(Above photo by Randy Olson – http://olsonfarlow.com/editorial-images/urban-crowds-at-churchgate-railway-station-mumbai-india)
A brand new day. I pace across the platform to the nearly hundred meters far ladies compartment. Funny how such small a distance can seem so huge when your mind is still in that sweet state of post-slumber numbness. The usual train waits for me. As soon as I step on, the sense of familiarity envelopes me. I slide into my usual window seat, plug my earphones, and snuggle into the relaxing notes of Richard Clayderman.
Familiar faces pour in every five minutes. Faces I’ve never talked to, but whose smiles reassure me of a different kind of togetherness. The bookish girl from a remote college. The old lady who catches up on sleep. The Aunty whose best friend is her tablet. The chic woman whose warbrode doesn’t fail to amaze, every day. I glance around the compartment; this is one place where you would not catch the same locale twice. The atmosphere is bustling, active, crowded: the reflection of an entire city rising for work, with a chorused yawn.
The minutes pass. The train glides on. As it waves adieu to Navi Mumbai, my eyes involuntarily flit upwards, and out of the window: the vast stretch of the Vashi Creek is passing by. Navi Mumbai looks on at us as we speed away, draped in an enchanting cloak of mist. The first rays of the day are swimming in the water. The atmosphere is tranquil. Admiring this view is routine for quite some commuters and a pleasant experience for the new.
We steadily enter the doors of Mumbai. It looks as if it awoke at midnight: already the platforms are buzzing with all sorts of people, the office crowd glancing nervously at their watches, the vendors busy with their job, mobs of students rushing for schools and colleges. Everyone clings tightly to their seats as the train approaches Kurla. Most of my fellow travellers jump out in a hurried stance. You almost always expect a stampede, and end up feeling relieved once the station passes.
What seems like seconds later, my destination approaches. I bid with my glance a silent farewell to the Andheri-bode women who are still enjoying their nap, and depart. The engine screams; the train whooshes past me. Another hundred meters’ walk beyond the platform. Another new day awaits outside. But until tomorrow, the engine will keep echoing in my ear.