It is one of those days when I have a lot of time, have no work, no one to talk to, and worst: I am bored. It is a perfect recipe for losing my head. So I had planned some work in advance: things one would have to do if he were in a family. I had to get the safety valve of my cooker repaired. Plus it included some shopping on the way at Andheri, and some more from Big Bazaar for the foodstuffs. But that was ephemeral. I was back by 1, to find myself doing nothing but watching TV.

While the independence weekend was a boon to many, as evident from the mass exodus from the city, I was stuck in this place. A lot of people asked me if I were making a trip to Kolkata, but I declined, citing reasons of financial problems. My last trip had set me back by Rs 15k. And I was in mood to hurt myself further.

Last evening I decided to get some respite to the most peaceful place I have ever known: the Siddhivinayak temple. I don’t know what’s there, but it definitely takes me out of confusion and gives me reasons to be happy. To add to the fun, I bought 2 laddu packets; and they were finished by the time I am making this article!!

The next trip had to be something I wanted to have for long. It was a trip to Virar. Quirky by the world standards, but I love traveling (it’s a different issue that I hardly get to travel on official trips, so all my escapades are self sponsored). So I boarded a train from Churchgate for the 60 km journey by the Virar fast local.

It felt like a long distance train. People were so relaxed! Some had come to the town for leisure, but most appeared to be returning from work. But the usual hurry was non existent. Almost all the passengers would be traveling for over 35km (since they would have taken the alternatives, if it were any lesser). Some college students were also having fun on their way back. The weather was cool with very little showers. The hawkers were trying to sell their cheap wares. The greatest problem of traveling in a second class compartment is BO. And people don’t seem to mind it. Either I cannot tolerate it now, or perhaps I am not experienced enough in traveling in such crowded trains.

Bombay central with its multitude of long distance trains reminded me of my childhood when I would wait for months for a few hour train journey. It was so much fun to jump on the train berths, switch on the fans and the lights, enjoy the window seat view….

I was out for a new experience, because anything that gets a bore becomes a drag on my mental well being. I have realized it, but I don’t get the changes by default. It has to be grabbed! And hence the idea of taking the train to going to various places. Oh! The central line trains were going faster….

The crowd started swelling at Dadar. But the train didn’t move too fast. I thought that the locals moved faster than the express trains, but I was wrong. I realized I had made a mistake of taking an evening train, the very idea of witnessing greenery had come to a naught: it was getting dark, I was only at Bandra. It was my second time on a Virar fast train, the first one was a nightmare! I remember in 2005, when I was new to this place, I had mistakenly boarded a Virar fast train to get down at Andheri. I hadn’t known that people would be so ruthless to vehemently oppose getting down at Andheri (with the apparent logic that resources like virar fast should not be wasted for reaching Andheri). It’s a matter of survival.

A Lata Mangeshkar song on FM took me somewhere else. It told me that there are better (and more interesting) things in life than the boring daily chores including SAPing. I believe that music is divine; the right kind on the ears can be heavenly.

It was getting hotter inside as the train went past Borivali, thanks to the homosapiens. Most of the people appeared to belong to lower middle or lower class, for regions beyond Borivali are comparatively cheaper, since they are not parts of Mumbai. In some places like Bhayandar and Mira Road, the houses were nice, and were better spaced. These places did not have the Mumbai type look, they were more like small towns.

It seems there is an unwritten law in the Virar local that one is supposed to give up the seat for the persons standing, if one has traveled comfortable for over an hour. It is a way of sharing the resources in the era of scarcity. I was asked to vacate my prime seat to make way for the stinking man. I wanted to slap him!

Most people in the outskirts beyond the Mumbai borders do not live, they only survive. In the reign of rising inflation, things are only getting worse. People are forced to give up the basic comforts to simply survive. What a country has this become! After 61 years of independence, we should have been a prosperous country. But we have become rich in population, and poor in most of the other aspects. It is no easy to live this way, if one has to travel in such dingy compartments everyday to work. But they are left with no job prospects in other places. I wonder what advantage does Mumbai have compared to other cities. What makes it the most sought after city? It is the financial capital, and has the head offices of the majority of the Indian companies. I can understand the original advantage the city had: of being a port. Today the port advantage is obviated, since factories are hardly present in this city. It is cascading effect, just like I came here for better projects, for a better work culture, for better opportunities…and the like. To pass on this advantage on other cities would imply a lot of effort!

I finally reached Virar, but could not take the same train back because I didn’t have a ticket. I had to walk some 2km from platform 8 to 1, to get a ticket. I was only able to take an Andheri local at 8:45. I had missed another train, thanks to the smartcard reader not working on printing the tickets. I will write on this sometime later.

The return journey was uneventful, I was soon at Andheri. I took another crowded (where was the crowd going south on a Saturday evening?) train back to Santacruz.

It was a 100+ km journey, but an interesting one nevertheless…at least worth mentioning in my blog!

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