The exam day has arrived. You are quite zealous about the exam to the extent of being insomniac for last two nights. With a zillion prayers finding their way across your vocal cords, you step out of the house with a confidence of a different nature, along with a deep-seated anxiety. Your admit card reads reporting time as 09.00 at some place in Kandivali. It also reads that candidates would not be allowed to enter after 09.30. For a person staying at Ulhasnagar this should be a matter of extreme concern as the road connectivity is poor to say the least while CR & WR local trains are the sole means of a satisfactory travel. The confidence – local trains are quite good for approximate time-bound travel with good reliability. The anxiety – it’s monsoon and CR (especially) and WR to some extent, have reported unexpected snags and delays in the past few months.
The day starts at 04.30 with an express version of daily chores followed by rushing to Ambernath station. A long queue awaits you as you desperately need to get an extension ticket and catch the next train at 05.20. Somehow you wonder that as soon as you get the ticket and walk into the platform, you find the slow CSTM bound local with a comfortable seat assigned to your fate. Without much delay it cruises through the distant suburbs and in about 50-55mins time you enter the official limits of Mumbai. The dawn outside heralds a new weekday for the mechanical Mumbai population, however for you, you have already completed more than half of the first leg of your journey, till now with fingers crossed!
You tend to speed through suburbs towards Dadar with a feeling of assurance that come what may, you can now reach the exam center on time, even if it means paying a cab/auto driver his dream amount. However with no further glitches your local train smoothly rolls into Dadar. You frantically rush over the long bridge connecting CR to WR. Your fondness of a down Virar fast early morning is at war with the urge to board an arriving Borivali fast (slow after Andheri). Ultimately you decide a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, and silently occupy a seat in the Borivali fast. As expected being in the opposite direction, the atmosphere in the train is absolutely calm in contrast to the mad peak hour rush. A pleasant run through Western suburbs just refreshes and prepares your mind for the upcoming exam, while your subconscious railfanning spirit relishes the sight of WAP-5 and several WAP-4 locos. Finally you arrive at Kandivali where with a sense of gratitude you salute both the CR and WR local trains for bringing you on time to your destination on such an important day.
You easily reach your exam center thanks to another lifeline – the BEST buses, which are literally best. With a cool balanced mind you are through with attempting your exam, thanks to the uneventful and timely journey in the past few hours. A friend joins you for the return journey upto Bandra, but you are obviously interested in the long journey ahead. You both arrive at Borivali where you are greeted with a WAP-7 brandishing its supremacy with a prestigious 24-coach load (Paschim) and another two WAP-4 doing their regular hauls. A slow local brings you to Bandra where after bidding goodbye to your friend you doorplate upto Dadar. Now that you have a lighter head after the exam is over, you can afford to do so, isn’t it?
Back to home territory (CR) you wonder whether to go for a crowded fast Siemens rake ride (Khopoli fast), or a comfortable opportunistic WCAM-3 ride (Sewagram Exp). As it seldom happens, both your mind and heart agree to the latter. Within no time you settle yourself at the door of a GEN coach, which also happens to be 2nd from the loco. The next 50mins give you the extreme pleasure that you dearly yearn for. At KYN you finally have to deboard and wish your express train a safe and punctual journey ahead, while you move on to a local train for Ulhasnagar. For the masses, another routine day has passed, but they fail to notice the jackpot that they have already hit decades ago.
It would surely be an understatement to say that local trains in Mumbai (CR, WR & Harbour) are the best things to have happened to Mumbai in the past century. Had it not been for that Boribunder – Tannah maiden run, the first electric trains on IR, and the rapid development of suburban trains in Mumbai region to even the farthest of places one can imagine, today a person like me would have had to think a hundred times to even attempt a tightly timed Ulhasnagar to Kandivali journey early morning. I would even think that the mere existence and flourish of our suburbs is a direct gift of the ever-so-thankless local train entity. It does mean a lot to me though and I was, am and shall always be respectful towards the local trains of Mumbai, better known as the Lifeline of Mumbai.