Saturday, 1 October 2011

पुढील स्टेशन दादर... अगला स्टेशन दादर... Next Station Dadar...

[Dadar, easily the craziest railway station.]
"पुढील स्टेशन दादर... अगला स्टेशन दादर... Next Station Dadar..." This line is what every commuter travelling in the Bombay 'local' trains dreads. For no sooner does the 'announcing lady' say this, announcing in Marathi, Hindi and English, than some crazy frenzy grips every person in the train, which is already bursting beyond to thrice its peak hour capacity; and they start moving around, only there is no space to move, except of course if you are a like rodent, capable of squeezing itself from the tiniest of crevices that would prima facie not accommodate even its whiskers; and all the moving about results in some sly pushing and shoving and some sneaky punching and kicking and the occasional trash talk. The brouhaha escalates and reaches boiling point even before the train has come to a screeching halt, and you have daredevils jumping and running out of the moving trains, some out of choice, the rest as a result of the push and kick they get, and crashing into the multitude on the crowded platform, all vying for a spot on the train. So a good number of people have already alighted before the train has halted, and once it does, all one needs to do is either move with the flow, for you will be pushed out of the train, or steer clear of the rowdy crowd. It is like an angry swift flowing river, eager to meet the hungry tide. It always seems as if the entire train alights at Dadar, and an equal number of passengers board the train. What do all these people do there? The people trickle out of the train compartments like there's no tomorrow and they just do not seem to stop. Within seconds, a thousand people from each car have rushed out and another lot ushered in. It is utter chaos!

[The eager crowd waiting for the train.]
And of course, there's always those surprises when you have people coming from unimaginable places in the train - in between two compartment, riding on the connecting rods and chains, or the rooftop romeos, or the occasional sleeping-on-luggage-racks-wedged-between-a-laptop-bag-and-a-dog (yes I have even seen this, I mean it) commuter. It's always a delight and a great source of amusement. The moment you find yourself on the platform, you notice that not an inch of the platform is unoccupied and there is a huge queue at the base of the foot overbridge (an Indian word combining a footbridge and an overbridge)!

[People making a beeline for the foot overbridge.]
Dadar is probably one of the most busiest railway stations in the world, and given the number of low platforms that it has, it handles an unbelievable amount of passenger traffic. Almost every rail commuter must have passed through the station. There are about 1.4 crore (14 million) souls in Bombay proper, and over 2 crore (20 million) in the Bombay metropolitan region, that's a population density of about 21000 people per square kilometre! And about 63 lakhs (6.3 million) of them use the Suburban Railways, the oldest in Asia. That is a whopping load for the meagre 303 kilometre of tracks, the highest density in the whole world.

The Suburban Railways in Bombay are divided into two zones, the Western and Central, the latter running two lines - Central Line and the relatively emptier and lighter Harbour Line. The Central and Western Lines converge at only one station, no prizes for guessing which one! Yes, it is Dadar. That is also one of the chief attributors to the pandæmonium, for you have lakhs of commuters switching lines, trying to get to different corners of the island city.

And connecting the platforms of the two lines, are a number of bridges, but the main one is unlike anything one's ever seen. The east-west bridge, as it's often referred to as colloquially, has huge crowds at any point in time, whether it is 6 in the morning or midnight. They just do not seem to stop. It is like an army of ants emerging from teeming colonies, never relenting. Even Times Square does not have so many people!

[The Central Railway side of the east-west bridge.]
Walking from one end of the bridge to the other without being trampled upon or starting a stampede is an achievement. You cannot for a moment linger in the middle or even take more than a few seconds to read the indicators and deciding which platform to go to, unless of course if you have a death wish, and it is to be bludgeoned by mobs. And walking sideways from the left to the right or vice versa is impossible, for you will most definitely crash into hordes, who are moving only up and down.

[The Western Railway side of the same crazy bridge.]
However, whenever I do have to take the bridge, I am always amused, for you see all kinds of funny sights. You see people ferrying huge loads on their heads, some so big that it impairs even their line of sight and some smellier than stinky rotten fish, a lot of outstation travellers carrying heavy bags, one strap shouldered by one and the other by his kin, beggars seated on the edges doing their daily jobs and even hawkers selling all kinds of things from pens costing just a Rupee to 3 mobile screen guards for Rupees 10 to pirated novels for one-tenth the price, which by the way can be returned back to him in return for a certain sum! It never ceases to amaze me. You have food stalls and magazine stands and nice chaatwallas, selling yummy bhel and masala chanaa and then those whom I like the most and find the most useful, the boot-polishwallas, people who do a thorough job to make your shoes shine in a matter of a few seconds for as low as 5 bucks and double up as cobblers. There are a real blessing, especially during the rains, when no matter how clean you leave from home, by the time you alight from the train, your shoes are filled with muck from the streets and from the numerous feet that have stamped yours. And of course there are those crazy lunatics, rumbling all day long and those homeless families that dwell at the station and what I like to call, station-dogs; they are unlike any other stray dogs, for they are not affected or agitated by the close proximity to humans, even if they brush their tails, or for that matter even stamp it. They are so used to the crowds that they do not budge even one bit. They sleep peacefully right amidst all the hoola-boola. And better still are their cousins, the train-dogs, dogs who roam and rule trains, the kind that are not afflicted or sickened by motion-sickness. They are an absolute delight, and they seem to know what station to board from and where to alight!

[The market and eateries outside the station, eating away huge chunks of the road.]
Dadar is a vital link between the city proper and the suburbs and is used by people going to the commercial hubs of Worli and Parel. This is also why it is always crowded. Also, it has a HUGE market for anything and everything, and especially famous are its shops selling clothes, specifically sarees, and its flower and fruit and vegetable market. And then there are huge crowds wanting to go to Shivaji Park or the Siddhivinayak Temple or the Swaminarayan Temple. And finally, commuters wanting to catch outstation trains or arriving in Bombay from other parts of India.

Phew, when will the lord, thy god, come and deliver us from these crazy cacophonous crowing crowds?

2 comments:

  1. Hi Ronak. can I use one of the picture in my Blog post ? Please let me know. You will retain the credits

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    1. Hey! Thank you for the Credit, but since you asked for permission, you could've at least waited for my reply, I'm sure a reply within a day is not so tardy. :|

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