“Aye! Andar chal na. Chaar ka jagah hai, kidhar paanch jan ghus rela hai?” I have heard it for a lot of times. No! They aren’t discussing anything about 5th jan. Life is at a breath stopping speed? Not really. The speed, I believe, doesn’t exceed 60 kmph. But life is for sure on a very thin line of metal. Lakhs of lives traveling every single day. And few thousands are having those real pleasures. Or those nightmares as well. Nightmares as dark as a resting body, after soul flies away. It’s a requirement in peak hours and pleasure when non-peak hours to hunt comfort on that 5 cms. wide strip. My readers must be smart enough to identify this strip of 5 cms breadth. The steel tread on it is sometimes not that sharp. Aah yeah! The foot-board of Mumbai Local.
I have been using these Mumbai Locals ever since I am born. May be I started on my legs when I was 2 years. And all by alone? When I was, may be, 10 years? The first trip to Mama’s (Maternal uncle) place in Ghatkopar from Thane. Those never-to-be-forgotten instructions from mom about :-
- Mentioning one half, ghatkopar return at ticket window.
- Going to platforms no. 3 or 4 and boarding a slow train,destined to V.T. (now Mumbai C.S.T.)
- Keep a watch for Mulund, Bhandup, Kanjur Marg, Vikhroli stations and then get down at Ghatkopar.
- If train is crowded, ask for assistance while getting down.
- Be seated on a seat, inside the compartment instead of lingering around in passages within the compartment.
- A strict warning for not traveling on foot-board.
- Give 2 rings from Mama’s land-phone once you reach there and when departing. (May be a call was a pricey thing in those 1994-95 days.)
- Do not talk to strangers and do not eat anything that strangers offer, be it a branded chocolate or anything attractive!
So yes, I followed that set of instructions and that first journey was successful. I was, probly, a matter of discussion in my society for that train journey all alone. And soon I had more journeys, following the same rules. Guess the first journey happened, all alone to Victoria Terminus (V.T., now Mumbai C.S.T.) was when I was 11! To drop some documents to dad’s client in Hanuman Galli. The instructions were followed dedicated, every time I traveled. And there I had been passed to S.S.C. Class- the final year of schooling.
A feeling of being grown up enough was on my mind. When momma repeats the instructions, I interrupt her by repeating the instructions myself. She always gave a smile in return. But never asked if I am going to follow them? More of my journeys to dad’s clients and maternals started after 4 pm. Traveling to that side of Mumbai via Locals is bliss as there used to be absolute no-crowd-situation. And my mind started growing up in itself, asking question to myself- what is it that am stopped from not traveling on the foot board or standing in the passage of the compartment.
The first time I dared to move out of my seat to enjoy the entrance? Or I entered into the compartment slow enough, to conclude no empty seat? Or I straight positioned myself in the passage, under that handle-bar welded on side-walls? I don’t remember well. But that was first time I ever did. And I was safe back at home. Nothing had harmed me and the dare grows. Despite of empty seats, my journey was concluded standing under that horizontal bar, even if it was an hour-long from Thane to V.T.
Year 2001- my college life starts and the trains were not a part of routine as college was within Thane City. A bus was the only available option for daily commute. Trains were still a once-in-a-while thing, for visiting Dad’s clients and Maternals. With this change of time, I had managed to now travel comfortably on the door holding the rod, positioned in center but not yet on foot-board completely. I realize, my younger cousin always traveled on foot-board. I should try as well.
Damn! That was my first attempt and my parents caught me. No, they weren’t with me. Probly, another of uncle had seen me and the news, of me traveling on foot-board and risking myself, had reached to them before me to my home. How much ever pricey the phone calls from Land-phone were, it didn’t matter to report to my parents. I didn’t require to put much efforts to convince that I wasn’t risking. The sentiyappa question that I ask- “do you remember if I have ever not followed any of the instructions?” They were convinced but sometimes, I don’t feel it good, putting a lie to them. Their innocent faces make me put the real story. The sharafat factor in me, u see! So I confess about not being seated but lie again about not standing on foot-board. I conclude, “I was standing under the horizontal handle bar. And please ignore such complaints if they ever come to you.”
The college completes and the jobs that I get into. Yeah! Now local trains were a daily commute. Thane to Ghatkopar- 4 months. Thane – Dadar – Mahim for a year. Thane to Currey Road for another year almost. Apart from this, there were ad-hoc journeys as well- to belapur, virar, kandivali, bandra, borivali, churchgate, chembur, vashi and nerul as well. I always carried a wish to travel on the foot-board of the train and the wish got fulfilled many a times. Amazing experiences that I have faced.
While returning back after a night shift at work, I got a quick nap when on foot-board while the local was moving from Kurla and reached Ghatkopar. A gentleman shook me up and suggests to have a seat inside for safety reasons. I can’t say a NO to him, the sharafat factor you see! Another of instance, where it is afternoon and am traveling for second shift. The train has slowed down and moving almost in inches per second. Its Vikhroli now and am yet to reach Dadar. I didn’t move from foot-board and retire to a seat inside. As the train snailed on the fast track towards Mumbai C.S.T., there was another stalled train on fast track towards Thane. Clusters of people were visible over the track. As my train passes the last compartment of stalled train, I witness a body of an old woman lying between the tracks and droplets of blood. Not much of a bloodshed. May be with her age, the blood had dried off as well. But it was gruesome.
It was my night shift and I had boarded a Dadar Local at 9 30 pm. I had to ensure the best of me for the entire night shift, so I preferred to avoid the foot-board journey. On a window seat, I am playing a game on my cell phone. As the train passes Mulund, in some time, our ears sense an audible enough thud followed by a shriek. Fella travelers rush to the door but the train is still moving at a nice speed. A casual check for those who had positioned in the entrance. Their version of story says, there was a man seated on foot-board and had his right leg suspended out. The train was still in top speed as it approached under-construction-Nahur station. And that’s why his leg got into a difficulty with that under-construction platform. Due to the high-speed of train, he was thrown out completely.
Yeah! U can be a witness to many such instances while you travel on foot-board of the train. And no doubt, kabhi kabhi waisa bhi hota hai. One of my most desired train was leaving from Platform No. 7, . It is the 05:00 pm Ambernath Superfast local, which goes non-stop to Dadar and then to Thane. Thane onwards it is a slow local. I was running with the train to get into it and ahead of me was another Mumbaikar. He was probly dumb and, maybe, had no experience of getting into a running train. Though he didn’t allow me to get in first. He finally managed to get hold of the rod and then his first step on foot-board. I had lost hopes of getting into this one and so was waiting over the platform, letting the beats of this train fall on my ear-drums. While he got space for his second foot and he lost it. He didn’t care much about the office bag which was suspended over his shoulder, when getting into train. The belts of the bag farewell-ed the platform, while still remaining on his shoulders. And the bag decided to part away from the owner to lie on the platform. Everyone witnessed it, but no one went ahead to touch the bag!
I was once on the foot-board traveling again to South Bombay, to attend someone’s marriage. A nice light-colored formal shirt with formal trousers and those formal leather shoes, nicely polished in my feet. I have this horrible liking for formal, not those business formal completely though. When nothings on the mind, just put on a formal trouser and shirt, move on! Aah so, yeah! I was on a foot-board, me all alone. No one struggling for space on foot-board. A fast local to CST is actually very fast between Vikhroli to Ghatkopar. A goods train happens to pass by. The pursuit went nice enough till we entered Ghatkopar Station for a pause, since both were at almost same speed. While I got down at Mumbai C.S.T., I tried checking my very nice-formal-shirt to arrange it good for no-crease-look. I tried to pinch-hit a small particle and I was dumb. The particle did fly away leaving behind a dark trail, like those missiles and rockets leave behind when in skies. So I have a disgusting look for myself because I understood. The goods train was carrying coal and while we were in a pursuit, those particles had been sprayed on my shirt all over. I think I am sweating now with the thought of how bad has my shirt gone. I pull out this tissue from my pocket to wipe the sweat drops and the tissue too has gone black. Few quick steps and I am into that Men’s area in front of wash-basin, splashing water and swearing myself for no more journeys on foot-board. At least not when I am out to attend a Shaadi.
The life on foot-board has been amazing all yet. Coping with the rain is another amazing deal that you can bet for. Feeling lonely right now, get on the foot-board in those days and wait for the rain drops. The drops are bliss and soon turn into razor-sharp arrows, which can almost bleed you when the Slow Local is actually running faster than the Fast Local. Or those gay men who keep disturbing you, by arranging their crotch behind you. Or the eunuchs sometimes. Sometimes those adventurous youth, who want door-to-door transfer into another train which has halted, aside your train. Sometimes you may get a big-splash of paan-o-fied saliva from the person standing in front of you, coz he missed the aim. Or rather he hit the bull’s-eye, your white shirt?
Overall, journey on foot-board is amazing, adventurous all the time. Just that, be cautious while traveling on foot-board!