PROLOGUE: Mumbai Local – Stories From The Lifeline Of Mumbai. A series of short stories that explores the life of a citizen in a local train. Stories, about relationships, about culture and about the undying spirit of the people, just like the lifeline of Mumbai itself. Some real, some experiences, some fictional and many mere an observation. The many a faces, that seem strangers, draw me close to them. Some ambitious minds, some deceived, some real, some fake. Some young, some old, some hot, some cold like stone. I am one among them, and that’s what draws me more close to them. That’s what draws me towards their face, because every face has a story to tell.
If it would have been any other day, the ladies compartment wouldn’t have entertained any male members. But considering the peak hour rush and the unapologetic crowd at Kurla station, the ladies had no choice to accommodate three people, two males and one woman, who by their appearance didn’t look any close to being desi. Yes! They were foreigners who had accidentally boarded the ladies compartment and climbed with precision as the train slowly moved from the station.
The lady among them was a Chinese and the two men were probably Americans. Dressed decently, they got stared from the railings that separated the gents and the ladies coaches. A few men on the other side mumbled in Gujarati that they were new to the city and didn’t know what to do in the situation. Meanwhile, the ladies were happily interacting with their newfound friends and giving them updates about the city and its erratic weather. They also said that the three were lucky to get into the compartment, as they never entertain unwanted guests. A lady also hinted that she could make out that they were not the ‘regular’ ones and so made an exception. Else, she would have certainly shooed off the men who wouldn’t have been half decently dressed as them.
It was clearly obvious that the two men inside the compartment were embarrassed, while their Chinese companion happily chose to capture the Indianness and the Aamchi Mumbai feel on her phone. With the ladies compartment having three new guests, the otherwise dull morning had truly become a refreshing one. Each person was talking about the new visitors in a language that was completely alienated to the three. Do people in other countries also speak the same way when we visit their country? Do we also experience such a situation outside India? Meanwhile, as Sion approached, the men with utmost respect asked the ladies to excuse them. “Extremely sorry to have got in here and caused embarrassment to you all. Kindly excuse us. Thank You!”, they said and boarded the adjacent compartment, while the Chinese lady continued to be happy in clicking more pictures.
The men came in and boarded the gents’ compartment and managed to get a seat, quite lucky I must say! As they sat looking by the window, while fellow commuters continued to chit-chat, one of the foreigners saw a person reading a religious book. He curiously asked him, “Do you follow the principles mentioned in his book?” “No! I actually don’t get time to read when I am at home. I simply read to kill time,” he said. Even before the foreigner could ask his question or give a reaction, the man shut the book and asked, “You have come for the first time to India? Where are you headed towards?” The man replied, “No it’s not my first time here. I am visiting the great Siddhivinayak Temple at Dadar.” He further said, which surprised me to a great extent, “I had come here a few years ago and visited the same temple. I am just going back to one of the most pious places in Mumbai.” The next thing that he did was completely unexpected. He removed a photo from his wallet, which was a picture of Lord Siddhivinayak, and said ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya!”