The commuter train has a life of its own


If there is one city, outside of Europe and within India, that is super-connected by the trains, it has to be Mumbai! People can get to any god forsaken part of this city by using trains. It is pretty incredible how even less populous parts of Mumbai can be accessed through the simple use of trains.

As I have been traveling by trains a lot, because it is the fastest way to get to any part of Mumbai, I have become more and more intrigued by the fact that the trains in Mumbai have a life of their own. I am sure this phenomena has been written about and explored a multitude times before, and I am going to also add my two cents to it, along with some pictures that I have taken over the last few months.

I have seen several bizarre and unusual situations on the local trains right from eunuchs coming in and asking for money, to invalids (they’re most likely not) contorting their bodies in all shapes and forms, to people selling all kinds of things like eatables, jewelery, phone covers, TV and microwave covers, and hair accessories, to people balancing tons of stuff on their heads and backs while trying to get on and off the train. Below are a couple of images of a lady transporting aluminium and steel vessels on her head and back, while also carrying her baby in her arms:

The Ultimate Balancing Act

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Here is another picture of the lady getting ready to disembark the train.

In this picture, her baby is sitting at the entrance of the train in anticipation of being picked up by her mother later as she balances all her wares across and over her body (picture is a little blurry from the moving train):

Babe in train

Babe in train

The number of people that sell and buy goods in these compartments are incredible. It is also a lot of fun bargaining with the sellers, as well as watching how some of the passengers respond to the kinds of goodies that are being sold on board. This afternoon, my eyes lit up, as I saw a young boy walk through the compartment with an assortment of glass and metallic bangles, and earrings and necklaces. Feast your eyes on these goodies:

Racks of bangles and necklaces

Racks of bangles and necklaces

The Mumbai local trains certainly have a life of its own. In peak hours, you have to fight for a place in the compartment and be vary of people stepping on your toes or pushing you out of the train when you have not yet reached your destination (the sheer force of the crowd can land you much further than your intended destination sometimes). Sometimes, you will even hear folk singers and religious singers sing their way through their journey, mostly to my displeasure, because it is pretty stressful as it is with getting on and being in a crowded train. I could go on and share more observations regarding the train culture in Mumbai, but I will end with this last observation: of people crossing train tracks to get from one side of the station to another (from East to West and vice verse). It is not uncommon for men, women, and children to cross the railway tracks to get to the other side, despite the fact that there is a bridge that connects one side to another, and despite the reality that a train could be just around the corner. It is also not uncommon for hundreds of people a year to die from these fatal crossings. Here is first hand evidence of several people walking on and crossing the train tracks:

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, talked about the “Eros” or the life instinct and the “Thanatos” or the death instinct. I guess we all know which instinct these guys are following!

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