Mumbai Locals- Through the Looking Glass

*Warning– If this post feels more like a rant than anything else, blame the particularly ferocious crowd I encountered in the train today morning, which almost made me miss my stop!

Like thousands of people in Mumbai, I too use the local “lifeline” trains to commute from home to work and back, everyday. And since I have been doing this for quite sometime now, I can easily add the “Bachelors in Local Train Travelling Management” degree to my resume.

Travelling by Mumbai locals is often characterized by some common experiences that everyone who uses local trains regularly, will be familiar with. But for those of you, who are new to this “awesome” mode of transportation, or have just recently started travelling by it, here’s a little heads up on what you can expect to experience and enjoy on a daily basis.

Let’s start with the first thing that anyone associates with Mumbai local trains;

The Crowd

You may have heard lots of people say that when travelling by local trains, you need not do anything yourself, the crowd will carry you in and out of the train.

It’s true.

And quite laughable when YOU are not the one experiencing this. Otherwise, laughter is the last thing that will come out, when you feel like a soldier being dragged along in a battle formation. (You may even hear screams and shouts while being herded onto the train, but don’t panic! The chances of anyone actually carrying any swords or arrows are almost nil.)

The Much Coveted Seats

Now, when you finally manage to get aboard the train, the first thing you will need to do is scan the entire compartment within a matter of seconds. Because, in our locals, there is a monopoly even for the fourth seat, which actually does not exist, but is just created forcefully to support one’s rear. If you are slow to spot a spot (pun intended), you will have to stand and support yourself with the roof handles which are often too high for people who have a short stature. (Yes, the struggle is too real!)

The Nasal Torture

Also, if you have to stand in a chock-full compartment, it’s very important to carry a handkerchief. Because, you may have bathed in a long-lasting deodorant or perfume, but not everybody can or does the same. So just to spare your nose the horror of inhaling multiple bad odours all at once, carry a kerchief.

Monsoon Action

All this is just part and parcel of travelling by local trains everyday. But your patience gets tested even more during the monsoons. Mumbai monsoons are absolutely beautiful, when there is no water logging. But if you are travelling by train when it is pouring cats and dogs, even if you have managed to stay dry on the road before boarding the train, you will get drenched while sitting in the compartment. Half-wet women struggling to close the windows and doors, while ultimately getting soaked anyway, are a common sight. No matter where you sit or stand, if even one window or door is open, be prepared for an unwanted bath.

Mumbai ‘Local’ Meri Jaan!

Having said all this, I still enjoy my train journeys, because they are a testimony to my favourite city’s never-dying spirit and enthusiasm. So just like many other unpleasant things we all have to face while living in Mumbai, I take these train travelling experiences in my stride and enjoy the journey.  After all, they do make for weird yet wonderful stories, which are nerve-racking yet funny to describe to people who unfortunately, don’t call Mumbai their home.

So if you are going to start travelling by Mumbai locals, brace yourselves for a bittersweet, yet unique experience, that will stay with you for all your life.


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