I have been petrified of these metal monsters ever since the day I first stepped foot inside one of them. I've been pushed, pulled, smashed, thrown out & robbed of my belongings on these overcrowded metal contraptions. I always failed to see what the big fuss was about these things. The locals swear by them & it is considered to be the lifeline of this mad city.
When I came to Mumbai in 2008 I was forced to take them to work everyday (which is WHY i left the city in the first place). Unfortunately I dont have the luxury to make those decisions anymore because I'm married to this city now. I am a Mumbaikar. I'm no longer considered a Mallu, a Chennaite or a half Bong - I am a Mumbaikar. The city does that to you. It absorbs you & forces you to change & become one of them.
I tried my best to fight back, to retain my identity, to not take trains. It worked for 1.5 years, I stuck defiantly to autorickshaws, took up a job that was 12 kms close to home (Yes, close!). Distances don't matter here, the time of day when you choose to step out of home or out of office determines everything. If you leave home at 8.00am as opposed to 7.50am, you've had it. If you're a road commuter, beating traffic should be your only goal.
3 months ago I landed a job that is 30 kms from home. I couldn't say no to the offer & I found myself travelling 60kms back & forth on the roads for 4-5 hours everyday. I was burning out, I knew I couldn't do this for long. My new colleagues found me to be an absolute lunatic - either I was stinking rich or I was a complete psychopath. I was blowing up Rs 1000/- a day taking cabs back & forth. After about 2 months of taking cabs, a kind colleague who stayed in my neighbourhood forced me to take the train with her one evening. After much protesting I finally gave in.
She taught me some simple tricks to tackle the train demon :
- Find a seat - anyhow
- If you can't find a seat, stand between the sitting aunties & ask all of them one by one, which station they would get down. Claim your seat, mark your territory & sit down the minute the aunty gets down
- Take share cabs & share autos - paying full fare for public transport such as cabs & autos are for losers
It's been a month since I've started taking trains & I feel liberated. The money & time I'm saving everyday on travel has made me extremely happy. Indulging in that one extra dress or shoe, no longer makes me feel guilty.
Although I haven't started munching on chana dals or made "train friends" yet, I consider myself a train pro now. I'm no longer scared of the crowds, the shoving, the pushing & the pulling. Travelling to work has become a breeze - all thanks to the Mumbai locals.