Monday, 5 October 2015

Travelling on the Mumbai Local Train


Brian Mendonça

This Ganesh holidays we were in Mumbai and did a lot of travelling on the Mumbai local train.

Admittedly in the not so recent past I was terrified of travelling on it, lately it has become second nature to me. Steered purposefully by Queenie, a denizen of Mumbai, our little son has also got into the act and nimbly steps on and off the Mumbai local without a care.

We mostly used the Harbour line, transiting mainly from Kharghar in Navi Mumbai to Kurla, a distance of about 35 minutes.  The trains used to start at Panvel, a couple of stations away and come down to the spacious, clean and uncluttered Kharghar station where we used to hop on for the ride to town. 

In almost all the instances we boarded the train young lads got up and offered a seat to Dwayne or to Queenie. I began to actually rely on their goodwill and used to tell myself, ‘Just get into the train and we’ll be alright.’

As we were swept into the train (or swept out!) we learnt to manoeuvre  ourselves between the seating areas in the train and place our bags – each of us carried one – on the luggage racks above. This left our hands free to hold on to the handrails and clasps for support and balance.

Once, after a weary day, I placed my black haversack – everyone carries haversacks on the Mumbai local trains, some of them carried in front of them  rather than behind – on the luggage rack above, along with our other bags. Next to it was another black haversack to which I paid no heed.

As Mankhurd station approached I watched one man gather his things from the luggage rack. I looked at our bags and noticed something amiss. My black haversack had suddenly sported yellow lettering on it. I panicked. The bag was not mine. A person had taken my bag by mistake – and he was about to get off!

I began to shout in the train asking anyone with a black bag to check his bag for it was the wrong one. No one paid much attention to me. Then Queenie got up and shouted and people started listening. There was a murmur from the crowd primed to disembark and lo and behold I saw my own bag being passed on by helpful hands from the exit towards me. I swiftly passed on the black bag with the yellow lettering and within seconds the train stopped.

I have a penchant for the Harbour line, having done my schooling in Bombay.  A dear aunt of mine used to stay at Wadala. I wrote a poem titled ‘Harbour Line’ in 2001:  Harbour line you make your way . . . / I grew up with you from boy to man . . . For me travelling once more on the Harbour line – this time from Navi Mumbai -- was like coming home and reclaiming my past.
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Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 4 October 2015. Pix source: zeenews.india(dot)com

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