\nVENUE : The Ladies Compartment\nLOCATION : The local trains of Mumbai\nEVENT : 1. Shopping Gala 2. Bonding Gala\nCOST : INR 40 / all day travel\nTIME : Anytime \u2013 no advance notice needed\nDESCRIPTION :\nLocal Trains in the linear city of Mumbai are the arteries and veins carrying the lifeblood of any city \u2013 its people to and from their work 6 days a week.\nThe crowds in these trains cannot be imagined \u2013 they have to be seen and experienced at peak hours to be able to form an idea of the word \u2018crowd\u2019 in its most extreme form.\u00a0 Of the 18.5 million living in the city, an estimate says 6.1 million travel on the local trains every day. 6.1 million! During peak hours, every rake of 9 coaches carries 4700 people resulting in a \u2018super dense crush load\u2019 of over 10 people per square metre.\n\n\n\nTrain Overflowing with people\n\n\nThese statistics tell a negative story.\nBut my story is one of delight and love and adulation \u2013 for the Mumbai local trains. And the people in it.\nBombay is my favoritest city in the world. And the local trains in the Western sector are my favoritest place in all of Mumbai. It is the place I go to, to revive my spirits when I am feeling low. It is the place that always gives me an experience that feeds my soul and gives me something to think about \u2013 about the human spirit and human strength \u2013 all of it delivered to me simply by watching others as they go about their lives.\n***\nMumbaikars \u2013 the people of Mumbai in their first month of train travel are taught the little unwritten rules, norms and systems that have evolved over the years. There was no single leader or body that led this evolution nor were there any announcements about these systems. Yet, every regular traveller knows and follows these.\u00a0 More about the unwritten code of conduct on a Mumbai local train in awhile.\n***\nWhen I worked in Mumbai I had several categories of friends : home friends (the people I grew up around), school friends, college friends, work friends and of course \u2018train friends\u2019. People taking the train to work, adopt a train schedule that is defined precisely to the minute as trains leave every 3 minutes : \u2018I take the 7.41 Fast from Bandra\u2019 \u00a0is a commonly heard phrase. I am in the midst of an important deal and yesterday some papers needed to be handed over to the buyer. Both had busy schedules. He would be on the 3.11 train starting from Churchgate and was going to Borivali. The train would arrive at my station 15 km away \u2013 Bandra at 3.35 \u2013 so we agreed to meet at a particular compartment for the 30 seconds that the train stops at Bandra. The train arrived, we identified each other, I stood at the platform and handed over the envelope to him as he stood at the door of the compartment and in 30 seconds the train left. Task accomplished.\u00a0 Effectively and efficiently. And this precision is the success to the Mumbai Dabbawala story run by village men who are not educated beyond Grade 5, but themselves lecture grad students of Harvard Business School. (But that subject deserves a dedicated article of its own)\n***\nOnward to the ladies compartment.\nThe Ladies compartment is a place where you can strike up a conversation with the lady in the next seat, share your life with them, spill out all your deepest darkest problems to them, jointly find solutions or solace, and then when you arrive at your destination \u2013 you can go your own merry way without the slightest chance of ever meeting your confidante, your \u2018psychotherapist\u2019 ever again. And she will do likewise. Mother-in-law problems, children problems, maid problems, husband problems, household matters all get thrashed out right here.\nAnd when we are not bonding or giving/taking psychotherapy sessions, we multitaskers are either shopping \u2013 for a very diverse rangeof products sold by roving vendors \u2013 or chopping vegetables or knitting or catching a nap even if you are standing or just enjoying the breeze that comes at you at the speed of 80kmph in your face when you hang out of the door. Nothing comes close to that thrill and that experience!! Great songs could have been written about this experience \u2013 but my guess is that the reason that these songs have not yet been written is that the people who get their dose of adrenalin this way, simply do not have the time for writing songs.\n***\n\nA glimpse of the shopping\nA lady vendor comes along with her goods\nClips and hairpins\n\n\nEarrings & rings\nEarrings\nA customer tries it on\nAnother vendor\nSnacks \u2013 packed chips of a dozen varieties.\n\nMore earrings\nHandkerchiefs & napkins\nNail poilish\nCosmetics : Lipstick, eyeliner, gloss, eye makeup, foam pads (I don\u2019t even have the vocabulary for half the things available!)\n\n\n\nA seller who has brought her baby to work.\u00a0\n\n\n\nShe is just going about her business as if this is the way it is meant to be. No self-pity.\u00a0 No whining. Just embracing her circumstance! Much to be learnt from her.\nA vendor prepares to disembark at the next station.\nThese vendors get on at one station, roam the compartment making sales pitches and when they have covered all the sections of the compartment and exhausted every hope of a sale, they alight at the next station and take the next train. This method allows them to target fresh audiences to pitch to. Over the years I have seen saris, sari petticoats, hot chapatis, files, phone covers, pens, toys, cakes, fruits and vegetables being sold in trains. Usually the items are low value consumables so that decisions do not take long.\n***\nAnd now onto the next activity: household chores: This lady is cleaning & chopping \u2018Methi\u2019 leaves (Fenugreek leaves)\n\n\n\n\nnote the blurred tracks above and the blurred purple of the train passing on the adjacent track below\nby the time she reaches her station, the vegetables will be ready for cooking.\nAnd finally an innovative sales gimmick that deserves to be seen on video. (Will upload soon). The lady vendor is selling hair clips and to demonstrate the use of these, she brings along her grand daughter to work.\n\nIn front of the audience of women travellers, she combs the little girl\u2019s hair and ties it into a neat bun with the clip, narrating her sales dialogue that included cute claims \u2018a clip used by NRIs (non resident Indians (Indians residing in foreign lands) \u2013 a group seen as financially elite and therefore worthy endorsers of this clip!) Will upload the video soon.\n***\nAnd upon reaching my destination \u2013 an unexpected bewildering sight greets me : a pair of turkeys \u2013 just outside Churchgate station building!! My little brain cannot comprehend their presence here.\u00a0 Strange. But true.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAfter my work is done, I head back home to be received by the magnificent Bandra Station.\n\n\n\n\n\n***\n\nAn interesting anecdote from 30 years ago\u00a0 before I end. : I was on my way to a party and took the train to Churchgate. As the ladies compartment is quite empty in that direction at that time, travellers usually cluster together and sit in one section of the compartment to feel secure. There were just 3 of us in that compartment \u2013 and we sat together and a conversation started. Both were much older than me.\u00a0 I didn\u2019t realise it at first, but the trivial chatter revealed that one was a \u2018professional\u2019 lady and the other was a eunuch and I was a 17 year old college kid. As the train sped through the stations, the two of them talked at a deeper level and I became a silent observer.\u00a0 Both talked of problems of the heart. Both spoke of their unrequitted love. And here I was \u2013 a teenager nursing a transient crush (today I cannot quite remember who the lucky object of my attention was in that particular period!) completely empathising with them on their common problem. We came from 3 different worlds yet faced the exact same problem.\u00a0 We had come together once and only once in our lifetimes,\u00a0 in the only place that could have brought us all together : the Ladies compartment of the Churchgate fast train!\n\n\n\nWill add more as life goes on \u2013 since there\u2019s so much interesting stuff happening in the ladies compartment of the Bombay Local trains!\n\n\n\njm\nFeb 2013\n\n\n\u00a0\nThe post The Ladies Compartment in Mumbai Local Trains appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.