanied by small drums and chambals!
- I don’t know about others, but for me watching the railway tracks run along with me and to see the trains change tracks is just therapeutic. I’m mesmerised by it and can spend hours gazing out of the window (if at all by my good karma I get a window seat). On such occasions, I get very philosophical about life and gain some much-needed peace (even though it lasts for just a few seconds).
- The trains are without a doubt the fastest mode of transport in Mumbai. Yes, there are times when they get delayed and overcrowded. But when it comes to connectivity and fast mobility, Mumbai Locals are your saviour. A huge network of railway lines connects the widespread suburban areas of Mumbai and several townships that stand on the fringes of the city with each other. So when you are looking to get anywhere quickly, go for the trains!
- If you are a tourist and want to experience the life of a Mumbaikar, the Mumbai locals are the best place to get a unique glimpse into daily life. The local rail network which is the lifeline for many commuters in Mumbai transports an astonishing eight million commuters each day! (However, Beware! Riding on them during peak office hours is not for the faint of heart)
- Last but definitely not at all the least…Mumbai’s famous Dabbawalas take the train every day, delivering hundreds and thousands of lunch boxes without fail! Between 175,000 and 200,000 lunch boxes are delivered around the city each day by 4,500 to 5,000 Dabbawalas. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that more than half of Mumbai’s working population would go hungry without the efficient management of these white cotton kurta-pajama clad men wearing white Gandhi topis (caps) travelling the length and the breadth of the city on bicycles and trains!
Mumbai local trains are called the city’s lifeline for a reason. The number of passengers they carry every day is larger than the population of some countries. Trains ply to and fro for almost 23 hours per day, enabling the fast-paced life of the city. Not even terrorists could shut it down for long! After the infamous serial blasts along the western line in 2006, the trains started running in less than three hours and were fully functional in less than 16 hours!
In spite of some minor glitches, the predictability and the cost efficiency of the locals make it one of the most preferred modes of transport for most. The Mumbai Local is not a train from one station to another. It is an experience. You will hate it at first, but the “Mumbai Local Culture” will grow on you soon enough. The local train truly embodies the spirit of Mumbai!
Ai dil hai mushakil jeena yaha
Zara hat ke zara bach ke
Ye hai Bombai meri jaan….
© 2018 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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