So when Suzanne booked us for an Aura and Chakra Energy reading session in the south part of the city (more on that in a later post), we decided to try a 45-minute ride on the train system in order to avoid a 90-minute car ride from up north. And to try the experience without the kids!
Where we are staying there are exactly ZERO Caucasian tourist, so we really get looked upon. And from the get-go on the local commuter train platform, you would thought we had three heads. When the train arrived it was beyond packed, but we did see a car that looked somewhat open, so we hopped on. After about a minute, we were told several times that we were in the "Handicapped" car and should not be there. We also noticed all the women on the train were sitting together in one car as well.
So, two stops later we hopped off and tried to get back on our own train in another car, but to no avail as the crowds pushed us back. Seven minutes later we tried again, this time with Suzanne properly in the lady's car and me one car further down. Suzanne was able to get on somewhat easily (by Indian standards) but I was rebuffed again as again, it was to far too over-crowded. The train started to pull-away without me and I did not want to get separated from her in this city, so I did what any Indian in a hurry would do, I jumped in like a mosh pit and grabbed the last handle available and hung out the door (like in the picture).
It was actually quite fun and I just hoped my hand didn't slip off the sweaty metal hanger, or my face didn't meet a signal post going past. As also depicted in the picture above, none of the doors actually ever close and hanging out is common (especially for the studly 20-something men), as is jumping off a slowing train and running across large sets of tracks to avoid the crush of people on the platforms. The good news was this was not one of the more rural lines where people sit on the tops of the cars.
On the way back we boarded in the main station so Suzanne sat in a 'men's car' with me, but one Indian gentlemen actually got up and moved because of her presence. I'll have to do a little research to determine as to whether we insulted him, or it was out of respect, or...?
The richshaw driver home from the train station was the most aggressive we have had to date, and I would back him in NASCAR. He put that rickshaw in places that just seemed impossible. Plus, in busy intersections (most with no traffic lights), he would barrel head-on right at another vehicle in a game of chicken, only to have both turn sharply to avoid each other at the last second; and all I could think of was an amusement ride where your car whips 90-degrees to the right at the last second and you go through doors into the next room like in "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride". In the five days we have been here, however, we have not seen an accident of any type and we are starting to scratch our heads?
The metaphor for the train is a good one for Mumbai; we're just trying to hang on. When our Indian friend from New Delhi (in the north) heard we were going to India on our World Trip, she was smiling and happy for us; but when we told here the main stay was in Mumbai (in the south), she immediately frowned and asked why? "Mumbai is large, loud and frantic...and hard. Even many Indians don't like to go there." Upon hearing this, a part of me panicked as we had already booked flights and got an apartment, but another part of me thought, "Oh yeah Mumbai, bring it!" I just thought, what is the worst that can happen, after all, we are not camping in the desert. We can always put our tails betwen our legs and go to a Western Hotel and watch the BBC for a while.
We were smart enough, however, not to book an apartment in a regular neighborhood like we are doing everywhere else, as the frantic 24-hour pace and noise would have been too much, so we are in a gated high-rise complex, typical of what you would see near any major airport in the U.S. Right outside the gates are extreme poverty and pollution, but, we are still taking rickshaws to shop and are cooking our own foods.
I'll let Maddy post pictures of this apartment and we'll keep pressing ahead until Sunday when we go to Delhi - and then we'll get to see if that city is truly less frantic, or if that opinion is more of a local's north/south regional pride POV! :D
Oh, and P.S., the total train-ride time with richshaws and walking took about 2+ hours each way, so no time saved at all. It was all just for the sheer thrill of it!