Beginners' Guide to Travelling in Mumbai Local Trains

Guest post by Blessen Varghese a.k.a. 'Mallu Mumbaikar':

1. Travel as light as possible with little or no luggage. If you do have a luggage, then make sure you also have your name on it or else some stranger might come to the happy realization that his great grandfather’s uncle’s brother-in-law had lost a similar bag/suitcase in 1936 and stake his claim over it.
2. Avoid peak hours, which would be, let me see… ahem… almost throughout the day! Basically, avoid traveling!
3. Make sure you are not allergic to the combination of sweet ‘aroma’ of oil, fish and sweat! If you are, constant traveling will make you get used to the same.
4. If you are a first-class traveler, then be sure to apologize for accidentally pushing or stepping on someone. If you are traveling by second-class, then be street smart and blame the ‘accident’ or ‘incident’ on the person standing behind you. Before doing this, make sure there IS a person standing behind you or else, you will be in big trouble.
5. Amongst all the good qualities that a Mumbaikar possesses, politeness is NOT one of them. So, if someone is hell bent on picking up an argument with you, be polite and remain as quiet as possible. Your attitude will surprise him. The guy that is picking up the argument might just have had a fight with his wife at home and may be removing it all on you!
6. If your station is just five stops away from the starting point, then don’t be dumb in trying to find a seat, for if you do, you may never be able to get off even after the tenth stop. Remain standing, and do so closer to the door that you will be getting off from! If you do not know which side your platform falls, then ask your co-passengers. But make sure the person you ask is not a mirror image of you yourself. You might just end up either on a wrong station or on the tracks, the latter being not a very exciting prospect!
7. If you are going to be a regular traveler, catching the same train and hoping onto the same compartment will help you make new friends. These guys will stand by you whenever there is an argument.
- As posted in Blessen Varghese's blog

8. Local trains are awesome when it comes to catching up on lost sleep. The sleep that you have been deprived of for either working late in your office, or for doing assignments, or for simply chatting with your friends online through the night (I have been a victim of the last two cases). If you are a ‘long distance’ traveler within Mumbai (like I was for six and a half years), then take advantage and try sleeping for at least an hour (like I did during a good portion of these six years). You must, however, also learn to stand and sleep. This is one ‘skill’ that you would acquire over time!
9. If you indeed get a seat, consider yourself lucky and make the best use of it. But while catching up forty winks, acquire the skill of ‘staying still’. If you are a pendulum dancer like I sometimes am, then be sure that person sitting next to you has really high levels of patience! Else, the mouthings you get from that person will be music to your ears which won’t stop accompanying you unless you use the same on another person and the epidemic spreads!
10. Extremely crowded trains can be used to your advantage in terms of catching up on lost sleep. Once you have achieved the hardest task of getting inside the train, you won't have an inch to move, which is when you can just depend on the flood of ‘inactive yet alive’ bodies standing all around you. Use these bodies as your support pillars and doze off! But this is totally dependent on whether the whole of your body is actually inside the train. For if you try to doze off with half of your symmetry hanging out (don’t ask me how), then your ‘body’ will be just that—a body but with ‘dead’ added as an adjective!
11. Respect the people standing on the footboard or at the door. They might seem to be, and some of them indeed are, wanna-be Romeos, but it is because of these five gentlemen that you have some place to stand or, in some rarest of rare cases, sit! Also remember, you are at their mercy when it comes to getting down, for if they decide to stay put at their place, you sure will be caged till the point of their destination!
12. Women can make great use of traveling standing at the footboard. I have seen many women using the natural wind and air to dry their hair!
13. Avoid ironing your clothes from your home, if you travel by crowded trains (which would almost be every time). For, by the time you come out of the train, your clothes would seem like it is freshly out of the washing machine! Also, consider yourself fortunate or your shirt to be of high quality, if you have all your buttons still on!
14. ‘Beware of pick-pockets’ is a warning that appears throughout India and Mumbai is no different! The only difference being, in Mumbai, the ‘artist’ to execute this skill would be the well-dressed lady/gentleman standing near you. At times, you might feel that the train seems crowded than it actually is. Beware of situations like these, for these skilful people work in a group and are the actual creators of this ‘fake-rush’!
15. ‘Beware of homosexuals’ is NOT a warning that appears throughout India but Mumbai IS different! Guys/gals who appear over-friendly might suddenly sprout out a question—"wanna come with me for ‘fun’?" Traveling in averagely-crowded trains, you might come across someone sticking a little too close for your liking. Every time the train jerks, these people might try to hold onto you for support! Make sure you hold your bag, or whatever it is that you are carrying, in front of you acting as a ‘separation’ between you and the desperado!


Akshay said...

Most of these things mentioned by Blessen are true. These new MRVC trains come as a huge relief though with these GPS systems installed and they also subtly help in indicating which side the platform falls.