Train Travails

Train Travails

Mumbai suburban network is probably the densest in the world. Average peak hour loading of trains is in excess of 4500 passengers per train compared to a "design capacity" of about 1800 per train and "crush load capacity" of 2600 per train. Rush hour panic is a common sight. So is battling and wrestling by passengers who somehow want to get into the train. Jam packed compartments are a way of life and most regular travellers have become accustomed to the appalling conditions that they are subject to, twice a day. Yet, despite the sordid state of affairs, most passengers have learnt to keep their cool and maintain their sense of compassion.

Consider this. Last week, in an overcrowded CST-bound fast local Thane, people were grumpy as the trains were running late and the October heat was taking its toll. It was about 11 in the morning and there was hardly any place to stand. As the train began its journey, a middle aged man, who had boarded the train just before it left the station, collapsed. Noticing the man collapsing, the fellow travellers forgot all about their discomfort and tried to accommodate this ailing man. What followed were amazing gestures of compassion and kindness. First, the man was quickly offered a window seat, so that he could breathe some fresh air. Some people started speculating about the cause of his collapse. What if he has collapsed because of low sugar level?   Out came a candy from within the crowd. The man, who was still not speaking, was given the candy. Maybe it was due to dehydration, someone suggested. So bottles of water were offered. Finally, people even asked if there was a doctor or a medical student around, who could perhaps check for symptoms of heart problem or blood pressure. Within minutes, everyone in the compartment showed concern. What was heartening was the way in which an act of kindness by one spread contagiously and more people joined in to offer help.

The man finally got off at Masjid station, but not without thanking everyone for their timely help. One could make out that his gratitude was genuine. But then, so was the help of his fellow passengers.

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