Hoping For Millions of Happy Journeys Daily
By John Day Barnett
If someone told you she was taking you to a mode of transportation where more than five people die every day, would you follow them? Would you brave super-dense crush load to get to your destination during the morning and afternoon rush hours?
The Mumbai Suburban Railway – famous for people hanging out of always-open doors to save time at each station – is the preferred mode of transportation for Mumbaikers. Crushing traffic in the streets combined with a huge population makes getting anywhere exciting, even when you don’t want it to be heading into or home from work.
I took my first trip on a train in Mumbai on a weekday, but luckily after the height of rush hour. For 100 rupees ($1.42) I got a ticket into First Class, a spacious cabin with comfortable seats and a nice breeze through the window fenced off by iron bars. A few hours earlier or later and my experience would have been very different, but I got to enjoy the ride in relative comfort.
On the ticket for the train there was a simple saying, “Happy Journey” – in both Hindi (Shubh Yatra) and English. A small gesture that meant a lot in a rail system more famous for pushing, shoving, and crowding rather than happiness. Without glancing down at such a seemingly-meaningless piece of paper I would have never seen the well-wishing slogan – I would have simply crumpled it up and put it in my pocket. It’s the little things that matter when you take the time to notice them in your adventures. In this case, the Indian way of offering blessing in any manner possible.
We rode the train from Mahalaxmi station (next to the horse track of the same name) in Worli to the neighborhood of Andheri to continue on our quest to design the perfect wedding dress.
Compared to other trains I have taken, including the Lunatic Express in Kenya, the journey was a breeze and while it took a while, it sure beat sitting in traffic for an hour and a half. Changing your mode of transportation may cause anxiety, especially to one with such a reputation, but often it produces the biggest rewards.
Skip the taxi and take a matatu, take the train instead of flying, or get on that boat to cross the river. Try something new, out of your comfort zone, and you will learn more about the local culture and people than by sitting in an air-conditioned van watching the world go by on a tour.