Riding the local train alone was one of my goals upon arriving in Bombay. Some of you may think this is not a worthy goal, like maybe I set my sights too low. This is not to say I don’t have a bigger vision (I do) but riding the local train was one of the smaller yet more intimidating challenges of becoming self-sufficient in this city. Even in off-peak hours, these trains can be packed with people shoving and jostling and generally pressing so close together it would definitely be considered inappropriate in any other situation. At rush hour, it’s not uncommon for people to start jumping on and off the train before it comes to a stop at the station.
Once I took the train with Sam, and as he took my hand before we reached our stop he told me to “hold on and don’t let go no matter what.” The crush of commuters pushing in both directions gave me the feeling my arm might end up at Bandra station with Sam but my body would surely be traveling onward.
So, now I’ve done it. Alone. And it was not nearly as scary as I’d anticipated. I travel mainly in the women’s compartment- when I can find it- and it is much more civilized than the general (men’s) cars. I’ve learned to avoid standing near short and stocky older women, because when it comes to getting where they want to go, they won’t let anyone stand in their way. I like to stand in the center of the car, because the breeze from the open doors feels nice. Sam doesn’t want me to stand too close to the door because he’s afraid I’ll fall out. To tell the truth, I’m afraid too so I always make sure I hold onto the bar and just peek out a little.