Each day, when I get onto to the famous Mumbai local train, I am assured of witnessing an act of kindness or be part of an act of kindness. It’s a routine which is participated in by every person in the Mumbai local. In Mumbai, the local trains are rightly known as the lifeline of the city. You can get to all parts of Mumbai using a combination of public transportation. But, the local, as we call it in Mumbai, is the main artery that serves the city of Mumbai and its distant suburbs. And when you are in a Mumbai local, you are part of the family of the local train commuters. There is a bonding, a feeling of sisterhood, a unity which is achieved by simple gestures. During peak hours, despite good frequency, the local trains are overcrowded. And nothing but the sheer acts of kindness on the locals make us return to it time and again.
My journey on the train started almost 20 years ago. A time when there was no internet and cellphones. But perfect strangers of the ladies compartment taught me to get on and off a train safely. It was their kindness that taught me to smile and enjoy life despite a bad day at work. Everyone is treated as an equal on the local train. Someone may be a manager or senior executive in his/her job profile. But that will not stop them from making long lasting friendship with someone from a different caste or strata of society.
The train has given us many friends whom we meet everyday. They are our sounding boards to share our trials in life. In the absence of immediate family support, we share experiences about raising children, work-life management, time-saving techniques. Job requirements have been shared on the train. Help is dished out on how to handle a demanding boss, or how to ask for a raise. The ladies also share feedback on which school to choose for your child, or which doctor is good. Recipes are shared and so are festival sweets.
When I used to travel on the ‘Ladies special’ train, I used to be part of a group of about 10 ladies. We used to celebrate everyone’s birthdays and all festivals. I have stopped using that train 10 years ago. But, we are still good friends.
Sometimes the crowd in the train is too much for a young college girl, or a lady who is fasting leading to them fainting in the train. Every time I have seen the crowd help them out. Help them get off the train and contact the families. Even wait with the girl till the family comes.
There are also fights happening on the train, but compared to the acts of kindness, these are negligible.
I want to thank all those nameless, faceless people on the local train who have helped me and many others like me, numerous times. They are the people who help each other, with their selfless acts of kindness. We can be assured to send our children too on the train. There will be someone to help them always.
These acts of kindness can never be forgotten. The best way to repay this kindness is to help someone else and continue scattering kindness.