From Delhi’s belly to Mumbai’s stinking rear-end

When a Delhi girl took the Mumbai Local

You get used to it after sometime, traveling through the rotting muck of this city – the excreta laden tracks surrounded by the feculent slums. There is a very pre-independence type of a feel in traveling by the Mumbai local – step off the trembling shambles of the Dadar local into the posh brick streets of Colaba – it almost appears as if you have time traveled.

Not that I don’t own a car, but hello have you seen the insane traffic in this city or in any other city for that matter – Delhi, Bangalore, Pune? It seems like a grand waste of time and money playing the traffic game every morning and evening in our metros.

Ergo I choose public commute.

Now, I had been having the time of my life in Delhi for the past six years. The metro though maddeningly crowded during peak hours, had made the ordeal of meeting far-cast-away friends a joy ride. During those one hour plus journeys in well maintained air conditioned public spaces I could read a book, talk to a stranger, doze off with my Dior glasses on or just let my stream of consciousness take over while gazing at the wonderful panorama of Delhi.


Then I shifted to Bombay.


Don’t let my drama mislead you. It wasn’t that bad. I have lived in six different cities and eleven towns and never have I taken to a city as easily as I did to Bombay. The air was clean, the people polite, there were the tall, the really tall buildings, there were my friends and then of course the sea. Love the sea.

But then on a weekend when my friends called me to chill in Colaba, I took the fastest public transit route I could – the local.

< Right moment for a dramatic release >

Deep sigh.

What is with the decaying state of the railway stations? Why are they so dirty? I bought the tickets, but no one checked them, you see where I am going with the larger implications of this, don’t you?


With the smartcard swipe entry memory quite raw in my being I proceeded to the platforms. Now, I was traveling from the newer part of Bombay and it was around six in the morning so the platforms were largely empty. There was a very 80’s Bollywood feel to the early morning railway station platform.

Then my local arrived and I stepped in the ladies compartment.

The horror.


I realized then how much I had taken for granted the urban life of Delhi. I shall not dwell on the well turned out Delhi metro crowd, no. But it hurts to move through the so called life-line of Bombay aware that I am prodding through a city’s soiled intestines.


I am also not going to talk about the people who live in the slums by the tracks or about the pervert creatures lurking in the forgotten pockets of these overcrowded terminals. No. Neither am I going to talk about the people who take the local every day. No.

Bombay is a city of survivors. It has survived the riots, the innumerable blasts and also that fateful week of November. It has chosen to move on, to live, to breathe, to thrive.

And I see it now, how you do this survival thing – you become numb to the gut-churning foul grub around you.

What choice do you have any way?

The images used in the article are from Delhi view – The HinduMumbai Local from here and Slum Local Bombay from Railnews. The PeopleandCafes and the ladies compartment pictures are my own.

Dear people-who-are-new-to-Bombay,

If like me you choose to use public transport, I would advise you to download this app. It gives you all the information from platform numbers to departure timings and fares of the local trains and also tells you about the bus routes, timings, auto fares.
And it does something even better, it tells you the fastest and also the cheapest way to commute between any two places in your city. It is interactive; you can just pick your destination on the map and click to know about nearby railway, bus, metro, mono stops. 

Do let me know how you liked this article. Be nice and drop a comment below. 

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