Just Chatting with Life

Monday, December 12, 2005

My First Local Journey

After my last post on Mumbai Locals, many people have asked me whether it was an account of my own journey. I was my own journey, but i had posted it from a different perspective. So here is my account of my first local journey -

I have been living in Mumbai for 6 months now and like everyone else, I have formed a love-hate relationship with the city. If someone were to ask me the one thing that I love about Mumbai, I would say the Mumbai locals. If someone were to ask me the one thing I hate about Mumbai, still my answer would be the Mumbai Locals. It is the sort of relationship that the locals form with a Mumbaikar. He may hate its crowd and its heat, but in his heart he will always love the locals.

Flash back to the time when I came to Mumbai for the first time. I was staying with my cousin at Mulund. Now, Mulund is the last suburb of Mumbai. It is a mere 50 km from Colaba which is the other end of Mumbai. As fate would have it, I had to travel to Coloba for an interview. And that too alone. My cousin gave me loads of advice on the dos and don’ts of the Locals. Don’t stand in the middle, take care of your wallet …blah…blah. Now, I considered myself a grown-up person who can very well take care of himself. I thought, what the heck, I will do this easily. Alas! The crazy confidence of youth was to fail me yet again.

First task was buying the ticket. There were two lines and I got into the shorter one. I was wondering why people were joining the longer queue when this one had hardly 5 people. I realized my folly when I reached the counter and was informed not-so-politely by the guy that this was a season ticket line. The look he gave me could have killed a thousand Ravans. So, with some apprehension, I joined the other queue. After an interminable wait, I finally reached the counter. Now the ticket was for rupees 11 and I gave the guy a 500 rupees note. He looked at me as if eyeing a repulsive member of the Reptilia. He then made a big show of counting the change before giving. People behind me were now getting restless and I was looking for a hole in the ground where I could hide. After an interminable wait I finally got the ticket and the change and scampered to the over bridge. My pride was injured by the thousand daggers I got from the people behind me in the queue.

When I came to the over bridge, I realized that I had no idea which platform to go to. So, I swallowed my remaining pride and asked a bystander about the platform. On reaching the platform, I thought that my troubles were over. I confidently strode the center of the platform and waited for the train to come. When the first local came, I thought my worst nightmare had come true. I had never seen such a crowded train in my life. People were hanging on to the compartments by their fingertips. Temporary paralysis struck me and I didn’t move for 20 seconds, which I realized was the time the local stopped at the platform. Two more trains came by before I came out of the temporary coma. The vendors and shoe-polish wallahs were eyeing me strangely now. I knew that I had to summon courage and accomplish this mission. So in true tradition of my brave forefathers, I braced myself for this do-or-die task. The local came; I gave a loud war-cry and charged to the compartment. The enemies were brushed aside, the opposing barricade was broken and I was in the compartment. Victory to the brave, I would say. Of course, my troubles were far from over.

Being Mumbai, it was very humid and I was hosting a thousand waterfalls 5 minutes into the journey. Now I am pretty tall, but if you have the disadvantage of height, then you are in for a tough time. Your nose is pushed up against somebody's sweet smelling armpit. You can’t see anything besides a thousand varieties of shirts and trousers. If you are lucky enough, you can snatch some fresh air from the window. Back to me now. There were a thousand voices babbling all around me. I wondered at people's ability to carry on conversations amidst such a crowd. But wait, there were more surprises in store........ There was a guy sleeping soundly while hanging on to the bar!! I was astounded and my astonishment increased manifolds when I noticed that he was not the only one sleeping. My eyes popped out when I saw an impeccably dressed gentleman calmly reading the newspaper!! Suddenly there was a sound and I jumped, if such a thing were possible in the local. I turned around and saw a hawker trying to peddle his wares to me. I was close to total insanity when suddenly a station came and I realized that I was in the way!! Now this station was Dadar, where half the Mumbai gets off and on the train. I didn’t stand an iota of a chance. I was carried onto the platform with the mob getting off. By the time I fought my way out of the crowd, the local was gone. There I was, halfway from my destination, clothes all ruined, confidence gone for a toss and desperate to reach VT at any cost. I debated about taking a Taxi but 11 Rs vs. 300 Rs. was just too much. So, gathering my remaining courage, I braced myself for another battle. I got onto the compartment but not before 4 locals had whizzed by. Fear was written in large CAPITALS across my face.

I completed the journey somehow and upon reaching VT raised my hands in the air. I had done it. I had climbed the Everest and survived. I thought about my parents and how proud they would be. My confidence Bruised and battered, I had completed the epic journey which was second only to Frodo’s journey to destroy the ring. Literally running, I reached my interview 10 minutes late. The company people were considerate enough to let me sit for the interview, but not considerate enough to give me a second chance when I bumbled and stumbled my way through interview. Now I had to go back. The arrogant youth in me called for another epic journey back in the local. I calmly shut him up, went outside and called a taxi to take me home. After all, there was no reason to climb the Everest twice!!

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