I rely on the public transport in Mumbai. Compared to the rest of the cities in the country this city really manages to hold up against millions of commuters daily.
Now the Western Railway motormen had decided to go on a hunger strike from the 18th — today. I had seen posters of the same...stuck on trains and on railway foot bridges. It is a protest against the working conditions and a reconsideration of their salaries.
I happened to be on one of the trains when the motormen decided to slow down and come to a complete standstill. I could not believe this was happening to me. I have never walked along the tracks...to scared to do it. Today I was not alone — two men, a 30-something guy and a senior Parsi gentleman were with me. Neither was keen on getting off and walking to Mahalaxmi station. An empty track separated us from the adjacent train and we had no idea when a train would pass through on that one!
After over 20-odd minutes, everyone's patience had run out and we could a long line of commuters making a beeline for the nearby Mahalaxmi station (2). Suddenly out of nowhere, a fast train came around the bend, blew its horn nice and long, and sped through over the empty track!
What a fright that gave all those who were walking in the middle of the track. We saw a lady narrowly miss getting hit when the train came round the bend. She leaped out of the way...the rest of the people quickly jumped aside and stood near the stationary train. Totally freaked us out.
"It was a good thing we didn't get off, no!?" – You bet!
You saw that b**** just sped by!" – I know!!
I hoped something wasn't wrong when I boarded a 20:43 on the slow track at 21:05. It happens some times. But today the train stalled just before Mahalaxmi.
After ages – it was already almost 22:00...after a fast train whizzed by and an outstation train chugged past us towards Bombay Central, our train pushed ahead slowly. The three of us were ready to get off at Bombay Central and take a bus or walk it up. But the train stopped again and we saw the motormen alight from the train opposite ours...this was the slow train which was being trailed by another behind. The old uncle called out to him and demanded to know what was going on...the motormen didn't reply, took their briefcases and walked away...the third guy mumbled, "technical problem" and locked himself up inside the control cabin. That was it. The strike was officially on. If the motormen had let on that they were going on strike — they would have been beaten up. They were aware of it and so kept quiet.
By this time we knew we had to get off and walk it towards the station. Since the elderly man was also there, we took a safer route towards the outstation part of Bombay Central (3). All three of us were grumbling about the state of affairs...this hunger strike...one said they should pop off and let a new bunch come on...I said they must have fainted while at the controls...we were tired, it was almost 23:00 — 2 hours from the time I left Andheri (1)...I usually get home in 1 hour 15 minutes. I have been through worse, I thought, and hailed a cab after I got out of the station. It was a good thing I found company in two sensible people. (Thanks Mr. B and Uncle D!)
I reached home, my dad was watching T.V. and confirmed that it was the strike alright. I read the news now and came to know 2 motormen did collapse after all, during the day-long hunger strike and at 21:30, trains came to a painful halt.
Am glad we were close to our destination...for those at Churchgate, yet to begin their journey home...some having to travel 20 to over 30 Km...must have been such a pain.
200 motormen went on strike. 200 motormen ferry over 2.6 million commuters daily on the western line alone! I hope railway authorities consider their demands and things get back to normal. After all, they are humans and need a break too.