Thursday, January 20, 2005

Mumbai local

Hmmm...there is just so much I can write about the Mumbai trains, this in spite of the fact that I've hardly used it for two weeks. But unlike my initial apprehensions, it is not a ting to be feared or hated; it is indeed a wonderful experience, because it allows you at one go, to observe so many different people, from varied walks of life, ages and serves as a fantastic platform (pun intended) to absorb habits, peculiarities, quirks, and the like. Of course, it's also damn convenient. You can read, catch up on the papers, listen to music (most listen to the radio on their cellphones), sleep, chat with yr train friends or finish your week's shopping (fish, veges etc). But hawkers aren't allowed in the Ist class and to be honest even in IInd class I haven't seen any fish and vege sellers, only people seling newspapers, mags and sundry bindis and clips.
Anyway, one of my first reactions was that the world shown by Balaji in all its K serials (the managalsutra, sindhoor, sari world) is not alien to this part of the world at all. In Delhi you do not come across married women displaying any such visible signs. I can't remember any one in my last office, or the office before that, wearing a mangalsutra and sindhoor to work every day. Which is why it was so much easier to criticise the serials as ridiculous and unreal. But here in Mumbai, the majority wears it; it is definitely more predominant in Maharashtrians; and they wear their mangalsutras proud -- and long -- just the way they do in the serials. So the immediate environment is obviously influencing what's shown. And a lot of women wear gajra too. Every day. One of the first days I was in the train, I looked around me and I swear I thought I was in a Balaji set. Just interchange the train compartment for a gaudy studio set of course.
Abbreviations: to travel in the train there are some basics you must immediately understand. When you enter a station and see a massive board (similar to the one at the airport letting you know if a flight has arrived, is delayed etc), you have to learn to read it. This board tells you which train is coming to which platform and heading where.
If C is highlighted, it's going to Churchgate. If A is highlighted, Andheri. Bo is Borivili, and V (never take the V, my guides tell me), it's for Virar. The there's ST (I thought it was Santa Cruz) but it was short for CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or VT), but since the board has space for only two alphabets and they cldn't write CS for fear of confusing it with C, they wrote ST.
Then there's the question of where you stand at the platform. First sign: head for the bunch of women. Next, notice the pillars. If the pillar is painted red and yellow stripes, it is the women's second class; if it is painted green and yellow stripes, it's first class (corresponding with the stripes on the compartments). Only the women's compartments and the two first class (men; women) are striped on the outside to aid recognition. Then, if it's a 12 coach train the first class women's is about 8 or 9 so head towards the end of the train; if it's a 9 coach (they announce this at the platform), then yr compartment will be 4 or 5 so stay towards the centre. It is all very calculating, mathematical and ingenious. And very interesting. Also remember, the women's compartments (Ist and IInd) are together but there is also a women's IInd class at the end of the train. I have on occasions bought Ist class and entered IInd. The stripes are confusing when it flies at that speed. There are trains literally every two-three minutes.
Then there are Slow and Fast trains, obviously the former don't stop at all stations and the latter do.
OK class over. Now here's a quiz. What does this mean?

C 11.04 F 03

he he
heading to Churchgate, leaves at 11.04, is a Fast and is expected in 3 minutes. (I know I didn't tell you the last bit earlier; had to leave some suspense.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very informative :)Hope you have a great time in my favorite city aamchi mumbai!!

20 January, 2005  
Blogger eM said...

Frankly, this is why I'm glad I live in Delhi.. even if I didn't have a car. Not all this train business, the DTC's are sooo much easier to negotiate.
Oh well, glad you're having fun

20 January, 2005  
Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

To address the mass market, you have to be trained in music, and mused in trains.

Don Henley Live and Sugababes (with the haunting "basically probability, is gonna side with me... been so looong on my shelf") may make ironic train listening. But some Indian-sounding raags and sur-taal kinda stuff and nagma-nagma dialectics would help addressing the real market.

Otherwise... well, it looks like it's the same ol' pillars out there, ordering the lives of millions into a routinized drone.

Naah, no point getting lulled into THAT, the mechanics. Take what's relevant to the brain. And keep it active.

21 January, 2005  
Blogger Jabberwock said...

You poor thing! Imagine the little princess from the sprawling Assamese tea estate having to travel second class!

25 January, 2005  
Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

Speaking of stimulating music of the sugababes sort: try Shakira's fixation.

20 June, 2005  
Blogger anu said...

Hi, welcome to Mumbai. That's precise info. Hope you learn the techniques of boarding and alighting Mumbai locals without much trouble. I swear you'll soon start loving this city and might not want to leave.

31 December, 2006  

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