It's finally time to love Mumbai local trains
Mumbai’s lifelines -- the local trains -- are often a trying form of local transportation. Passengers constantly complain about the crowds, the heat, the madness.
I set out to verify the facts and learned that most people couldn’t be more mistaken.
I concluded that what people consider hurdles to a good journey are really deliberate interventions by a government that has painstakingly designed Mumbai’s railways to maximize the efficiency and overall standard of living of its residents.
In short, train travel constitutes a lifestyle upgrade.
1. Train travel improves social cohesion
Ever seen the crowds at a railway station in Mumbai? Their enormity?
Well, when large numbers of people perform similar actions or face similar problems together, on a regular basis, it builds an unconscious psychological bond between members of that group, thereby bringing the group closer together, making it stronger. Even if the group members are strangers.
Think of a mass rally. Or Aldous Huxley’s "Brave New World".
In this case, the group members in question are the daily commuters, traveling together every day.
Queuing up for tickets or passes, waiting for trains, jumping into trains, traveling with each other, talking, fighting, parting ways. Every day.
It builds camaraderie. Which is good for the city. So what if you occasionally get trampled on or fall off a train? What’s a few sacrifices for the good of the group? Look how well the ants manage.
What most people consider bad crowd management by railway management is undoubtedly an essential step in superior nation-building.
2. Train travel improves reflexes
Nothing beats beating the crowds to get that seat in a train.
Lining up along a station platform every morning, keenly watching your train pull in, calculating its speed, timing your jump, leaping and swinging yourself in, after grabbing hold of a pole or door handle or someone else's arm, using split-second improvisation to ensure the inertia from your jump allows for a perfect swing, not too far and not too short, just the perfect angle, enabling you to stop in time, then furtively looking around for a seat, and diving into the best one before anyone else does, and feeling good about yourself.
Forget professional athletes, even a deer being chased by a tiger doesn’t get to hone its senses to this extent.
What most Mumbaikars consider poor transport design is undoubtedly all part of the government’s larger plan to keep city residents in the pink of health.
It’s sad that Mumbai’s ungrateful commuters aren’t flooding the offices of the Western and Central Railways with thank-you notes and checks.
Watch the video: Indian teenagers attempt deathly train stunts
3. Train travel improves negotiation and bargaining skills
Travel by train often enough and you can cut down on your shopping trips.
You get loads of stuff here: pens, notebooks, wallets, hair clips, combs and brushes.
And I’m not just talking about the stalls outside the stations. I’m referring to the walk-through hawkers who sell their wares in the train compartments.
Prime opportunity to put into practice whatever you learned at that negotiation skills workshop the company made you attend last year.
4. Train travel improves interpersonal skills
Want three people to move in so you can try squeezing into that fourth seat?
Want to negotiate your way through a crowded compartment to a spot where you can stand, without stepping on anyone’s feet in the process?
Here’s where you’re forced to communicate with the strangers around you, building essential interpersonal skills.
5. Train travel teaches you patience
You’re stuck in a train. The train won’t move. You have a meeting to get to. You’re getting late. You can’t get off and walk because that’s just ridiculous. You simply have to wait it out.
And you learn that patience is a virtue. A powerful life lesson. One that people should be grateful to have the opportunity to learn.
Some people use this as an opportunity to claim bad governance, but they just can’t see the wood for the trees.
More on CNNGo: Superdense crush load: Mumbai's local trains to get roomier
6. Bonus: Free daily sauna, steam and massage
That train you’re in, with five people squished against you. And none of you can move your limbs because you’re packed in tighter than sardines in a can.
Now, a narrow-minded person would jump to irrational conclusions, screaming discomfort, and then blaming the government and municipality for the sorry state of affairs that is our railways.
But the more intelligent ones among us know that this is just another opportunity for a free massage. There’s another appointment you can cancel.
And the 35 C outside that the authorities have managed to magnify to 45 C inside the train compartment to make it seem like a sauna -- that’s just intelligent design.
Clever of the government to manage that. It should take years off your life.
See? It’s all good. One wonders why people curse the Mumbai railways so much.