Pudheel station Vandre

Agla station Baandra

Next station Bandra

The saree-clad woman jolted from her sleep, looking around confusedly. A woman with a rather big thaila stuffed with dhaniya, meethi and palak was standing in front of her; with the leafy vegetables right under Meenu’s nose. It was the smell of the dhaniya that had woken her. Meenu wanted to shout at the woman to move but found she didn’t have the energy. Then she looked at her own thaila filled with vegetables that was leaning against the leg of the girl sitting next to her. Meenu smiled apologetically as she moved the thaila away.

“Kaunsa station?” she asked the girl sitting next to her.

Removing an ear phone, she looked at Meenu quizzically. Meenu repeated the question. “Bandra,” she replied as the litany began again.

Pudheel station Vandre

Agla station Baandra

Next station Bandra

Meenu sighed and tried to settle in her seat as comfortably as she could. The local was filled with women but at least she was sitting near the window and could see the sky that helped with the overwhelming stench of human desperation, fatigue and sweat…and not to forget the claustrophobia.

She should have known they were nearing Bandra since another queue had already started to form on the other door of the local. Even though she had seen this phenomenon countless times, it still amused her how not only the trains but also the people travelling in them moved in a rhythm of their own.

The local stopped at Bandra and some of the women got off while a few more got on. Much to Meenu’s disappointment, the woman with the thaila didn’t move an inch. She tried to go back to sleep but found there were too many things floating around in her head to make sleep impossible. She needed to decide what to cook (the cook had taken another day off; Meenu made a mental note to talk to her; this was the third in a month), she had to write a letter to Isha’s teacher asking about the parent teacher meeting, the emails…Meenu paused. She would forget half the things by the time she reached home!

She removed her phone and started to make a to-do list. She also messaged her daughter asking her if she had finished her homework. Then she remembered there were no eggs and bread in the house and sent a message to her husband to buy them on his way home.

Pudheel station Dadar

Agla station Dadar

Next station Dadar

Now most of the women inside the local were queuing in earnest. It felt like half of them were standing rather than sitting even though there was room to do neither. And yet the woman with the thaila was resolutely standing in front of Meenu. Meenu moved her thaila of vegetables out of harm’s way as the train strolled to a stop at Dadar station.

The train spit out more than half its occupants before moving onwards. The blessed relief from close human contact meant Meenu could now look out the window with ease. The number of people she saw moving purposefully here and there made her thank the god that she didn’t have to commute from this station. It terrified her, simply to look at so many people.

Thankfully, the woman with the thaila sat down on the empty bench in front of Meenu. She took out the dhaniya and a Ziploc bag from the thaila and started to clean the dhaniya. Meenu smiled and went back to her to-do list.

Pudheel station Mumbai Central

Agla station Mumbai Central

Next station Mumbai Central

Now that the train was more or less empty, Meenu could look around her compartment. There was a woman (who she guessed was her age) who took the same train as Meenu every day. They nodded to each other when they made eye contact. Meenu had always thought she’d talk to her one day but hadn’t gotten around to it.

She continued her scrutiny. There were a group of giggling girls she hadn’t seen before taking a selfie, there was Sharmaji who smiled and waved at Meenu, then there was…Meenu’s phone gave a loud trill. It was Alok.

“How many eggs?” he asked.

Meenu rolled her eyes. Someone would think Alok had never done this before. “Six.”

“Which bread?”

“Brown; see if there is Britannia. Don’t take the multi-grain, Isha doesn’t like it.”

There was a pause and all Meenu heard was whistling. “And white eggs right? Or do we eat the brown ones?”

“White ones Alok.”

“Right. Do we need anything else? Where are you?”

“Don’t think so. Almost there.”

“See you at home.”

When the woman got off at Mumbai Central, Meenu was almost wistful. She wished she had thought to ask her where she had got such fresh looking dhaniya, methi and palak.

Then a shrill voice broke into her musings.

“Ye gaadi tez gaadi hai. Mumbai Central se Churchgate tez jayegi.”

Meenu felt like she could finally breathe again. She was almost home.

Pudheel station Churchgate

Agla station Churchgate

Next station Churchgate


12 thoughts on “Pudheel station

  1. I was damn scared of taking local trains when I had just moved to Mumbai. I obviously had to learn one day to take the damn train and the first train was Fast Train towards CST, I am glad I survived. The ladies compartment is just full of aunties- more like “local” friends, that one person who always take the same train like you do, the local train shopping ! Aah, I haven’t taken trains for last 6 months and this post just makes me wanna board the next local train towards ” bandra” oh wait ” Vaandre” or is it “Baandra”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Locals are a confusing, never-ending puzzle for me! I find them fascinating and the stories around it are always interesting but its not something that I wish to do! Probably, coz I am not a Mumbaikar.


  3. Being born and brought up in Mumbai;yes have traveled in local trains many times and i am totally amazed of the different genres of people one meet in the local train..Have even seen people buying fresh vegetables and cutting them there so that once they reach home they it saves time.
    Launching SIM Organics This April
    *Menaka Bharathi *


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