Mumbai is the city of dreams, it’s India’s proverbial El Dorado. This is where millions of people land from the smallest of corners of the country searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Few do find it and many end up disillusioned. Some of them make it really big, some are happy to stay contented, and some are reduced to rundown shanties, always craving for more. But in this complicated matrix of the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, there is a common thread that binds them all. It is ingrained in the fate of every Mumbaikar, a thing none can escape from. It is something on which Mumbai’s very existence as a financial powerhouse rests. It is Mumbai’s very lifeline,The LOCAL TRAIN.
Technologically, the rail network is centuries behind its western counterparts, and it will fail every safety test that they will contrive. But the fact remains that it is the only thing that is capable enough to carry crowds of the magnitude that is common to Mumbai. I mean can the London Metro (Underground as they call it), so proud of its efficiency carry crowdsfive times its mandated capacity? To put things in perspective, the number of people traverssing through Dadar ,a very important junction on the Mumbai rail network, at 7.00 pm everyday, exceeds the entire population of Belgium. The very fact that the local trains ferry an entire European country everyday/night, and yet runs on time, I ask you to pinpoint any other suburban rail network which match the Mumbai Locals.
Today, Mumbai is a land of great disparity and differences. However such differences hold no water when it comes to a local train. Be it a Hindu or a Muslim, a North Indian or a South Indian, a Millionaire or a Slum Dweller, all are reduced to the same group of scrambling individuals, trying to find a toe-hold in the cramped environs of a local. Adjustment is an understatement as 5000 people cram into a train meant for 900. And inhuman is an euphemism, if someone has to describe the conditions that the commuters have to endure. A Mumbai local train makes hell seem like a suite of a five star hotel. From the morning fisherman,to the afternoon dabbawala and even the occasional dead body, the local trains serve every aspect of the society prevalent today.
And it is in these ghetto like atmosphere of a rail compartment, that u find the real human spirit coming to the fore. Amidst the tremendous hardships and infernal conditions, it takes more than a human being to even think of helping others. And a Mumbaikar towers upon his compatriots from the other parts of de world. No matter how crowded a train is, no matter the numbers in a train exceed that of France and are nearing Germany, a Mumbaikar will always make space to accommodate one more of his kind,that too with a big smile. His understanding of others difficulties is unparalleled, coz if he sees someone running after a moving train and is in danger of missing it, a mysterious hands will pop out and pull him aboard. It will also hold on to him/her until the poor fellow manges to get a toehold.That hand will not bother bout the caste, religion,sect or the social status of the person concerned. Its only concern is that the poor fellow should not miss his/her train. The hand understands the ramifications of a missed local on a commuter. And it is this generous and the caring spirit that Mumbai has, ensures that the city runs at its peak at all times. Floods and messers terrorists, go to hell.
I have heard from others, that Mumbai is a capitalist city where people run only after money and are not bothered bout other human beings.All I ask from these doubting Thomases, to visit a local train station, preferably in the peak hours and take a look at the local train. Its the ultimate symbol of co-existence, one which cannot be found anywhere else on dis planet. And whenever i see the people hanging from the foot-board(and that sometimes include urs truly) with the secure knowledge that the the man behind him wont let him down, i know that Mumbai is a city of men, real men……