Travelling in Trains – Mumbai Edition.

Commuters in an open train door at Churchgate ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making a journey in a Mumbai Local train is an experience in itself. If you have been to this city and haven’t boarded a electric train on any of the three  or four routes that ply through the metropolis, it means you have missed half the fun or half the nightmare, depending on the experience….

The daily commuter first walks, then jogs and finally does the steeple chase run to complete the last lap towards the station. The steeple chase is chosen only when he sees the train pulling into the station. During such occasions, everyone like others, just run across the tracks, then on to the station platform. Maybe the local commuter can qualify himself for long jumps and high jumps. The long jumps do come in handy especially during the rainy season.

The Boarding Phenomena

It is all about people management and the looks that you exhibit while boarding which does the trick. Every one has to be aware of the fact that nobody on board likes to welcome yet another addition to the already woe full compartment with all its characters. One has to look humble but strong enough to show others that he is fit enough to survive the journey.

The Travel

Some prefer foot board travel rather than standing inside the rush, as the wind keeps you fresh if not your groomed hair. But then travelling on the foot board has its pros and cons

Pros

Don’t have to use the deodorant in excess
Don’t have to ruffle your hair every minute, if that is your style.
Don’t have to pick up fights with fellow commuters
Less chances that your pockets will be picked.
Helps your biceps and shoulders if you are hanging on the footboard.
Less chance of the shine on your shoes being messed by someone stamping on them.
Do not get infected by freely floating bacteria and viruses inside.
Do not have to worry about bench bugs ( appropriately bed bugs)
Do not have to worry about escape, if a fire or a fight starts…whichever is earlier.

Cons

Corns on your hands by holding tightly on the handle or the door frame.
You might reach a destination that you never intended to.
You have to get down at every station and make way for others
Chances are that you may not get a chance to board again.
A fellow passenger dragging you with him, once he slips.
Getting rid of loose papers from your shirt pocket.
Cannot use the comb, or you will reach your tomb.

The Landing Experience

Getting down from a train is not a big task as compared to the boarding one. But still people have to be wary about how they are positioned while getting down. If you are too near the door, chances are that you will be pushed out before you have time to complain or explain. If you think you can handle the situation being at the end of the lot trying to get down, that is a big mistake. You will, to your surprise discover a crowd of people barging their way in and you might have to abort your landing. Trains like planes, especially the local trains do not wait for their passengers to alight or board. They have their own fixed seconds in which everything happens.

“Time and Train do not wait for anyone”.

Let us look at the passengers who alight. 25 percent wade their way across the railway footbridges to the west. 15 percent drift to the east end of the station. Another 20 percent start running for their lives to catch trains on other platforms. 10 percent just stand and stare not knowing what to do next. 5 percent just loiter around the newspaper stalls or canteen stalls. 5 percent jump back into the train – the same footboard travellers. Rest of the break up is as shown below

People who were forced to get down and could not get back
People who had to alight here because they could not get down at the last station.
People aborting their journey because they lost their purses midway, lost the wristwatch, lost the will to go to work, or because they got a call on their cell phone from their dear ones to come back.
People who decide as to how to escape ticket checkers.
People who got on the down train by mistake when they wanted to take the up train.
People who were travelling the whole day because boarding a train was cheaper than boarding a hotel.

I hope you are prepared in case you are contemplating a ride in these trains during rush hour…

The treat

Pravin and Raju both had to go to Matunga this week for some purchases. The roasted ground coffee at a wholesale shop had popular reviews so Pravin thought of adding it to his list of items at his shop. Raju used to visit Matunga where he got his medical supplies from a supplier there. So on a Friday, they decided to shut their respective shops and made off to Matunga by train.

On getting down Pravin hurried to Bhimani Street to get his coffee and Raju took a cab to Maheshwari gardens area to place his new orders and hand over his check payments. It was a brisk walk for Pravin across to the shop selling varieties of coffee and with the ground coffee aroma, he thought he would swoon down in ecstasy. He made a few purchases from different varieties the shop had to offer and asked the shopkeeper to pack them up while he would go around the market to fish for other unique South Indian items that were on offer.

Raju luckily was able to place orders, without wasting time on the supplies he needed for his medical shop. He circled the Maheshwari Udyan as he loved walking and soon he was at the Asthika Samaj Temple on Bhandarkar street, went inside and offered his prayers and came out and continued walking towards the Matunga market. He had to find out Pravin fast. They had decided upon the post office as their meeting point exactly two hours after they had parted their ways.

Raju paused as he passed the flower shops on the western side of the street, went into one of the shops that sold meetha paan. Took it and dumped it into his mouth. He loved this paan (sweet betel) from this shop and made it a habit to have one on his monthly visits to the place. Slowly chewing and savoring it, he walked gulping down the contents and was soon at the meeting place where he waited for Pravin near the letter box.

Before long, Pravin walked with two big bags that seemed heavy for him to manage by himself and gave one to the tall and well built Raju. They both walked slowly to the Railway station which was a few hundred metres away. That’s when Raju realised he was hungry and it would be good to visit the Irani restaurant that invited them, a few steps away.

Being a Friday and that too around 11 am there were not many customers in the rickety wooden chairs surrounding a few marble topped tables at the shop. There was some old Hindi song playing on the radio which appeared to be a prized possession of the Irani gentleman sitting at the cashier desk who had a welcome in his eyes as they stepped in. Some part of the shop had the sun streaming its shine and therefore our chaps decided to take position at a table in the shade and below one of the three ceiling fans which to the observant Pravin appeared as old as the gentleman smiling at the desk.

What would you like to have, Raju? asked Pravin as both of them placed the bags down. I would go for a toast omelette with special tea. I would settle for a veg cheese omelette. They placed the order with the serving boy who appeared at their desk from  nowhere. Where was he when we came in? We didn’t notice him, a smiling Pravin asked. Raju looked at the young chap and gave the order and asked him to make it fast, if he wanted a generous tip. He disappeared just as he had appeared, into the kitchen. Pravin tapped his fingers on the table to the music and looked around. Raju was a bit engrossed looking at the medical supplies order copy in his hand.

A poor man walked in, a bit fidgety, placed himself at the far end on the sunny side and drank a cup of water from the water container kept on the table. He took a couple of currency notes and a few coins from his pocket on the table and went through the menu kept on the table. Pravin was watching the person closely now. It appeared there was nothing he could buy except perhaps a cup of plain tea. He went through the menu once again and made quick calculations by looking at his scant store. With moist eyes he placed an order for plain tea and waited for it.

What Raju, you are looking at those order forms and keeping so quiet. It is time to have a small celebration today. What’s the occasion, a gleaming Raju asked. Not because Pravin was a miser but very rarely his grocer friend gave treats. You don’t know? Come on, it is my wedding anniversary he proclaimed as he stood up while making a bit of a show with his hands spread. He walked across to the cashier and loudly said cha-cha today is my wedding anniversary. Mubarak ho beta. What can I do for you? asked the old man at the desk.

Please serve a cream roll and a coconut cake on my behalf to all others sitting here. And yes, a special tea too. The Parsi gentleman looked around. There was only a poor man sipping tea at the other occupied table. Alas! If only a few more customers had come that time of the day, he would have sold more cream roll and cakes!

The Referral

Jagan was looking for a paying guest accommodation in the city and one evening finally tired of walking through building blocks, decided to take rest below a banyan tree that had a concrete bench built around it where he thought he would rest his aching legs.

You seemed to be tired, young man. What is it that are you looking for? asked an old man sitting on the same bench at a distance. Jagan didn’t remember noticing him while he had sat on the circular bench. He must be in his late seventies, a retired old fellow who must be a frequent visitor here, so he thought. Jagan told him about his predicament about getting some accommodation, as staying in a shanty lodge which was far away from his work place was difficult for him.

You have come to the right place and lucky for you, I am been sitting here this late today. Maybe I was waiting for thee” he chuckled to himself, his wrinkled faced showing the amusement in the faint glow from the street light. “There is an old lady in the next building who is a bit lonely. Her children now grown up with families of their own, have left her for greener pastures. Maybe you can drop in and have a word with her. If she likes, as I have, you can surely move in to her house and stay with her as long as you are in her good books“.

Jagan thanked the old gentleman who was now looking at him with gentle eyes as if a father would look at his son, and proceeded to the building pointed by him. He had walked a few steps forward and then turned to ask him. “Can I refer your name to her? ” Why not? came the answer. “Tell her one Mr. Ram referred you. I am sure that would be an advantage for you” he said waving to him. Jagan thanked him again and went in search of the flat on the second floor.

While climbing the steps, he had his doubts as to whether he could adjust with the old lady or whether the owner would adjust with him. Not that he had any habits which would be a bone of contention for rejection.

The lady took an immediate liking for him and told him that he could stay with her and share her flat. He was supposed to be with the lady, so that there was someone at home, who could take care of her in case she fell sick with some ailment at this advanced age. Therefore the rent amount fixed was quite low by her to Jagan’s liking. Jagan was a pleased man as he climbed the steps down that day. He could move in, bag and baggage from the next day itself. As he went by the banyan tree, he wanted to meet the old man, but he was not to be seen, not surprising, as it was quite late.

As days passed, contrary to expectations set, it was the lady who started to care for him. She always prepared breakfast for him though it was not part of the deal. On weekends Jagan could enjoy the vegetarian lunch and dinner with her. She used to have a menu of dishes so that Jagan would not feel it mundane. While eating , she used to remark, “what is the point of lavishing love on you by making such dishes. One day you would leave me as others have did..”

Once when he came late as usual, there was no electricity, so he bought candles and lit one of them as he climbed the stairs. He knocked on the door and kept the candle besides his face, so she could identify him in the darkness as she looked through the peephole. But what a coincidence, as soon as she opened the door, the electricity had come back.

Most of the time after dinner, he used to switch on the TV and leave it running and fall asleep and it used to be her job to switch it off in the midnight. She used to make fun of him about this. The lady had trouble sleeping and therefore the only job he used to do for her was to bring sleeping pills for her using an old wrinkled prescription. Some medical shops would decline seeing the date on the slip and he would have to approach a few before he could get a couple of strips from an obliging shop or a shopkeeper who didn’t care to see the date.

One day, he had to rush to the doctor on the ground floor as her pressure was low and she couldn’t get up. The doctor when he heard Jagan, in surprise and shock asked. “which lady are you referring to?“. The lady in Flat 202 on the second floor was Jagan’s reply. The doctor got up immediately and came upstairs with Jagan, and when they went to her room, she was not to be found. They searched for her everywhere, but just as the doctor had thought, she was a faint apparition of her self that passed away an year ago.

It was now Jagan’s turn to look surprised and worried as he heard the story and packed his bags with the doctor in attendance all the while. He thanked the doctor and bid adieu to his accommodation of few months, his mind full of turmoil, and as he walked on the pavement, he just looked upwards at the balcony, did he see an apparition of the old lady waiving lovingly at him? He averted his eyes, was it fear or something else which made him look down, he never knew. At least, he was still in her good books, he thought..

He hurried knowing he had to find Mr. Ram one of these days and then wondered if he would ever find him…

old lady
Pic Courtesy: Shutterstock

Childhood Memories

Coming back to playtime during school days in the late 70’s in Mumbai. We did have the physical training classes but the instructor was always missing and therefore were free to play any of the games that we liked to. Some of us used to run around the school building in a “Catch me if you can” game, some used to loiter around the playground and others would visit hawkers who used to descend during that time, while some used to be in the classroom, playing with paper made balls and what not.

children.jpg
Pic Courtesy: FSLIndia.Org

During recess time, there used to come, a few hawkers who could understand our weakness for sweets, especially the chikkis(sweet made of groundnuts and jaggery) and the cotton candy, the sugar balloons that we used to call them during those time. The chikkiwala (hawker who sold the chikki) had a chisel with him which was used to chisel out portions of chikki from his large circular plate, which he used to keep on his bamboo stand, away from our prying hands if not from our eyes. I thought during those times the chikki was costlier than gold, the way he used to hand it over to us for our 5 or 10 paise coins.

The process of making the cotton candies was enchanting for us, as the hawker used to make it a point to do the preparation in front of our eyes, so that most of us would come out and stand around him rather than going to any other optional hawker who offered his services to us on that day.

Since we used to reach home by 1 PM, there was plenty of time after lunch for a quick nap, and then to look up your books, or keep it for the evening and dash off to play with your friends from the building blocks for a game of cricket, marbles, bow and arrows, where both bow and arrow was made of discarded umbrella frames in the rainy days, or roll a metal ring across the roads barefoot and maneuver them brilliantly. These rings were from automobile frames, and so on..every metal thing in those days had a value as far as kids were concerned..

After such games or a round of story telling where kids used to gather around a story teller, who was one among them, and the sun setting would take them to their homes to ponder over their books and deciding priorities as to which homework needed to be completed based on the nature of the subject teacher. By 8:00 PM most of us used to hit the bed to be in shape for another day at school that started at 7:00 AM.

This was the regular routine unless one fell sick when he or she had the complete dayin bed to give free way to the thoughts that used to hover in the mind like butterflies around a flower.

Then came the short vacations in the form of Diwali and Christmas, when one used to pay visit to relatives staying in the same city, and spend days with the cousins going to parks and beaches. Most of the time in such visited houses was spent in reading since most of them used to go to work and we would have to wait for them to take us out, when they returned from their respective offices.

The Summer vacations were a time when most of the kids used to go to their native homes that used to be in the same state or in different states. There were also a few who had no native homes to go to, so they stayed in the city and played all day except for going home for certain breaks. Since it was hot, some parents did not allow their wards to play in the sun, so playtime was restricted to, in the morning and the afternoons when the shadows came on to the playing grounds. During the rainy season, the ground would be transformed to a football ground. During a long lasting shower, this could become a mixture of fine clay, when some of us would try our hands at pottery.

During summer, when the bullock carts came laden with ice meant for restaurants, that was covered with saw dust and jute blankets to keep it from melting, all of us would rush behind him. As he took his knife to cut out the ice block, we stood in attention, to gobble up the pieces of ice that would get scattered on his cart. Come marriage in nearby community halls, we would rush to savor the ice cream and the cool soft drinks, unwelcome visitors though we were, the host never did mind us visiting such reception parties…

Rain when will you rain?

Just as someone sends guided missiles to snuff out lives,
ever loving nature sends guided rains to all parts of the land
some as showers, thunderstorms, and then raining cats and dogs
Indian cities are waiting to see scenes and songs such as this below
the countdown to the great Indian monsoon having started
we don’t know how many tons of life giving water will bomb on us
hoping and wishing dear mother nature will provide a bounty
to help sustain life after the smiling sun has shined enough
waiting with anxious breath, rain when will you rain?

Travelling in Trains – Mumbai Edition.

There was a time I was one of the many footboard travellers on a Mumbai aka Bombay train. These days am out of touch and am comfortable boarding a dubai metro..

Perceptions

Commuters in an open train door at Churchgate ... Commuters in an open train door at Churchgate Station in Mumbai. Notice the sign by the door which states the carriage is for ladies only during certain times. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making a journey in a Mumbai Local is an experience in itself. If you have been to this city and haven’t boarded a electric train on any of the three routes that ply through the metropolis, it means you have missed half the fun or half the nightmare, depending on the experience….

The daily commuter first walks, then jogs and finally does the steeple chase run to complete the last lap towards the station. The steeple chase is chosen only when he sees the train pulling into the station. During such occasions, everyone like others, just run across the tracks, then on to the station platform. Maybe the local commuter can qualify himself for long jumps and…

View original post 634 more words

Childhood revisited

Golden days to think of as we get Old..

Talking of price rise and what a rupee or for that matter a 10 rupee note can buy today ..maybe a Maha Munch ( a chocolate)… I thought of devoting some of my spare time to rekindle old memories of my school days during the 70’s in Bombay ( now Mumbai).

Pocket money coined in those years more as coin money was a welcome gift from our parents and the most we could get during those days was a 20p or a 10p on a daily basis. I was not in a habit of spending those coins on a daily basis though. It might so happen, that there could be dry days in between.

A 10 paisa or a 5 paisa coin used to put our young minds in a dilemma as to what item could be purchased. There was always the local small grocer, who had all the stuff, right from 1p so as to say, you could fulfill the senses of your sweet tooth five times over. But that was too meagre.

The local grocer had pappadis, groundnuts, loose biscuits of Parle G, Chikkis, Ravalgoan sweets and what nots. On the way to school and around the school, especially during recess time, there used to come, a few hawkers who could understand our weakness for sweets, especially the chikkis and cotton candy, the sugar balloons that we used to call them during those time. The chikkiwala had a chisel with him which was used to chisel out portions of chikki from his large circular plate, which he used to keep on his bamboo stand, away from our prying hands if not from our eyes. I thought during those times the chikki was costlier than gold, the way he used to hand it over to us for our 5 paisa or 10 p that was doled out to him in return.

The process of making the cotton candies was enchanting for us, as the hawker used to practically reserve the preparation in front of our eyes, so that most of us would come out and stand around him than go across to any other optional hawker who offered his services to us on that day.

By the time, we chewed on the chikki and enjoyed the saliva mix with the goodness of jaggery, the bell would go off, thus signalling the end of recess time. It was, when we came to the secondary school that was a good 500 metres away, when the ice cream or the gola (crushed ice ) maker was made accessible to us. He along with another maker was always positioned on the road adjoining the municipal school, that was on the way to our school. There were other hawkers on the street selling all sorts of condiments, (jamuns, green berries which we used to train our eyes to wink) but the moment our eyes caught sight of these 2 persons, all the rest would fade into darkness. They had this excellent assortment of colours to lace the ice crushed. The grating and the formation of the gola (crushed ice with a sprinkling of lemonade) was yet another process that would entertain our eyes. These people whether they be the golawala, the sweet candy maker, all were magicians in those heydays for us.

A treat to my classmates, especially the close friend circle used to be a gola and for that i used to save my daily allowance. near the school premises. Apart from the gola makers, there were the kulfiwallahs who used to make their appearance once in a while, and we used to grab the opportunity whenever it came wrapped in a kulfi. The effect of rains would drive away most of these vendors and not surprisingly all the wet days were in fact dry days for us little ones..