The city where I live is Mumbai and it is not my hometown, so I have had an experience of this metropolis as a stranger, when I came here few years back. One of the specialities of this city is its local train network and the culture in these trains. These locals connect the various areas of city to each other and are in very high frequency. In fact for the major and busy routes there are trains every 2-3 min. One can imagine the number of people commuting through locals, they must be in lakhs every day. If you think the high frequency makes the commute easy, you are dead wrong!! You are lucky if starting the travel from the initial station or some station where there is less crowd. For the bigger and busier stations, it is a total mess. People pushing each other to get down and then those standing outside push each other to get in. Before they get in, there is already a line formed on one side of the door for people who want to get down at the next station. Especially the ladies’ boggies are worse than a fish market. Somehow, we women are more rowdy and quarrelsome 😉 , men tend to give more leeway to a fellow passenger.
Since, many of them travel long routes from home to office, they have specific time trains which they have to catch. And there starts a different culture in the train. These regulars, including men and women, know each other who are travelling regularly. They reserve seats for each other which are off limits for a newbie. If you get a seat, some of the standing people may ask you where you are getting down, and if they are alighting later, will ask you to inform them when you leave the seat. So, effectively your seat is advance booked 😀 . It was a strange experience for me at first. There are all kinds of vendors in these locals. Starting from knick knacks, clothes, sliced packed vegetables, toys, eatables, small folders, chains and other useful things and what not. Then there are groups singing bhajans (devotional songs) in the morning, and you will be able to hear them through passing train 🙂 .
One of the most positive things I have seen here is that, as I already told above, there may be lakhs of people travelling daily. There is no mechanism to ensure whether each of them has taken a ticket for the train they travel. There is occasional checking by TC, but not everyday and not very frequently. In spite of this, I have seen majority, almost 95% people, ensuring to take a ticket or train pass before they take any train. Now that’s honesty and an example that all of us can follow !!
I can go on and on about the local train culture here 🙂 but I think this much dose of strangeness is enough for today 😀 .