Trains are the life line of Mumbai. They run through the city a crisscrossing network of travel facilitation, saving you time, money and the historical, ill-famed traffic snarls that get you into a jam in ways more than one.
Ii is unlikely that such a large network of transport that is the oxygen of Mumbai’s work life be free of events. All kinds ugly and fascinating take place all the time. This one is how despite the rush to meet deadlines and be on time, a train stopped. Yes, it actually did to help a struggling passenger board the train. Humanity hasn’t ceased to exist, it just needs to be noticed more and extracted from everyday events around us.
It was the last Ladies’ special train of the day and all those women who wanted to travel comfortably, not jostling in a regular train needed to make it to the station. It was a usual day. The usual rush and pace had consumed her. The doctor’s visit had taken time way beyond her expectation and to accommodate the expenses she needed to balance the travel back home. Taxi was out of reach and bus would mean more hours on the road than her aching back would allow.
The best option was the train. The ladies special which was to leave shortly. And favourably the station was not too far away from her doctors. As Providence would have it, as soon as she hobbled out of the clinic, a shared auto to the station was waiting for just one more passenger. It was as if it had waited for her. Her own personal ride.
The distance of a kilometre and a half stretched for miles as the famous traffic snarl played like the obstacle course. Her pulse increased and she stressed about reaching the station in time for the last ladies special due to leave in 10. There was little anyone could do. Too tired to battle anything more she slumped back into her seat and looked skyward only to see the dark canvas ceiling of the auto rickshaw. But her maker had heard her silent plea. She had to be on that last train.
The road ahead offered scope of movement and the mouse like travel mode, sneaked around large cars and trucks managing to reach her destination with sufficient time to find her way to the ticket window and dash towards the train. Manageable when she was a twenty something but over three times that and her knees giving way, she wasn’t too sure on this occasion.
Giving up wasn’t part of her temperament or even her repertoire of words and phrases. With the prize ticket clutched in her trembling hands she limped towards the platform, anxiety writ large on her wrinkled brow. “Will I make it?” she thought feverishly and made towards the train in what she considered a dash.
Women rally around each other, when they see another of their kind distressed, though later they may break out into a fight about spaces and seating and stepping on toes…. When they saw Vimla mustering all her remaining strength to run at as much speed as she could to catch the train, they shouted words of encouragement. Vimla had seen the train chugging out of the platform, through the corner of her eye. Dejectedly and gradually she slowed down, easing her struggle to board.
Could so many women calling out have gone unheard? The second last coach was quite well populated though not really packed to capacity. Shouts of the women could be heard across a nearly empty platform. Vimla stood out against the by now vacant platform, a brave yet hunched figure who had almost made it to the train. Her vain attempt was noticed by the rear driver as the train trickled out of the platform. (The local trains usually have two drivers one at the back and one in the front) The driver, as fate would have it, witnessed this elderly woman’s struggle and applied emergency brake. He yelled out, “Tai, come quickly board the train.” Vimla surprised at her changed fortune quickly looked upward, this time to see the asbestos sloping roof of the station. She shuffled hurriedly and boarded the train. Despite the melee, her brave attempt to catch the train was not missed by the keen eyes of fellow humans. A true display of innate humane goodness followed. Belief in humanity is restored now and again with this and similar live illustrations of the Mumbaikar spirit to help each other out. A big city where people have barely any time to care for themselves, leave alone others had shown that it’s heart is in the right place!