Mad Life of a Madrasi in Mumbai

Every day when the alarm rings, I think its a song playing in the background in my dream. When the same song plays for 3-4 sequences, I realise that its actually my alarm. If its anywhere beween 6 05 am-6 30 am, I decide that its too late to get ready for the gym, as attending the gym, would then make me late to start. So I decide, that having lost out on the gym time, its time to borrow that, and add to the investment called sleep. At 7 am, I know that I cant prolong this further, and head to ablutions and the morning newspaper. I leave at 8 in the morning, and know that I cant delay any further. Here is where the madness starts

If I leave beyond 8 04 am, I may just make it for the 8 16 Thane Fast local, or just miss it by a whisker. The advantage in this train is that I may get a place to sit, if I rush and jump in as the train comes in to Mulund station. The oppurtunity cost of this local is that I miss close to 6-8 locals, and reach only by 9 40 to office as I have to wait for this train to go to Thane and then start towards the opposite direction.Next options are either to take the slow local or the fast local that drectly go towards CST.

Fast locals, come once in 7-8 minutes, and are intensely packed. My probability of getting in is 5%, as I need to compete with people who are overzealous to reduce commute time by a whole 20 minutes. I have to visualise myself jumping in, and incase I do, I do get hurt with some part of the body getting the bruise, but I manage to get the inchspace to stand like a statue for the next 30 minutes, till I reach Dadar. Its not about getting in, but to get in to the space between two seats, so that passerby's entering at other stations dont push you. In this mad rush, I either scratch my phone, wet my shirt with sweat all over, break my lunch box or break my watch, if the crowd after me builds in, and pushes against my back, as I invariably end up in a dead end of big fat arses. Having got in, I have no choice but to be a statue, where the only movement of the body, comes through breathing. My face ends up between the armpits of two sweaty corpulent men, who speak on which stock to invest. First class or 2nd class, doesnt matter. The density of people in the second class compartment is 3-4 times of the first class, which I use.

Sometimes I have no idea, which station is the train stopping in, as I am surrounded by people on all sides, and sunlight never manages to reach me. Sometimes, when I get the courage to reach for my mobile in my pocket, I do check my position via GPS, but otherwise I recognise that Dadar is approaching when the momentum builds in people like a volcano in a mountain. A major tsunami of people get out or get pushed out when Dadar approaches. The train is subjected to intense condensation when Dadar arrives and is similar to 'liberation' for a bunch of tightly bound cattle.

If I took the slow local from Mulund, I would get some space to stand, where movement can be seen in my body parts, and if I can push a few people into submission, I can even open ET or Mint and read the headlines a 100 times over. Not that I dont want to read further, but there is no space for folding or turning pages with your hand. The last time I tried, I knocked out the spectacles of a man, with my elbow. I gave up the quest of erudition, via headlines a while back, after fighting it tooth and nail to turn pages. Now I prefer the mobile version of news, if I manage a slow local.

After getting down at Dadar Central, I have to head to Dadar Western by competing with a million commuters, who are sweating in bucketfuls, after undergoing similar struggles in commuting. I board a local for Lower Parel, and then walk in the sun for about 15 minutes and reach office, exhausted and tired.

I repeat the same process during the evening 'super dense crushed load peak hour' (from 6 pm to 9 pm) and incase I have a bad day at work, the pressure and discomfort adds up and you still think I have a Life?

I dont intend to complain, but the everyday Mumbai Train adventure is taking a toll on my life and energy levels. Need to get some smiles back in life!


Weekend Trip-Part 5- Keri Beach

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Weekend Trip-Part 4- Vengurla to Arambol-Keri

At the Sweet Water Lake on the Goan Coast.

GOA??? Wasnt I in Maharashtra during sunset? After we discovered at around 5 30 pm, that food might be a problem at Vengurla, We decided to explore the next beach, so a state transport bus from Vengurla market, took us to a town called Shiroda, and from Shiroda we reached Terekhol(border of Maharashtra). We took an evening(make that twilight) ferry and reached the other side, and had no other option but to take a taxi to civilisation-Arambol

Damage- 400 Rs

Next, we settled into German Bakery(Damage- 300 Rs), a room good enough just to park your electronic luggage. We then headed out for a dinner at "21 Coconuts Inn' for a candle lit dinner, which was briefly interrupted by the romantic tele-prescence of Vinay's boss. By the time we finished, both of us were tired, and we hit the sack by about 12 am, after a brief walk through the arambol market, hunting for medicenes(for my headache).

Next morning, we were up by 5 30 am, and I had a bath in the arabian sea, while I waited for Vinay to get ready. We started to cross arambol and came to the Sweet Water Lake beach. The sweet water lake was dry and it wasnt worth taking a dip there.

We saw a couple of nice portable boats cum tents. Looks like the Russians are all over(Little Zizou ishtyle). Only the Russians can be that adventurous, and after day dreaming about what a beautiful life those people must be having, and bitching about Indian corporate life, we set on to climb a huge hill, to reach Keri

While we were trekking, Vinay decided to take rest at a huge rock, and dozed of for a while, while gazing at the blue sky. It was a lovely feeling, dozing off and then waking up to the blue sky above as vision comes after a period of darkness. Try it some day!

The mountain had a bunch of bushes and thorns that we had to make way through to reach the other part of the mountain. Vinay, then decided that we follow the footsteps of the dogs that were rambling, as they knew the terrain much better than us. Better to rely on dogs than our mutiliated intelligence(thanks to the Corporate world).

Paradise Regained! Thats the view of Kerim beach- More coming in Part 5!
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Weekend Trip- Part 3- Vengurla

Birdwatching on the Beach

Found a quiet abandoned hut of a fisherman. Invaded it for siesta purposes

Loved it so much that, Vinay and I were in the shade of the hut from mid-day to sunset on conversations around how evil corporate life is, and normal bickering that fresh B school passouts do in their quest of operating in an utopian scenario.

We had trudge through a jungle in the afternoon searching for people who could serve us lunch. Civilisation is not what strikes you when you hit Vengurla. So the price you pay for virginity in a location is the lack of civilisation for organising food.
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Weekend Trip-Part-2- Sawantwadi to Vengurla

We went to the Sawantwadi bus stand to find a sleepy little minitown that was in no hurry to head to the coast. The coastal buses here go to either Vengurla, Kudal or Terekhol. We decided on Vengurla and sat in the bus to find a certain calm that was not present in the big cities.

The bus never had a fixed time of leaving, nor did the conductor seemed to have any fixed target on number of commuters. It was a happy little world that fortunately had no one with a dagger saying DEADLINES! People could stop the bus by just plonking their foot 2 steps on the road and that would be a bus stop. We were asking around a farmer on some observations we had on the fields as to why Hay was kept in stacks all over the fields. We heard from him that, it was food for his horses and animals, who were working on the fields. Nothing super duper, just that corporate life dulls your common sense!

We spotted this cute little wannabe Mexican kid, on the road to Vengurla

One needs to climb a small ascent to get to a ruined stone fort. Shot this from there. Alluring views of the azure waters and the palm/coconut trees.

How much must that be? 20 metres long and walkable in 20 seconds? NO... It was far longer than we expected and the water was close to 6-7 feet deep, during the high tide. Vinay decided to get inside and try out how quickly we could cross, as we had a laptop bag to ferry across. When he came back bleeding from the swim, we realised that the water was deep and had gorges and rocks inside, so we hired a small boat for 50 rs to help us cross to UTOPIA.

While on the boat, during the 10 minute ride, we played the oarsman, learning how to use the oars in the lake, with the fisherman also giving an insight into his life. The fisherman,during the monsoon, also doubles up as a mechanic to supplement the income, which goes on a downward spiral with rough seas and weather conditions. during such impulse trips, converations with the local people reveals a lot about the place, people, their customs, their lives, their motivations and then finally you are able to connect the dots between geography and history that lies dormant in your brain.
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Weekend Trip- Part 1- Mumbai to Sawantwadi

There has always been this romance associated with unreserved and unplanned travel in trems of meeting new people, understanding their life story, and exploring lands already explored by well known travellers.. I set off on this trip alone, after office on last friday. At 7 15 pm, I decided to call it a day and head to Dadar Railway station for buying a 'unreserved' ticket from Dadar to Pernem. Now the best train to catch, to head to the konkan coast, would be Train number 6335, from the outskirts of Mumbai. When buying unreserved tickets in Mumbai, for travel north or south, the best place to buy it would be at the bigger railway terminuses like Dadar/VT/Bombay Central/Bandra Terminus/Borivali/Panvel. I tried buyinga a ticket from Lower Parel, but that is seemingly not possible and if you do head to the Dadar, you need to get it only from the counter on Dadar East.

Dadar-Pernem- 137 rs

Now after purchasing my tickets and realising that the 10 pm train at Panvel was a better option than the Konkan Kanya express, I decided to head to Mani's lunch home at Matunga and explore the combo that keeps every Tam guy worth existing- Ghee roast and filter coffee. After a short tiffen, I managed to find a taxi to Wadala Road station and took the local train to Panvel, which eased and ambled to Panvel by 9 30 pm, with the crowd being 1/1000th of what it was when I bullied people to head butt my way at Wadala road.

Once at Panvel, I removed the heavy bag I was carrying and allowed my shoulders to be free. The last 2 day's work out sessions had obviously made every sinew of my shoulder writhe in pain. I was feeling weak all of a sudden, whether I would have the energy to last the night braving the crowd in the unreserved compartment. But Today was Gudi Padwa, Maharashtrian new year, so every Mumbaikar was at home celebrating with family and if he was a travel freak, he would have left on Thursday night and not on Friday night, when I was leaving.

Just when my shoulders were groaning, I came across a short, dark man who seemed to be glancing into reams of paper. I guessed, he must be the TTE, and went and asked him if there was a possibility of getting a reserved seat. Today was my day, and given that quite a few states celebrated new year on Friday, nobody was competing with me on the train to Sawantwadi. The TTE charged me 200 rs extra for accomadating me in a middle berth, for me to lay me shoulders to rest.

Fine to the TTE- 200 Rs

I must have woken up every half an hour after 2 30 am, and finally decided to get up at 5 am, as the train was scheduled to arrive at Sawantwadi at 5 15 am. With everyone sleeping in the compartment, I couldnt rely on 'wisdom of the crowds' to get off, so I decided to take the plaunge of connecting the mobile phone GPS on my N-81, on Roaming(this combo guzzles the charge on your mobile). I was still a few kilometres from my destination, and so I decided to abandon my 2 foot space of the middle birth and stand at the footboard, allowing the morning chill winds to hit my face. After staring aimlessly at darkness, I saw that next to the toilet, there was a charging point and decided to charge my mobile phone. My friend Vinay, was to pick me up at the station. He had arrived the previous night after a sales visit to central Maharashtra. Vinay had brought an auto along and we drove to Sawantwadi town, which was 9 km's from the station. I hear that there is only 1 hotel near the sawant wadi railway station, and if you are caught up at the station, there's atleast a paid home to go to unlike stations in Goa( Pernem/Thivim/Karmali/Cancona).

We had breakfast in an udupi hotel, where the sun's rays had just pierced in at around 7 15 am. We tried to ask the hotel proprietor for breakfast at 6 20 am, but he was least interested in serving us, as words like 'customer', 'dhandha' are alien terms in this slowmoving,bovine and peaceful town.

Its not that you have too many options within a few minutes of the hotel opening. Whatever we asked for resulted in 3 items being suggested/reccomended. Upma,Sheera and Poha. We were in a mood for any thing, as long as it facilitated bowel movement and gave us a pleasant taste to make us feel good, while we saunter around the town.

The plate on the left is mine, which has Sheera(Yellow sweet) and Upma. Vinay is seen having Poha, which has become his favourite dish after he relocated to Mumbai.

The town reminded me of the faint little town of Malgudi, which had a sense of calm written all over it.

People are early to rise and discuss news with other people in the promenade of the lake.

For more updates, watch part 2 of the Blog, to be published soon
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