Mumbai locals…. Rightly known as the lifeline of this city of dreams. Mumbai will not be Mumbai if it were not for its local train network. For some, it’s a necessity and for others more privileged, it’s a choice. But no one can challenge the fact, that in this bustling city which is forever bursting at its seams, it is the fastest way to commute from one part of the city to another.
I take the train off and on to work. Especially on days when I am running behind schedule (which is quite often ) it helps me to make up for the lost time. It also helps me to relax mentally and catch up on my reading, thanks to all the wonderful apps on my phone. Many times, I just sit by the window-side and observe all the hustle and bustle around me. It’s true that every train has a life of its own. Most fellow passengers are usually immersed in their phones and many times, I catch people smiling to themselves or letting out a small laugh. Despite being as public as transport can get, Mumbai locals can sometimes also be the most private place to shed a tear or two. In Mumbai, space may be lacking in the literal sense, but people do know when to give you space.
Mumbai locals are also busy centres for business. Especially the ladies’ compartments. Everything
that can make a working woman’s life better, is available on the train. There are women selling all
kinds of things, from cut vegetables to kitchenware to innerwear! The other day, a middle-aged lady
walked in with two huge bags full of Indian Kurtas for women. Very neat, decent quality and most
importantly reasonably priced. No wonder she was an instant hit. There is no better delight for a
woman than shopping for new clothes and especially if they are economically priced. In no time, the
mundane phones went inside the bags and there was a kurta in almost everyone’s hand. Some were
marvelling at the designs, the others bargaining for a better price, some in a tearing hurry as they
had to get down at the next station. Almost everyone bought something and when it was time to
pay, this lady who was selling the clothes just gave them her phone number and asked them to pay
through their Google pay accounts whenever they could. Almost half of the ladies got off at the next
station with their latest purchase. Some of them had paid and some hadn’t yet. They all had her
I was watching as a bystander this whole time. After the train started moving, I couldn’t resist asking
her if any of her customers defaulted on paying her. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that
never has, she been cheated of her money. She sells to strangers on a new train every day. She lets
them take the goods and trusts that they will make the payment eventually and invariably, by the
end of the day, her books are in a good shape. While I did understand that it was a good marketing
strategy, it also came with a risk. The risk of being cheated and her trust broken. For the last three
days, I cannot stop thinking about my conversation with her. This lady who had nothing much in the
name of savings, who sold cheap clothes out of a plastic bag, on a local train, to make a living, made
a conscious choice to “trust” people.
It is sad that today, trusting people is considered a character trait that needs trimming. Trusting
others is considered foolhardy and naïve. We all want others to trust us but we find it difficult to
return the favour. As a doctor, I know the value of trust. The most serious of ailments can be cured if
the patient trusts the doctor. Lack of trust today is the biggest issue not only in healthcare but in
every stratum of life. It makes us insecure, edgy and self-centred. Sadly, we teach our children the
Trust is the most essential part of every relationship. We need to trust people to be able to sustain
the most basic necessities in life. We trust that the food we eat, will lead to good health, we trust
that the houses we stay in will protect us from harm, and we trust that the air we breathe in, will
keep us alive. Most importantly, we need to trust the people around us. Believe it or not, given a
chance, the majority proves to be trustworthy. If only we started with trusting just one more person
every day, this world would be a better place and we would all feel freer.
To live is to trust. And it is a choice, just like the one made by the cloth seller on the train!
©️Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is a Laparoscopic & Bariatric Surgeon with experience of over 15 years. She is an alumnus of Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram. Incidentally, she was the first lady in more than 20 years to take up surgery as a specialization in her institute. Women in surgery constitute less than 5% of the total number of surgeons in India and have to face a lot of prejudices. However, she considers herself to be blessed to have been trained by the best teachers and most supportive colleagues… Read more