Battling The Daily Commute — Mumbai Style

I came across a post about Metro Etiquette, written by my classmate Shayla. While she loves the district’s public transportation, she does have a few issues — issues that, perhaps, DC commuters are all too familiar with.

Take the people who insist on “sharing” their music with the rest of the coach, for instance. Or those who catch up on their sleep, rather noisily, during the morning commute and, as Shayla puts it, the “dry and uninterested tone” of the metro operators.

“The metro is a very public space and filling it with these annoying things really make the ride less enjoyable.”

Maybe that metro rider manual isn’t such a bad idea, Shayla.

But in all honesty, traveling in DC is a breeze compared to traveling in my city, Mumbai. I love my city but its public transportation has some catching up to do. While Mumbai would probably collapse without its trains – the dependable suburban train system ferries some seven million people each day – traveling in the city is a completely different story.

No one can call themselves a true Mumbaiite without having traveled the buses and trains of the city. It’s a privilege – earned only after you have weathered the city’s public transport system.

You know you’re a seasoned commuter in Mumbai when:

ob-aj418_mumbai_20070417131124You travel three stops in the direction opposite to your destination so that you actually find the space to board your train — a routine struggle, with many forced to precariously hang out the doors.

You’re armed and ready – bags slung across shoulders – while boarding the bus that will leave, with or without you, after halting for precisely two seconds at the designated bus stop.

You have the exact fare in your hand before you board the bus. Reach for it once you’re inside the bus amidst the sweaty, irate passengers all fighting for the same square inch of space – while warding off wandering hands – and you’ll know why it is bad idea.

You head for the exit – two stops before your destination — skillfully navigating the swarming crowds. You’re lucky if you make it to the exit in time. You’re even luckier if you can actually get off.

You know the lame beggar sweeping the floors of the coach may “miraculously” make a dash for the exit just as the train pulls out of the station – your handbag in tow.

You know it is routine for women to shop for vegetables, peel them then dice them – all while inside the local train.

You are not surprised when you’re stuck in an overcrowded bus for over five hours because the city is flooded – again.

You don’t flinch when you find your bus fitted with wire meshes to protect its glass windows — and the people inside. Another day of expected political unrest. Nothing the city hasn’t seen before.

You take the train to work less than eight hours after bombs across the city blow up local trains in vicious terrorist attacks. Just how many times can you stay home in fear?

You do it.

Because you’ve done it before.

Because you’ll do it again.

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