Commuting by Mumbai local trains during monsoons? Mumbaikars share fashion, travel hacks

17 August,2023 02:05 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Nascimento Pinto

Do you hate the idea of travelling by the Mumbai local trains during the monsoons? You are not alone. However, there are some Mumbaikars, young and old, who have developed fashion and travel hacks to beat the rain while travelling in the crowd

Mumbaikars suggest not only carrying small umbrellas but also wearing cotton and nylons and avoiding jeans during the monsoon season while travelling by train. Photo Courtesy: Atul Kamble

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With the trains being the city's lifeline, most Mumbaikars often do not have the luxury of taking road transport, and that comes at a cost while train travelling, especially if you want to look good. "I have been travelling on Mumbai local trains for over 10 years now and it's fair to say that monsoons are the worst season to move around," says Sanjay Lawrence, city-based publicist from Vasai.

It is no different for Agnes Fernandes, who has spent her life travelling on Mumbai's local trains. The Mira Road resident expresses, "Travelling by Mumbai local trains is a challenge, on any given day. When you add rain to the mix, it is complete mayhem. Imagine taking care of yourself, your bags, and now your umbrella too, all the while trying to squeeze into the crowded trains."

Lawrence and Fernandes are among countless Mumbaikars who navigate the Mumbai monsoons and local trains while travelling to work daily. These trains aren't empty and are in fact overpopulated with people hanging from the doors often braving the rain. This is only so that they can get to work in time to avoid getting a pay cut for reaching late. So, imagine how difficult it must be to maintain a professional appearance at the office or while going to a public gathering while navigating Mumbai's monsoon-ridden train journeys? Seasoned and fashionable Mumbaikars advise to be well-prepared to deal with it.

Every year, Mumbai experiences torrential rains between June and September and that may often be a challenge for many, who are forced to travel by the local suburban trains because they come to the city from different parts of the city. Yes, it isn't raining as it was in July right now but if you have lived in Mumbai long enough you know, they are just around the corner, creeping up on you unsuspectingly either just when you leave your home or when you leave the office. It particularly happens when you have let your guard down and not carried your umbrella or have worn the most beautiful colourful dress or whites, or simply light-coloured shirts looking all dapper, and that's when it pours, and throws everything off-balance.

Self-discipline can help
Firstly, Lawrence says even as people are at the mercy of weather gods, there is a need for people to be considerate towards others, as everybody is dealing with leaking rusty railway station roofs or lack of access to clean washrooms to tidy up before you reach work. Lawrence, who usually travels from Mumbai to Bandra and then to Bandra Kurla Complex, shares, "Observing line discipline while boarding the train during peak hours, taking care of wet raincoats before boarding the train, can go a long way in being mindful towards fellow travellers." While the former may be difficult with the crowd, the latter is definitely possible.

As far as his attire is concerned, the 30-year-old has to be very particular about the clothes he wears because he has to meet clients often, and that means dressing formally; but that may often be soiled when travelling, for which he has found a solution. "Since I work in a service-oriented role, I usually need to wear formals to work, but during monsoons, my clothing tends to gravitate towards functionality over fashion," shares Lawrence, continuing, "I usually wear perforated rainwear loafers to avoid water retention and smelly feet. In terms of clothing, I usually end up wearing a mix of T-shirts/shirts and jeans. I also carry a pair of nylon track pants in my bag for emergencies."

Apart from these mindful practices, the Mumbaikar says using compact umbrellas over a big size for the sake of fashion, always helps with mobility. He also advises carrying an extra set of clothes for emergencies and investing in water-resistant backpacks and waterproof cases for mobile phones. If you are soaking wet due to untimely rains, then avoid sitting directly under air-conditioned vents in the air-conditioned local trains, and always check for train delays through apps such as m-indicator.

Towels to the rescue
Travelling during monsoons isn't easy for Jaie Kulkarni either. The Mumbaikar has to travel by the Mumbai local trains on a long journey from Ambernath to Lower Parel daily. She like many others has to unfortunately constantly deal with the trains getting cancelled on the Central Railway line because of waterlogging. It can often become a challenge, especially when she has to reach work on time, and it only gets worse if it happens in the evening because there is a crowd ready to spoil your clothes.

However, she has found hacks, without which dealing with the crowd and rain would spell doom for her on any given day. She shares, "I wear nylons or cotton so that they dry faster. Apart from that, I also wear darker coloured clothes, so it's not too obvious if they get wet." Additionally, the 23-year-old communications professional has also kept sweaters and jackets and a change of clothes in the office in case she ever needs to change.

Like Lawrence, Kulkarni also advises keeping smaller, foldable umbrellas that can be stuffed in the bag or in the water bottle pouch along with a plastic bag for when it's wet. "It is also good to keep a small towel to wipe down wet seats and windows in trains. Keeping another small towel to dry your hair or wipe any mud off of my trousers is a good idea," she adds.

Travelling smartly
Even as Kulkarni has found hacks early in her career, Fernandes has been using similar ones all her life. The 56-year-old explains, "I wear light materials, preferably cotton because they dry faster. And of course, darker shades to avoid my clothes becoming see-through when wet. Also, I have my go-to pair of all-weather footwear that I never leave without when it's raining."

The Mumbaikar is a homemaker but frequently travels to Bandra and Mahim to attend mass services and novenas at the churches there. While these aren't office spaces, one still needs to look presentable at places of worship, and that can often be a challenge with the trains. However, the Mumbaikar has been using these hacks successfully over the years and has no qualms about it. In fact, she even has suggestions, that the likes of Lawrence and Kulkarni have been using, that can help everybody. Apart from carrying the functional foldable umbrella over the big ones, she advises, "I think it is best to carry a spare outfit or pair of shoes you can quickly change into and a handy plastic bag to tuck in your umbrella."

Just like Fernandes, even Placy Lobo, another Mira Road resident, travels daily to her workplace in Mumbai. So, as soon as the monsoon season starts, the 56-year-old annual ritual is to switch to lighter clothes like a synthetic kurta or a Western top which dries faster. "Most of the time, I carry a shrug to keep myself warm in case I get wet. I avoid long pants as it gets dirty, and jeans as it takes time to dry." While these are some of the hacks she has learned and resorted to over the years. She also has a routine for her footwear. "Just before the rains, all my formal shoes are kept in the office as we all wear rainy shoes and then change in the office. Also, one formal attire like a jacket is kept in the office for important meetings," she adds.

Lobo likes to remain fashionable, and even as the trends change every year, she says it is best to buy shoes that don't allow water to get into them easily. Water-resistant jackets, as well as plastic covers for laptops and leather bags, are also now easily available. "Personally, I avoid a raincoat in the crowded train as there is no place to move, hence you cannot take out the raincoat and it's a nuisance for other women."

Apart from functional fashion including clothes and footwear, Lobo has other tips for people that she uses and may help others. "I mostly avoid wearing any makeup as it all gets wet on the face but carry it in my handbag." Apart from that, not drinking too much water helps because of the absence of clean washrooms. "One can also carry light snacks as you cannot predict the delays," she shares.

Having travelled on the Mumbai local trains for close to four decades, come rain or sunshine, Lobo has always loved commuting by them. "Overall, it is fun to travel on the Mumbai local trains with lots of friends and women from different backgrounds and each one has a story. Though the challenges are huge, it's a beautiful experience and years pass by, and you see happy and sad faces and also learn the reality of life."

Like Lobo, even Fernandes wouldn't opt to travel any other way than the Mumbai local trains during the monsoons. "All in all, it's an unpleasant experience, but I'd still travel by train because it cuts travel time by at least half," she concludes.

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