Being a resident of Mumbai for the past 16 years, I have had experiences of what it takes to be a Mumbaikar. Be it overcoming everyday fear of terror attack or enjoying even the flood that the monsoon every year greets us with. With all that and many more, the never dying spirit of mumbaikar is worth a mention.
Staying in Virar and travelling all the way to Andheri for my college, made me come to terms with the lifeline of Mumbai- the Mumbai local. The two hours journey from Virar to Andheri and back to Virar made me realise one thing that the ever crowded Mumbai locals are certainly not for faint hearts.
Mumbai uses local trains for commuting. It is the backbone of the transport system in Mumbai. Those who are new to Mumbai, look at the locals wondering if they could ever put their foot inside any one of them. And even if they ever succeed in doing so, there is another bigger challenge staring right at their face and that is imbibing with the rules and regulation of the local.
There are quite some unofficial, unspoken, unwritten rules of Mumbai local. And mind you, each different for ladies and gents compartments. We have many of them, generally known to the regular commuters.
To start with we have this ‘fourth seat rule’ for the ladies compartment. While this term is almost alien to the first class gent’s compartment, it’s most important in ladies compartment. The seat is generally for three passengers to sit comfortably. However the word ‘comfortably’ is squeezed a little bit to accommodate one more person in to it.
This person sitting at the fourth seat gets the least ventilation in the crowded train, he has to struggle with a relatively small place where she has forcibly pushed herself to fit into and the people passing by the gangway contribute to their struggle. Believe me; the fourth seat passengers would regret every moment they decided to sit on the fourth seat!
Then we have this person standing near the window in both gents and ladies who is temporarily entrusted with the responsibility of being a ‘Luggage keeper.’ Then we have this ‘claiming’ system in ladies coach, where people claim your seat depending on which station you are getting down. It is like you are put up for an auction where people are taking bid on you! Only the person who has claimed your seat can sit on your seat when you get up.
In gents you don’t have this claiming system but it is more an understood fact that you have got to get up, say in, borivali if you are to get down in Andheri. Don’t do it and you invite nasty looks and comments from gangs of regular commuters.
These are unofficial rules and no one will penalise or punish you for not following them unless you don’t want a peaceful and Jhagdafree journey.
Once you get the sight for seeing the invisible strings, you realise how the ‘life-altering’ experience of travelling in a Mumbai local becomes a’ cake walk.’ And with all its invisible strings, the local moves on- life goes on!