Sunday, September 06, 2009

Surviving Mumbai Locals


Morning crowd building up on Andheri station bridge, Vada-Pao stall on Platform2 Andheri, A relatively empty train on Platform3 Andheri, A local pulls up at Grant Road station

One needs to survive the Mumbai local trains in order to survive in Mumbai ...

Thankfully over the years my personal dependence on this most important of Mumbai's lifelines has gradually diminished ... but there was a time when I was one of the 6.6 million daily commuters !!! No other urban railway system in the world handles ( or is capable of handling ) such mind-boggling numbers. 

In the peak hours, there are trains every 90 seconds, each packed with 6000+ people vs capacity of 1500. People spilling out of the doors and somehow hanging on with a toehold somewhere is common sight ... the chilling statistic here is that more than 3500 people die annually due to local train mishaps. 

That was the gory part ... so what makes these locals indispensible ??? Mumbai is a linear city with the business district concentrated at the southern tip and suburbs mushrooming northwards. As a result traffic is primarily uni-directional ... in the morning there is a mad rush southwards and viceversa in the evenings. Roads are perennially clogged and the only way to get to work is on the local trains ... 

So you get the drift ... you need to work to survive in Mumbai and to get to work you need the local trains :-)

I used the local train last week after ages as I had some work @ Napean Sea Road and had to get back to my Andheri office before lunch time for some urgent meetings ... the local train was the only way I could be sure I'd make it on time ... so I parked the car in the office and took the 8.20 Fast from Andheri to Grant Road ... and was back well in time for my meetings at noon !!!

Couple of tips here : 

1) If you're new to Mumbai / have not mastered the art of boarding locals ... plan to take originating trains, if necessary travel for a few stations in the opposite direction ( at any point trains in the oppostite direction will be relatively empty ) to get to a station from where there are originating trains ... In Andheri there are always trains which go to Churchgate and start from Platform 2. 
2) Buy a vada-pao from the platform vendors before boarding your train ... gives you instant energy and these are the yummiest vada-paos in Mumbai.

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