Quirk 1 was a touching story of the kindness that runs along the train tracks in Mumbai. In this story, experience the lighter side of local train travel in Mumbai.
Mumbai, Mumbaikars and the local trains! Each day, each hour, each moment has a story to narrate. And, why wouldn’t it? Mumbai is functional because of these trains. Don’t believe me? Wait to experience a day on which it rains heavily and there is enough water on the roads, railway tracks and airport to make people search for water navigation modes. Lakhs of commuters feel dysfunctional. Put to inconvenience as taxis and autos fleece and this foot-board traveler and those in the compartments too are left at the mercy of the weather. No transport. Life and movement halts. Not a Mumbaikar? Watch the news.
But this story isn’t about the woes and sob stories of times when the railway system collapses. It is about a very interesting incident. Why trouble about the ill happenings? Rather turn our face toward the excitement and action that fizzes at each station. The network efficiently connects extreme ends of Mumbai which stretch beyond borders and boundaries of the geographical kind!
And this incident? I think it’s unique to Mumbai and its spirit. Possible only in this city which never sleeps. Every moment is keyed to action mode. Eager beavers, ready to help a new arrival in an attempt to make him feel at home! Mumbaikars go out of their way to help a struggling stranger. Even if it times means, getting in their way.
Once such hapless victim of Mumbai’s hospitality culture was Anup from Pune.
Now who is Anup and what was he doing in Mumbai? Is that relevant here? But to ease your curiosity, Anup is a software professional who graduated from a reputed engineering college of Pune. Bubbling with enthusiasm that he had beaten all odds, proved his relatives wrong and shown them that like his elder brother, he too could make it into the challenging world of engineering and emerge unscathed. So then, after graduation, where else other than the commercial capital to cash in on a job that did his stature good?
Got what you wanted? Curiosity eased? Now read on. This writing isn’t about Anup’s biography but the interesting experience he underwent in aamchi Mumbai. Summoned for an interview, a first-timer to Mumbai chose to take the Mumbai life-line. He had heard enough horror stories of not being able to make it to the interview due to road blocks. Didn’t want to risk it and he did have a lot to prove back home. Braving the morning rush, the lad glided into a train bound for his destination or so he thought-Matunga. The gentleman from a more relaxed town, did not realize that there are fast and slow trains. The one he had sailed into, thanks to the mass of commuters, was a fast one and did not halt at Matunga. The first timer, and interviewee panicked on realizing his mistake. Enough helpful daily commuters realized he was the odd man out and on questioning him understood why he was there. You can’t really call folks inquisitive, can you? They need to kill time and keep themselves engaged as they negotiate the struggles of daily shoving and nudging, maintain their calm. When the co-travelers understood he wouldn’t be able to get off at Matunga, as the train did not stop there, there was a commotion in the compartment and all sorts of advice came hurtling Anup’s way. The lad who was already panicking, was utterly confused. Attempts to push him off failed as the train was in motion.
On seeing his plight, a sympathetic co-passenger decided to come to his rescue. It seemed that he had been commuting by that train (6:03 pm Kasara Fast) for the past 6 years and had noticed that the train always slowed down just before Matunga station and crawled at a snail’s pace while passing through it. Anup would have his chance then. This kind man suggested Anup jump out of the moving train as it slowed down. Along with this expert advise, Anup was also told that if he were fleet-footed, he would make it safely on terra firma. That Anup was young and should be nimble-footed was the assumption everyone made. No one thought of him as a first timer on the local. The far-sighted gentleman, knowing the man’s inexperience, also added some words of caution:” Keep running even after you jump or you’ll fall. Just keep running.” He stressed the word “running” lest the man not know the laws of motion.
The bewildered Anup had no other option than to listen to what veterans had to say. He couldn’t possibly be late for the interview. He didn’t want to miss it at any cost. Who would want to hear the jibes of Billu mama or the needling that his father would indulge in. Mother’s soothing balm of love would not ease the piercing look of Sandeep, the eldest born of the family. The great achiever, who seemed to get everything right the very first time and all the time. No, he had to do this. Trains travel fast, faster than Anup’s thoughts and before he knew it, he was almost at Matunga. The train had slowed down and his fellow commuters yelled encouraging him to jump. “Now is the right time,” said one. “Quick”, squealed another. “Jump off ….”. It went on. Confident that it was easy, our hero jumped out of the train. In fact, was almost pushed off the train, by his concerned and helpful travel-mates. So overwhelmed was the young lad at being to achieve this that he began running as if part of a 100 meters dash. He ran his escape to success as if all hell had broken loose. What he didn’t realize, of course, was that he was running parallel to the train instead of running away from it.
Meanwhile, the train slowed down even more, perhaps awaiting a signal or passage. It so happened that Anup was now running faster than the train. This race and haste saw Anup arrive at the door of the next compartment. On seeing him run, those on the footboard there gave him a helping hand. Rather grabbed him and pulled him in thinking he was trying to board the train! Anup who was stunned beyond utterance began mumbling and struggling to get out. But the celebratory cacophony of the fellow commuters in this compartment drowned his pleas about missing his interview……To his horror, the train picked up speed and sped past Matunga. Once safely in, or so they thought, his new co-passengers started to congratulate him on how lucky he had been. On seeing the dismay on his face and the tears in his eyes they were stumped. Hadn’t they been kind and helpful to a struggling mate? Anup finally blurted out that they had undone what he had achieved with great difficulty.
Those standing at the door of his “ex-compartment” had witnessed the whole drama and just couldn’t help laughing at the poor man’s predicament. Seeing their joy laden faces Anup could not resist smiling and grinned sheepishly!!!
What about the interview? Did Anup attend it? And his folks at home? Uh oh. This isn’t Anup’s biography, now is it? Still curious? From this piece understand how story after story unfolds while traveling on local trains in Mumbai.