With the Railway budget hitting the headlines and fierce debate is on like always, about this lifeline, here is a look at commuting in Mumbai locals - with tongue firmly in cheek, of course.
You know you are a Mumbaikar when...
>> You may never win a gold medal but you are especially adept at running alongside a train and leaping into it with so much skill, it would put an Olympic triple jumper to shame.
>> You have several sets of friends. Childhood friends, work friends and something called ‘train friends' which people outside the city do not understand
>> You know that the cliché goes: diamonds are a girl’s best friend but you also know that for travellers: window seats are a train commuter’s best friend.
>> In the rains, you do not mind if the person next to you is poking his umbrella into your foot in a horrendously crowded compartment, you are just happy the umbrella is not in your eye.
>> You buy books like: The Monk who Sold His Ferrari on local train station platforms and think to yourself: I wonder who bought that Ferrari and how much he bought it for? You also think that the monk must be crazy to sell his Ferrari but you don’t tell anybody about these thoughts as they are not profound, unlike this book.
>> You see the person opposite you reading a book too, but the book cover is covered in brown paper which makes you wonder what kind of book it is...is it (gasp!) adult literature. Ahem. That is not your place to know.
>> You certainly do not qualify for bisexual even though while holding the handle of a train near the door, you might swing either way
>> You are particularly proud of a friend in your train group who made it big as a Bollywood singer - he used to play antakshari in the same compartment as you some years earlier. Of course he does not travel by train any longer but then, his roots were still here in this very compartment.
>> You know exactly what somebody means when they say: see you in the 3:16 Borivali to Churchgate fast tomorrow.
>> You carry on a mobile phone conversation in the train but if it is your significant other calling in a particular combative tone you say: “what, what, I cannot hear you in the train, the signal has gone off...”
>> You do not particularly care about who the Railways Minister is: first Laloo, then Mamta and now, some Pawan dude. You are only worried about how much your monthly Railway pass costs...
>> You wonder what your 13-year-old grandson meant when he asked if the train compartments were wi-fi enabled, but pretended not to hear him.
>> You wonder why companies like Colgate do not sponsor people dancing in train compartments and dub them: Colgate 'bogie woogie' contests with people like Farah Khan, Remo, Saroj Khan and Madhuri Dixit as judges.
>> You may never admit it but you have crossed tracks a few times in your life and maybe, in your younger days when your knees were not as they are now, travelled on the rooftop of a train yourself. Today, though you cluck disapprovingly when you see people doing the same, even shake that newspaper you are reading in disgust making a little crackling sound.
>> You wonder about idiotic things about whether the Railways uses a 'fare'-ness cream because you have nothing else to do while waiting for a train.
>> When people talk about stories they would like to tell their grand kids you will think: when I become a grandparent, I would sit my grand kid down and tell him/her how I walked through the floods on the railway tracks; 'yeah those were the days, my friend...'
>> You think of movies in which Kamal Hasan and Reena Roy (I think it was) danced on a railway station to some song with the lyrics - disco station disco, gaadi aayi woh na aaya... or even the late Rajesh Khanna singing to Sharmila Tagore who was batting her eyelashes with alarming frequency: meri sapno ki rani (though that was a long distance train) and smile grimly at the difference between celluloid and reality.
>> You have a picture of yourself with some politician who clambers into local trains to "experience" the common person’s commute. You show off that picture to your friends and have even mailed it to the local paper as a ‘citizen journalist’, but once the picture is put away you use the choicest cuss words for the same politician.
>> You have only seen places of historical importance like Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat and the ‘Gothic’ like all those conservation enthusiasts call it beauty of CST station while rushing for your train, but you have no time to go to them as you are too busy commuting.
>> Finally, you waste your time reading stuff like this. As a consequence, you miss your train. You then tell your boss in the office that the ‘Western’ or the ‘Central’ or even the ‘Harbour’ line has a problem today... and sigh saying: and yesterday the Railway minister just announced the budget. These people are shameless...