Harbour Line has to be Indian Railways' stepchild. Nothing else can explain the kind of treatment it (we, the commuters, that is) receive on a daily basis. Today, the trains were more than an hour late. That is 60+ minutes, numerically speaking. On top of that, it was pouring, thus providing the authorities a reason to hide their inefficiencies. Whatever. I too waited along with half the population of Bangladesh at Kurla station on platform number seven for 300 years. But not a train in sight.
The drama unfolded here.
At last, a locomotive lost its way and reached us. Full to its brim, there wasn't an inch to be budged. But then, in a Mumbai local train compartment, there's always space for one more person. In this case, however, there was space for at least a dozen. I tried my luck but couldn't grab anything so i did what my amma would NEVER want me to. I climbed onto the steel steps on the back of the compartment. Yes, the space between two bogies. In my defense, i wasn't alone. There were six more of us. None of us exchanged a word. Space management at its best. I've done this before but never in a downpour. Everything felt wet and cool before pain crept into my limb joints. The thing is it's difficult to stand in such an uncomfortable position for long. Approximately 22 minutes of heroic ride from Kurla to Vashi platform number three.
The real drama unfolded here.
This train i was hanging on to my life—quite literally—was supposed to go till Panvel but the motormen halted their 'office' at Vashi itself. They even switched off the light: an indication that the local will be moving to car-shed at Juinagar and all the passengers should alight. One can imagine the kind of reaction the public must have exhibited at this point. And they did. Perhaps they were high on Turkey protest news. Some started banging the door of the motormen's compartment. Others tried to break the glass in front of the train. Two fools even managed to slap the motorman (poor fellow got slapped twice while his colleague didn't even receive one) for not listening to their demands. This went on for like 12 minutes before another train headed for Belapur reached platform number two.
The bigger drama unfolded here.
Six of the most violent-looking men rushed towards the Belapur local and threatened the lonely motorman not to move the train. Being afraid (read: sensible) after observing the gherao on the right hand side of his window, he didn't make a move and stayed put. The born-again protesters felt as if they have conquered Timbuktu and once again diverted their attention to the train on platform number three.
The bigger and better drama unfolded here.
As soon as they moved back to the Panvel train, i went to the compartment at the forefront and asked the Tamil-accented motorman to start the train. He seemed surprised and relieved at the same time and hit the alarm bell pronto: a green signal given to the motorman on the other end of the train. As soon as that happened, I quickly ran back and found myself space enough for my right foot to place and hanged (again!) on the footboard from Vashi to the next station.
The biggest drama unfolded here.
On reaching home, i told dad that i saved thousands of people from unnecessary frustration by making a motorman do what he was supposed to—hit the gear and run the train. Funny he listened to me. The funnier part is not many can claim that they've made a train move although many can claim that they've made a train stop. The funniest part is none of the above mentioned episodes is untrue.