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Mails Re: Chronicles of a Bombay Local Rat by Siddhartha Butalia
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I was just going thru Siddartha's article on travelling in Mumbai's trains and was also going through a couple of responses. Well, most of them are from "patriotic" Indians who look back at these experiences with a lot of glee, and needless to say, gloat about it at get- togethers.

As an Indian used to this transport, I consider it a way of life. I have to add that this transport is a unique platform that brings people together from all walks of life : meeting new friends; actually in a way, watching India in front of you."Romancing in the train" with your girlfriend is again a unique experience (travelling at the same time,etc).

Even though my train travelling has decreased considerably, I always look forward to doing it every month, for if nothing else, it helps you to be in touch with your countrymen. And, to the credit of the railways it has never failed and actually sticks to schedules.

Suresh Iyer, India

This piece about travel in Bombay's commuter trains was fantastic.It paints a vivid picture. God bless all those commuters. May they all be safe and end up with the same pair of shoes they started their journeys with. May be, we need triple decker trains, to solve this issue. Ha,now, that was a brilliant idea of mine. If only someone out there with the raw power to implement, can get a hold of this idea !!!!

Let good articles like this keep coming.


Nice article about Mumbai ; though the 'hero' missed the "mumbai chi porgee". Anyways, folks a FANTASIC site.******(amazing)

Sandeep Rathod

Dear Siddhartha,
I liked your narration of Bombay Local train travel very much. What a good style you have. What are your other interests on which you write such articles ?

P.K. Sharma

The article was really excellent. It was very true - the difficulties of travelling in a train in Mumbai, though it was dealt with in a very humorous manner We welcome many more travel stories. Looking forward to reading more.


Dear Siddhartha,I think you are perfectly right and you couldn't have said it better. When you see a movie made in the 60's, it is impossible to recognize Bombay as it was called then. I think the city has been submerged in this sea of people. On top of that it is so polluted, it reminds one of gas chambers. It is like living in an industrial hell. The degradation process is so slow that you die like the frog, before you even realize it.

Punit Kumar

It was a pleasure going back down memory lanes of travelling by train from Mulund Station to VT when I first started working at Nariman Point and returned home in the evening at 6.00 p.m. Now I am in Saudi Arabia having Company accommodation and car for the past 2 years. What a difference !

Navin Quadros
Saudi Arabia

Today's article - "Chronicles of a Bombay Local Rat" was excellent to say the least. Any local train commuter would identify closely. Can I please have the e-mail of Mr. Butalia as maybe I could congratulate him personally. Keep it Up!


A good piece on the locals indeed.

Adesh Saxena

I think you have bloated the whole story way too much . I am currently in US, but when in India I used to travel by train for almost 8 years . The scenario is not as bad as you make it. Agreed, that it gets a bit too crowded during rush hours, but life still goes on, doesn't it ? Only very rarely do one see violence even though 2.7 million people commute on the western line itself ... The article was good in terms of the stats provided . Also 1 thing which was missing was a word of appreciation for the Railway authorities who despite all the hassles run the whole show very smoothly. Trains and BEST are the back bone of Bombay and indirectly of the whole country as Bombay is our financial capital. One good purpose the article would do is to prevent people new to Bombay from commuting in trains, resulting in a decrease of some few hundreds of people travelling by the trains .Also thus preventing people like u from taking the trains .

Mahesh Nair

It was nice reading about Mumbai in Mr.Siddhartha Butalia's article. He has expressed his view about Mumbai in a very funny manner. Local trains are not the only place where you find huge crowds, but everywhere in Mumbai. Thanks for writing. We expect to get interesting articles like this in future also.

Baig Mirza Mansoor

I completely agree with you. Solution is bold thinking and planning. Money and talent is there to build circular railway line from Bhayandar to Bandra. Railway can be built on upper level system which exists in many countries. Building railway will definitely remove congestion in Mumbai. It will help steel, cement, and so many other allied industries. It will bring employment to thousands of people. Labour force will be able to move from one place to another. By building roads, in a similar way, industry and commerce will be promoted. I have written on this point to Mr. Bal Thackeray, and so many newspapers. I regret that no one wants to know about it. I wonder what is the meaning of politics, social justice, development and infrastructure? I feel really depressed about the condition in India and particularly in Mumbai. I decide to quit. It is difficult to bring sense to the Indian Dinosaur.

Kishor Valia

Having lived in Mumbai for 2 years (only 2, thankfully), I really enjoyed your story about traveling on trains in Mumbai!

Usha Iyer

Reading your article took me right back into the TRAINS of Mumbai, where I was, not very long ago. People are like sardines packed in a tin (waiting to jump out). The truth of the matter is that someone who has lived the experience only can appreciate the essence of it. But there's one more thing U forgot to add : There's no place like Mumbai.


Thanks Mr. Butalia for communicating our feelings of Mumbai. It is pleasing to die like that frog in Mumbai, rather than to get lost, without purpose, somewhere else. After all, 'Mumbai is Mumbai' It is not only money, something more that makes it attractive.

G.M. Desai
San Jose, USA.

I read the article on Mumbai and couldn't agree more with the author. He has traveled to exotic places like Lakshadweep, Leh, and Kerala and still chose to write about his horrifying experiences in Mumbai. I lived in Mumbai for about eight months and just couldn't bear the low quality of life there. I didn't feel that I was contributing much by hanging around in that city and took the decision to go to the US. It was not a decision to run away from my homeland and not contribute to it. I think I will return and make a difference once I have enough knowledge and ideas to make Mumbai a better place to live in.

I have traveled to many countries, but would rank the Mumbai experience number one on my list if I really wanted to write about something that was truly difficult to deal with.

In the meantime, I wish good luck to all those people I used to travel with on those Mumbai trains.

Ganesh Iyer

I think it was a classic article. We would like to see more of such articles.

Abuja Nigeria

I read the article in which some one compared traveling by local train in Mumbai with a boiling frog. Yeah, traveling is the most difficult part of life for people living in Mumbai. I would like to ask a few questions to the person who has written that article. Has that person ever traveled by City Bus in Delhi or any other metro? What about the problem of air pollution faced by those who used to travel by buses in other metros? Are those problems less severe in nature than that faced by people in Mumbai? In the last part of the article he asked one question: Why all these "DUDS" who live in Mumbai don't shift out..? If they go out of Mumbai then what will they do? What do you expect those "DUDS" to do in the mountains of Himalayas? People in Mumbai don't face the problem of power cuts. Mumbai has given them employment. To be frank , I did not understand the purpose for which the article was written. It would have been better if he had given some suggestion to improve the traveling conditions in Mumbai instead of asking the "DUDS" to go out of Mumbai.

Vijay Patil

This is a tragic tale of Mumbai commuting. I lived in Mumbai ( Bombay then ), and have real life experience of commuting horrors of Bombay.

Saddest part is it never improves. It is so depressing to see so may millions of people being subjected to sub human conditions. While every major city in the world has commuting issues, no where is it as much out of control as it is in Mumbai. Even in San Francisco where I live now, sometimes I spend 45 minutes to get to work in peak traffic, but I am in my air conditioned car, listening to my favorite music and there is waiting involved but not chaos. No where is it the nightmare that it is in Mumbai today.

Most of the major European countries have addressed the rail transportation problem in a very effective manner. Mumbai's railplan practically is a duplicate of London's Underground. But compare the efficiencies !

Couple of initiatives can be

1) Transportation front :

Our planners have to study the systems in Singapore, London, Paris and New York subway systems to identify commuting patterns and solutions. It is definitely not impossible to do something.

2) Telecommunication front:

People elsewhere in the world are used to telecommuting and flexible hours. Most days I do not leave home till 9AM, so that my peak hour traffic which can be about an hour becomes 20 minutes joy ride after 9AM. This is possible entirely because my company and thousands of others practice telecommuting policy and flexi-time policy. It is time Mumbai companies thought on these lines. This is possible for white collar workers, (Western line people ?!) Secondly, cell phones, computer at homes, voice mail systems should be made cheaper so that people can work from their homes on few days, or few hours of the day. At the current cost it is prohibitive in India for an individual to use these facilities which are used all across the world.

Well...just a few thoughts....hopefully, our planners will really look 'deeper' ( like underground railways ) and think of small ways to mitigate this horror of Mumbai traffic.

Pranesh Anthapur

It made good reading. The Mumbai train situation is much like the bus situation in Delhi.

Surabhi Narayan

This one is really great..I lived in Amchi Mumbai (Yup! in the suburbs for sure) for 23 years and have experienced every bit of what's written here. Cant refute any of the experiences Siddhartha has had. But I must say inspite of all that, there is no place like Mumbai.

Amol Bavdekar

I would like to say that this article is well written. I am a resident of Bangalore and I must however comment that whether you are pushed, shoved, trampled or ridden over - Everything works in Bombay, especially Power.

Brian M Gozmao

As said, lovely realistic article on the Bombay locals. Curious, no mention of the fishermen and women with their trays of smelling fish that MUSTtoccupy the place of your 2 legs or suitcase. Or for that matter about the local heros who lean that far out that it looks like they want to switch trains while 2 opposite ones are crossing.

Mallik Ajoy

The article by Siddhartha Butalia on the trains at Mumbai was very good. Not bad for a 16 year old !

Charu N Krishnamurthy

The article about the Bombay daily train journey is simply superb and I know it is not an exaggeration. My cousin is one of the victims who lost a valuable part of their body because of this commutation. He was pushed by the waiting passengers into the middle of the moving train and lost his left toe. He is in a wheel chair now.

I'm from Madras and now living in Troy, Michigan working as a computer consultant. One thing I prayed to god all my life is not to give me the opportunity to live in Bombay (I still say Bombay). Not because it is too congested, but because I can help the people living there by not occupying their place.

Nobody can be blamed for this. Everything cannot be expected from the Government when they are always working to retain their place. This always makes them spare less time for people. I'm not here to give any solution and obviously with only one voice we cannot turn the world around.

Solution :

How about scattering the opportunity among places. The major government offices can shift to the suburbs. Most of the banks branch operations can move out of the central busy area. A.T.M's can be there at congested localities. This is not only for banks, but every business in central Bombay should think about moving to the suburbs by retaining their major operations there !

This Idea may not be even be a tip of the iceberg but as a citizen of India I like to participate and contribute by at least giving some useful information.

Rajesh Srinivasan

Your piece on the trains of Bombay was excellent! It did bring me some cheer after reading the news which was not quite that cheerful !

Gokila Varadarajan
Atlanta, USA

No comment other than : "What's wrong with grammatical, decent and good English? Is it fashionable to kill the language now that there is no obligation to learn it?"

R.V. Iyer

It was pleasant to read your article. I was a part of the commuting community till a month ago. I used to wait for half an hour or sometimes an hour to get enough space in the train to stand. Then I changed my timing and started going home late in the night. Your article has enlivened my memory about commuting in the train. I expect more articles from you about life in Bombay in the coming days.

Rameshwar Mahay
Ohio, U.S.A.

I felt extremely sorry for those commuting by local trains. In Western countries, there are not many to use the public trains. To make reasonable profits, the public transport authorities urge people to make use of the trains. In Bombay, (also in other major cities), the planning is so poor that hardly any improvement is being made to the public transport system. If the resources are not available, why not hand the system over to a multinational contractor, who will build a mass rapid transport system and collect revenue on this? The Governments, political parties do not want to do this, because it is against our ideology. Whenever I think of Bombay, my heart bleeds. The common man is simply being exploited there. Any way, who cares for him in India?

Cherukuri Sarma

I am from the United States, a place called Pennsylvania, in a city called Sunbury. I have been getting the India world news delivered to my email since I have been lucky enough to have a penpal from India. I wanted to tell you that I really enjoy reading the headlines, but the travel log ariticles are excellent. You tell the story so well that even a person like me who has never been to India can experience India through the articles. I found today's article about commuting in Bombay extremely funny, although I have heard it is very true. Keep up the excellent writing. I enjoy being whisked off to India in your stories!


Very good and real life article. I am, myself, a runaway from Mumbai, and the place where the thought to runaway was born, yes you guessed it : while travelling in the Mumbai local.

Badani, Jayesh
Melbourne, Australia

Why the hell was that guy in Mumbai if he had to criticize it so much? Hell with him...Mumbai is the best and will remain so. Every city has its good and bad sides, so instead of seeing the bad side and whining over it, look at the good side...


True I agree with what you say. But imagine the people who are still surviving in these conditions and make an honest living ( I am talking about the good guys obviously). They are to be appreciated alongside the Government who is also trying its level best to do the better (Enough of blaming the Govt.). I do know that the Govt. is also moving but the Bus service in Bombay which is known as BEST is the BEST (I don't know if its still called that way).

I am not a Mumbaian by birth. I come from a quiet suburb near Madras which is now known as Chennai, but when I went for my entrance exam to Bombay for MBA from Jamlalal Bajaj Institute, I was surprised by the job offers from the companies in Bombay. Not only me but all undergraduates also get jobs in about 2 days (maximum) period.

If the things inside the train seem scary to you, come to a western country and witness the freak incidents which happen before life comes to an end.

Is there any western country you can think of where you can walk in the streets after 8.00 PM and dine in a good restaurant ? Believe me I am a victim of several abuses (even as a tourist). Isn't Mumbai a great place to live in, considering the racial and other discrimination by westerners who are now wanting to set up their business in India's commercial capital REASON : MONEY.

Who would ever want to leave a city which is filled with 24 hours of vibrant life and excitement, good eating joints around the city, and people minding their own business without interfering in your affairs. These are just a few of those million good qualities you can think about a Mumbaian. If you can help me find another city in India with such vibrant people who sing inside the trains and make you feel happy before you go to your office I will be glad to know that. I think despite all its problems our poor Mumbai (Bombay) is and will continue to be a proxy Indian capital.

Presently I live in Singapore but for sure I will move back to Mumbai should I go back to India again in the future.

PS: I just wanted to share my thoughts about Mumbai. Opinion differs from person to person.

Ganapathy Sekhar

The concerned article depicts the true picture of the life of a common man in Mumbai. I agree with it 100%. I feel this is the result of short term planning & execution by everybody involved- salaried employees/workers, Government, Municipal Corporation, Railways, Builders and Contractors who undertake work for Municipal Corporation and Railways. I would like to read few more articles in India Travelogue.

Utkarsh Gandhi

Very nice reading.

Dr. Gopal D. Kamath

Yes it is a hard life in Bombay. I did travel by Bombay Trains. Ladies compartments were horrible. I had visited India in 1997 and they were talking about beautifying Bombay. What happened to that ?

Neela Acharya

Very neatly written and a great nostalgic recap of life in Mumbai. Specially so if one has spent 2 years slogging for an MBA degree and tried to withstand commuting pressures too.

Avnish Singh

Dear Siddhartha,
Your Chronicles of a Bombay Local Rat, throws light on the conditions, in which a common Mumbaite travels, in a very interesting manner. The tactics involved and the strategies adopted also make the life of Mumbaites full of challenge. I am sending you some more impressions experienced by me, which might add value to your article.

Many a times you travel in an overcrowded train with your hands up, endlessly trying to do a balancing feat. There you find a fellow traveller who has a problem with his running nose, who is also stuck in a similar posture as you ( he also cannot move his hands), so he just uses your shoulder/shirt to clean up, and you watch him helplessly. Many a times he may even use your shirt as a handkerchief and wipes off the sweat from his forhead, generated due to the immense humidity in the train coach.

Similarly, while travelling, you may find a person standing in front of you, a little bit shorter than you of course. You have to try hard to prevent his hair coming and going in your mouth and nostrils. Catching a train requires a great deal of physical fitness, endurance and quick reflexes with a high level of IQ to adopt the appropriate strategy at the right time.

The same applies for getting off the train also. A person also becomes an expert on body language science while travelling by locals in Mumbai. You gauge by the clothes a person wears, the kind of luggage he is carrying, his age, his style of talking, the maneuvers he makes while travelling, where that person is planning to get off the train, to ascertain your own chances of being able to "hadpo" his seat. I hope u agree with me.

Manish Paliwal

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