Panvel, the usually more than reliable gentleman at the hotel reception informed me when I asked the nearest station to the Navi Mumbai Stadium.

Not even close.

It took the intervention of some laughing students at the tuk-tuk pick up that to put me on the right track, literally (I am really just Alan Partridge, aren’t I?) towards the aforementioned station.

No, Nerul, was in fact my destination.

So my going up and down the wrong line, the train in vain, had shaved hours off my day’s activity. What it had done however, was give me a unique insight into the daily trials and travails of your average Greater Mumbai commuter.

To call the carriages of a Mumbai West Coast train a meat wagon isn’t too exaggerated. Eerily reminiscent of the days as a kid when on summer Sunday mornings I used to help my farmer uncles with loading their cattle on to the truck.
Steel base. Steel grids. Steel roofs, where handles, shiny like butchers’ hooks, dangle rigidly to the salvation of those below. The seats, a welcome respite for the lucky few, in crimson wood. The paint job, newly sprayed and sparing, in dull aqua blue, conceals the old colour. That crimson again, appearing to be running from the ceiling, like, well, you know what.

Then come the crowds. After a relatively calm embarkation at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus through Sandhurst, Dockyard and Reay Roads, a seat and a further revel in the Times of India’s post mortem of their team’s horror show in the last Test, before the carriage begins to fill up.
Eager not to miss my stop (hmmm), I opt to stand up and filter towards the permanently opened doors.
The Kurla- Sanpada leg of the journey proves to be the most eye-opening. The carriage is full to bursting as Mumbaikars start their working day by jostling, shoving, pulling and grabbing their way into position. No quarter given. A feral, half mosh-pit, half cock-fight of a frenzy ensues.
My pristine white (hmmm again) shirt will resemble a Darlington home shirt by the end of the trip, my back glued to the grid and its sticky, sweaty rails. My right wrist is locked into a grip on my bottle of Bisleri and newspaper, my feet as immovable as the Indian middle order in the eye of a Monty storm. It’s a bit close.

And just as suddenly as it started, this Mumbai melee disperses into something approaching tranquil. Workers disappear to their workplaces to be replaced with the many morning views of Maharashtra. My journey goes left, right and eventually, thanks to the lads mentioned earlier, but hours later, I arrive at my stop.

I’ll never, ever complain about First Capital Connect again, promise. Or any of the other London/ South East based networks. Thanks for the ride though Mumbai, it was emotional.

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