January 16, 2009


Despite much interaction with the Metropolis over the past decade or so, certain Facts about the city had escaped the One's keen eye. And these very Facts, gentle reader, were brought to one's notice on a curious winter evening, during one's annual pilgrimage to the Homeland.

In a minor miracle wrought by the lateness of the hour and the nefariousness of the times, the compartment was nearly empty. A young couple boarded at Mumbai Central with luggage in tow. Out-of-towners, their part-excited, part-bewildered expressions said, or would have said if their VIP suitcases hadn't said it first. Naturally they approached the One (who happened at that point to be leaning out of the door and making full Gujju use of the free breeze) for information, and perhaps for small talk or banter.

"Churchgate jayegi na?" asked the gentleman.

Easy question. One retracted self into train and replied, with some panache, "Bilkul jayegi, bhaiyaji. Samjho Churchgate aa hi gaya."

Following this succinct reassurance, one chose to enlighten bhaiyaji further.

"Yeh Fast Local hai. Fast Locals stop only at Fast Stations – Bandra, Dadar, Mumbai Central, Churchgate. So the next station is Churchgate," elucidated the One, your friendly neighbourhood mass-transit mastermind. "Next station, Churchgate", one then somewhat repetitively declared, for emphasis.

Four minutes later, the train came to an abrupt halt outside Grant Road Station.

"Woh signal ka problem hai, bhaiyaji", one observed, with an appropriately beseeching glance towards bhabhiji for support. "Apne ko, na, red signal diyela hai. Warna Churchgate aa gaya hota," one continued. Bhaiyaji seemed to buy neither one's wisdom nor one's Bambaiyya, for he was, in his own way, an astute individual.

Three minutes, and we were grinding to a stop outside Charni Road Station.

"Woh Saurashtra Express ko pehle jaaneko mangta na," hazarded the One, Walking Encyclopedia of the Western Railways. "Boley toh," one added for effect, at which point the train lurched into motion, with no Express, Saurashtra or otherwise, in sight.

South of Charni Road, the railway line follows the curve of Marine Drive in a most sensuous manner. ("And each individual track does slowly bend, like quills on the fretful porpentine," one murmured, much to bhaiyaji's consternation.)

Three minutes later we were standing, quite still, at Marine Lines.

Bhaiyaji, an admirable man on many counts, did not lose his patience and blow his top, if 'blow his top' is the correct expression. He instead chose to glare silently at the One. And one, having been subjected to such glares with regularity, took it all in one’s stride.

Such was the atmosphere in our little compartment for a few minutes, and then Churchgate actually did arrive. But, as anyone who has ever arrived at Churchgate in the last bogie of a 12-coach train will testify, said bogie stops so far from the roofed area that one could be forgiven for thinking that Churchgate had not arrived at all.

"Waise toh Churchgate almost aa gaya hai, bhaiyaji, lekin abhi train aur thodi aage jayegi. Let's get off when we're under the roof, suitcases bhi to hain," remarked the One in all thoughtfulness. Five minutes passed. The train began to travel, once again. Backwards.

A hasty disembarkation did then ensue, and VIP luggage was thrown down in true filmi style, and one was subjected to further cold glares, stares and suchlike perusals.

Thus, gentle reader, one bequeaths to you two Facts this frabjous day. Firstly: when a southbound train stops three minutes after leaving Marine Lines, you are at Churchgate and should alight without unduly worrying about where the roof begins. And secondly: the line (conceptual, not railway) separating Fast Locals and Slow Locals is not nearly as well-defined as we may think. The Fast Local, after screaming through the suburbs like a banshee on steroids, is tamed by Mumbai Central and becomes a Slow Local, after which it chugs along in the meekest possible manner, and stops at the smallest stations and at several signals besides. And sometimes, they say, it has to wait for the Saurashtra Express too.


shakester said...

wah, out of towners to be getting adventurous introduction to big city.

art thou still in the singapura?

One in a Billion said...

Shakester: Yes, indeed. Home is still our fair Lion City.

LAK said...

*Grinning from ear to ear* If I visit Bombay, I'll know who to ask for a guided tour!And you've been awarded---even before I read this post! Do drop by, and you could also tell me how I can get the award-logo on my blog!Uske bina award, aur post adhura hai!

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Well, well. Well. We thank you kindly for the honour!

Inserting the award-logo into a post is doable - blogger provides an 'Insert Image' option for just such an eventuality. Inserting it into the blog's background template might be a little more involved, but again doable if you could check the HTML code for the template and strategically insert the URL for the image at the correct position.

One shall now proceed to don freshly-laundered clothing and gambol in the streets.

LAK said...

Thanx, I finally managed it. Hope you have come up with an idea for a new post in the course of your gambols!

NN said...

That's why i never give directions to strangers or worse people i know.

A said...

There are the Fast locals, the Slow locals.. and the Semi-Fasts. Now, one must carefully note that while these Semi-Fasts are typically fastidious when it comes to following their track, they sometimes choose to play hookey, particularly when one is running late.

They also choose to look upon, with unfavourable disdain, those who are shaky with their Bambaiyya, and may avenge themselves. May One be warned.

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Still trying to think of something, LAK .. *continues gambol*

NN: Well .. as long as a quick getaway is possible, directions can be doled out at random. Of course, with Known People the getaway part is usually a problem, given that Connections exist, and it is emphatically inadvisable to give them directions of any sort.

A: These hookey-loving Semi-Fasts seem to be an entirely new species. You are cordially thanked for the enlightenment, and assured that we shall make their acquaintance at the soonest opportunity. In chaste Bambaiyya.

Padma said...

I blame Mumbai for it. At some inscrutable level, it makes visitors/ex-residents want to seem like the know-it-all. And I speak from experience too. :)

Deepu Vasudevan said...

Funniest thing I've read all day.
Thank you very much for the laugh. I'll definitely peep back later for more!

One in a Billion said...

Padma: Ah, you've met Bhaiyaji too. He does get around, doesn't he :)

Deepu: Thanks, and please do. We post, er, weekly. Well, monthly. Well, often.

Deepu Vasudevan said...

One needs to refine their definition of often.