MARK: The human tsunami of faces just kept coming. There was no way through until the last of the 2,500 commuters from the outskirts of Mumbai had cleared Platform 6. This was just one train. Another would be here in only two minutes and another flood of brown faces would surge towards us. This was people watching on a mass scale.
Apologies now that this is another train themed blog. But, if Sarah can walk around a station for two hours and get really excited, then keep on reading as this, Mr Jones/Mr Ford/Mr Nussey/Mr Duckworth is about the social side of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (locally reffered to as CST) and not just the trains themselves.
A couple of weeks ago our imagination had been fired up when Dan Snow, presented a four night “back to back” BBC 2 Documentary about the busiest station in India – CST. See the first episode – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p02xxsb5/worlds-busiest-railway-2015-episode-1
This rail terminus has quite literally millions of passengers passing through it daily, either as local commuters or long distance travellers. It was built in Queen Victoria’s reign, the beauty of the façade is stunning and you can see why it has been designated a UNESCO Heritage site.
But it is the people, not the trains that make this place so interesting. Where to start?
With trains arriving every couple of minutes, the sounding of the train horn as it arrives at the end of the platform is the cue for hundreds of men to launch themselves out of both sides of the moving train.
There are no doors and people literally take their lives in their hands as the train is still travelling at a rate of at least 15mph. Their aim is to be the first away from the station as they head to their offices.
But whilst this is a chaotic scene, manners can be seen. Each train at the front has a “ladies only” carriage. Beauty and colour hit you as the ladies, young and old leave in the resplendent saris. Advice: Don’t mess with them as they are clearly on a mission.
Within four minutes, trains are empty and are heading out with just a handful of passengers. Quietness descends and you can then see more life. Sad life, young life, tired life. Lifeless bodies sleep on the dirty platform floors like this gentleman below.
Remember, that many people quite literally live on the station platforms. This “old boy” below, was ok thankfully….
But your heart felt sad when you saw the children there. This little fella, loved the tennis ball I gave him…. Just look at his face. Simple pleasures.
There was no time for reflection as a train from Pune arrived and there were the Dabawallahs loading up. This was pure theatre. What happens is a bit curious. The Dabs go around “middle class” houses on the outskirts of Mumbai, picking up the “lunch boxes” at the homes of workers in the city. They board trains to CST and then load them on to head boards – up to 20 lunches each and rush off in to the city offices to find their clients. It works, no lunches go missing and everyone is happy. Might try to introduce a similar franchise on SWT….
Then the smell of fish wafted up our nostrils – fish replacing incoming commuters as the days catch is taken to surrounding towns – we headed back to the station concourse to pay our respects at the black memorial stone, to those killed in the infamous terrorist attack in 2008. Many civilians, including children, were killed at CST by terrorists using AK-47 rifles to shoot recklessly, throwing grenades everywhere in the station as they fled. It was another stark reminder that terrorist activities happen the world over.
So that was CST – sad to leave, but delighted to see this advertisement – think I might make contact as I miss the sales cut and thrust….
FOOTNOTE: Now “chilling” in Southern Goa….more posts in a few days… M and S