Train yourself for Mumbai locals

Mumbai local
Photo by Yash Bhardwaj

Kavita Dadhe shares 10 pointers to keep in mind when traveling in Mumbai locals

If you thought Mumbai was known for its ‘chalta hai’ attitude, try getting into the ladies’ compartment of Churchgate-bound 9.04 am local from Borivali. If you are lucky enough to get in, you’ve managed to overcome only the first of your many hurdles. Once in, you’ve got to follow a code of conduct – a set of unsaid, unwritten rules that must never be breached. Because when you get into a ladies’ compartment during peak hours, you are in dangerous territory.

Boarding the Mumbai local

If you are a novice, the best bet would be to wait for the veterans to jump in, let the herd of cows scramble in, and then board with the near-to-retirement aunties and pray to find some space to stand. You could grab a window seat, but you have to risk falling inside or outside the compartment, getting bruised, breaking your bones, and even dying. Watching an expert jump in though is pure pleasure – a skill you must witness.

Platform rush waiting for Mumbai Local
Photo by Smith Mehta


Bags and kids not allowed

There is no space for your duffel bag during rush hours.  Just in case you were contemplating dragging in your trolley bag, ‘out’ is safer than ‘in’. Once you enter, clutch your bag to your chest, lest it hit someone, even by mistake. If you are carrying multiple bags, it is only polite that you keep them on the shelf – out of everyone’s way.

Use common sense and leave your child at home.  A crying toddler in a crowded compartment full of stressed-out women with a singular agenda is like letting a deer free in a lion’s territory. Only the fittest will survive on these Mumbai locals.

The right to alight

If you look carefully, a sign on the compartment walls reads, ‘Let passengers alight first’. But some take this sign too literally. They will form a queue on the left side of the compartment door at least five and sometimes nine stations in advance. In the interim, everyone else is expected to alight and board from the right side. Why? Try asking these ‘ladies’ when you are up for a fight.

In any case, it is advisable to start making your way to the door at least two stations before. This will give you enough time to maneuver through the crowd without rushing and pushing anyone.  In a relatively less crowded train, you could get up one station prior to your destination.

Don’t look too surprised when someone taps your shoulder and cryptically asks, “Bandra?” or “Andheri?” They’re merely asking whether you will get off at that particular station. If not, then you are obliged to make space for them to go ahead.

Single and multiple seat reservations

Yes, you can book seats and for free! If you wish to get yourself a seat on a crowded train, all you need to do is ask. Usually, you start by pointing a forefinger at the woman sitting near the window and take it from there. They know the look and will tell you the station they’ll alight at. That way, you can reserve a seat that will get vacant first. All you need is a nod and the deal is sealed.

What’s yours is mine

Newspapers, magazines, candies, books, food, music players, iPads, laptops – everything is public property on a train. Once you are done with your Midday, someone will ask for it. If you are reading a book, you can rest assured that someone will make a comment on it, or simply smile with affirmation or frown at your taste in books. There will be communication, your chips packet will be stared at, and the chocolate bar will bring up conversations on how good or bad it is on the weighing scale.

This is how most people have found a fool-proof diet plan or gym buddies or geek sisters.


Tying your hair in a bun will probably be made mandatory in the near future. Nobody wants to know how your hair smells and the stage to which your psoriasis has progressed. Fellow passengers will often politely tell you (not ask) to keep your hair from flying on their faces. Using a hairband would be a good idea too.

Guidelines to standing in the Mumbai Local

Standing during peak hours in a Mumbai local is an art when you have no space to even move. Balancing is the key so it’s important to hold on to something (the bar on the side, or the handlebar above). Don’t lose your temper if you find strange feet stamping on your’s; in time it will be your foot landing on someone else’s.

When standing in the space between the seats, ensure that your knees don’t collide with those of the person seated in front of you. The way to avoid this is to stand in the space between the legs of two seated passengers. It is not allowed for you to sit on the window sill of the compartment. This would block the little breeze that comes through.

Guidelines to sitting on the Mumbai Local

If you are seated in a Mumbai local during peak rush, you are lucky. If you aren’t, you are luckier.  Everyone who is seated has arses in their face. The rest is left to your imagination. When you are seated on the fourth seat, it is only polite to sit on the edge. Every time someone on your seat gets up, ask your neighbor to move towards the window. Politely.

Many women oblige by lending them their seats and sitting in turns. It is common courtesy to accommodate and help so be nice to the person next to you. Remember – what goes around, comes around.

Creating the illusion of space

Whenever someone asks you to “shift” a little to make place when there is none, you need to wriggle a bit in your seat, thereby creating an illusion that you are creating some space for them. And voila! The lady miraculously has enough space to rest her butt.  It works every time.

Dressing for the Mumbai local train travel

If you have a wedding to attend, beg borrow, steal a car, and leave three hours in advance, but do not get into the train. Refrain from tying dupattas/stoles around your neck, unless you want to be strangled. It is best that you stuff them in your bag with your loose watch, bracelet, anklet, and everything else, which can fall off.

You are allowed headphones but the music must be loud enough only for you. Wear comfortable shoes. Heels are a bad idea in case you are traveling far and may have to stand. They may also hurt someone’s foot. Be pragmatic and carry your stilettos in your bag.

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