It is a known fact that there were no announcers at railway stations in India before independence. The post was created in the early fifties. One of the early announcers, Mr. J S Brownson, had such a good voice that people used to turn up at Dadar station just to hear him make the announcements.
The Mumbai local train has since come a long way and now has provision inside the train to announce the next station. Recently I traveled by the local train in Mumbai and I must say that I was impressed by the announcement that was made in three languages. The sound clarity is excellent, in fact it is far better than what I had heard while traveling by the metro in France.
Traveling by local trains in Mumbai is an experience in itself. If one is not used to traveling by these trains, especially during the peak time, it would be worthwhile to get a little practice traveling by the locals (as they are called ) during the non-peak time.
This is a scene inside a local train during the non-peak hours. It is common practice for four people to occupy the seat meant for three, what they usually call as “a little bit of adjustment” Those who are not fortunate enough to get a seat will be dangling on those metal straps hoping that someone would alight at the next station. It is common to find the passengers preoccupied with their own thoughts. Yet others engage in fruitful activities, like some working ladies bring their bunch of Fenugreek (Methi leaves) and neatly pluck out the leaves. By the time they reach home, it is ready to be washed and cooked. Talk about time management!!
Alighting at your destination is tricky. First of all, you should know the number of stations you have to cross before you reach your destination. It would also make things easier if you know which side your platform is likely to be. Usually the trains take the same track on a daily basis. Hence the regular commuters are aware of which side to get off. The not so regular commuters just need to ask when in doubt, and they will be guided in the right direction with a nod or simply by a pointed finger. Then there are the fast trains and the slow trains. Fast trains are preferred if traveling long distance. One golden rule is do not stand near the door if you don’t want to alight. You will be jostled and pushed around and before you know it you will be standing on the platform, much before your destination wondering “how did I get here?”
Some people are averse to traveling in a crowd. But don’t think that by traveling in first class you can eliminate the crowd. It’s the same story everywhere. The only difference is that you will find many of the first class passengers briefcase in hand ,sporting a tie and a stiff upper lip. Yes, you will notice that marked difference. The ones in the second class are more helpful, friendly and smiling.
Vendors in the train are a nuisance or a source of amusement, depending upon how you look at them. I always found it interesting to observe them. Their art of salesmanship, their choice of words to sell a product is worth noting. Entrepreneurship at its best.
The Mumbai local travelers always talk in terms of decimals. “The 11.16 CST Fast” means the fast train which leaves at 11:16 hrs for Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (which was earlier known as Victoria Terminus)
If you ask for an address in Mumbai you will most likely hear something like Dadar East or Malad West. This is because the railway line runs North South (in general) so either side of a station becomes East and West. An easy way to follow directions.
I don’t think any other city in the world has trains running at an interval of 2.5 minutes (at peak times). Hats off to their efficiency.