I have never travelled much by local trains in Mumbai. But during my stay in Kolkata, I often had to commute from my in-laws home at Bardhaman to Kolkata or vise versa. During office hours the local trains were very crowded. But yes, if one still managed to get a seat by the window, the travel would be pleasant. The scenic beauty of the paddy fields and the lush green vegetation of Bengal villages would keep any nature lover engrossed. The passengers who travelled regularly, in course of time became friends. They would keep chitchatting till they reach their respective destinations.
Vendors selling plastic combs, insecticides, rat poison, fancy jewellery and others would also attract attention. Occasionally handicapped street singers would try their best to entertain and ask for some money.
Local trains connecting Kolkata with the district towns were known for their jhalmuri vendors ( dry bhel). They would freshly mix all the ingredients and serve a big packet of jhalmuri for a very reasonable cost. There was a nice vibe among the daily passengers, which after some time, people would tend to love even with all the oddities one faced while traveling by the local train. And there would be occasional fights among the passengers too.
In Mumbai, the local trains may not witness the same stories as life is faster and the trains ply mostly within the city. Everybody is in a hurry to reach their destinations on time. But feelings for fellow passengers develop with regular travel, likewise.
I heard a story from one of my friends. The friend’s daughter was in her final year of graduation at St Xavier’s college then. From Kanjurmarg station she used to take the train to reach her college. One day, during her annual exam, she wanted to go through her notes once more before reaching the examination hall. But there was no seat. The ladies compartment was so packed that she could not even take out her notes to go through it while standing. She was little mischievous by nature. She identified a seemingly motherly lady seated near her. She told her that she was in her first trimester of pregnancy and not feeling too well; it was just because of her exam she needed to go to college. If she would get a seat, it would be better. The lady took pity on her and lovingly offered her the seat with all sorts of kind words. My friend’s daughter had a nice study session till her destination.
Though this was mischievous and shrewd, the feelings of humanity and kindness for co passengers are worth a celebration. Such is the spirit of a city. Such are the memories people create with their goodness and cooperation. The lifeline of cites have varied stories to narrate although big cities mean broader distance, between places and also minds, and traveling may not be very comfortable through either. Yet, small gestures make all the difference.