For those of you who’ve never been in war, suffered from gastroenteritis, been trapped in an old phone booth with four others and for some godforsaken reason decide you want to know what it feels like, get into the Women’s Compartment of a Mumbai local. Feeling reckless? I’d recommend a Fast to CST.
I don’t know about you, but before I venture into unchartered masochistic-candy store territories, I like to go on the net and look for advice. Like say, if I were holidaying in Kabul. Or Rawalpindi. Or just visiting parents. There’s tons of stuff you’ll find on the kinds of people you’ll meet, the experiences you can expect on great travel sites, but there’s nothing there for someone experimenting with getting into a Mumbai Local.
Just for you, in the name of humanity, science and adventure tourism, here’s a comprehensive list of what and who you’ll find in a Fast local to CST. Provided you manage to get in.
THE WHAT-YOU’LL FINDS:
1) The Train:
See the monstrous trail of red and white steel approaching your platform nonchalantly? That’s your train. Hopefully you’re standing at the right spot and you’ll catch the right compartment. If you’re a man, you can’t get into the women’s. If you’re poor, you can’t get into the rich’s. If you’re a woman and you’re rich, you can get in anywhere. But you won’t like it.
2) The Compartment:
Your typical compartment will be green in colour. Lime, enamel painted with and divided into two parts. The first part is for unfortunate commuters who couldn’t grab a seat and have to stand through the journey, and the other, the part with the seats.
This first part is designed to house an average of fifty healthy women standing shoulder to shoulder like a marching army. But that’s under standard test conditions. On an everyday basis, it houses about 125 women standing together, shoulder to armpit, nose to cleavage, eye to hair like the army broke into war. There’s seating for an average of 14 women, but don’t be fooled. At least 20 will squeeze in together and will occasionally butt jiggle to generate more space.
3) The Luxuries:
Four fans. Three won’t work. One will be redundant because you’ll have hot air blowing at your face from the doors.
Light sockets. The lights have been stolen.
A bag rack. Redundant again, because unless they’re carrying an inconveniently heavy bag, the women won’t want to part with them.
NOTE: Sometimes, the space the bag occupies can accommodate another person altogether. But don’t try explaining that to her unless you’ve taken your tetanus shot.
THE WHO-YOU’LL FINDS:
1) The Wannabe Pole Dancer (A.K.A Chhat pe Baal Sukhhane Waali):
This kind of commuter stands by the door of the train, holding onto the supporting rod in the middle of the doorway. The WPD will hold onto the rod for dear life, for two reasons. Either she is sticking her head out to catch fresh air as the train zooms past stations or she’s drying her hair. The WPD is ferociously aggressive about her position in the train and if you take her place when she moves aside to let someone alight or board (which she rarely does), she just might topple you down. DANGER *****
NOTE: If your platform’s crowded and you see a WPD at the door as your train approaches, you will not be able to get in unless you find a way to squirm in through her blocking the doorway, or blindly push and climb in yourself. WPDs don’t like large women and won’t fight back if you growl and yell back when they turn to abuse you.
2) The Gibraltars / Water Buffaloes in a Sari:
Of all the commuters on a Fast Local, the Gibraltars are pretty safe. These are women who will get into a train in a burst of energy, and once in, will freeze to the spot. If you’re behind one, and are close to the door, a Gibraltar can be a pain in the backside because you can’t move ahead, nor can you take a step back. But if the Gibraltor is behind you, you’re pretty sorted for the rest of the journey because no one’s going to be able to push and shove at you. Mostly sari clad, early 40s with a minimum of three bags that will inevitably land on your foot. DANGER: *****
3) The Ultrasonic Princess from ‘The Princess and the Pea’:
The UPFPP is the most irritating, yet the safest commuter on board the Fast Train to CST. Just like in the story, she is as delicate and fragile as a quitting smoker’s willpower. Just looking at her can hurt her, making it easy to spot one. But be warned, through all the UPFPP’s weaknesses, she possesses a glass-shattering scream that she is not afraid to use. Trip on her toes? Almost trip on her toes? Think you’d trip on her toes if it weren’t for the sea of people between you? Duck and cover your ears before your brain cells shut shop and call a strike. She going to scream and whine and yell and cry and call an ambulance and keep at it till you desert her line of vision. DANGER: *****
4) The Seat Scavenger:
Ever seen a hungry cougar chasing a leg of lamb in its own thought bubble? Neither have I. I have seen the Seat Scavenger though, and that’s about all I can take. She’ll enter the train in a hurry and before she can stop walking, piling on, pushing and shoving her way in, she’ll point at random seated people and demand to know where they’re getting off. Assuming they’re getting off not a while from now, she’ll ‘book’ the seat. But she won’t stop there. She’ll book at least 5 other seats and finally catch one. When she’s finally got a seat, she call on other seated people and ask where they’re getting off. She’ll keep jumping, like Mario in the game, till she eventually gets off. Occasionally, you could confuse her for being a Gibraltar because she’ll refuse to move from in front of her reserved seats, restricting movement for the others. Owing to this trait, she can sometimes be solely responsible for your not being able to get off. DANGER: *****
5) The Premature Line-Uppers: (A.K.A Station Autophobics)
Say you get into the train at Point A and your destination is Point Z (which isn’t an exaggeration). I would get up, or start moving towards the door after Station Y passed me, so I’d be at the door when Z came. But that’s just me. I’ve seen some people stand at the door before Point Y, some when Point X brushed past us. That’s not the case with the premature Line-Uppers. They crowd the doorway by Station K. Like crowd it up so whoever is getting off at K is forced to climb atop them and get off with a ripped blouse. I call it paranoia. They call it being in time.
NOTE: Never call a PLU home for dinner. They’ll probably land up by breakfast and watch you eat in preparation for the evening. DANGER: *****
Then there are the non-dangerous types like the Sleepy Droolers , the Possessive Handle Holders, the Over Shoulder Readers – all self explanatory. There are also the iPod and Phone Radio variety besides the Open Mouth-Stare into Space commuters.
There’s my list for now. Now that you’re all equipped with information, hop on. If you find yourself with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, give me a buzz and I’ll drop you a couple of numbers.
NOTE: Stay away from the Moody Xena Elbow Puncher. And don’t call me Aunty.