Among all the “Indian experiences”, our biggest issue to begin with, was the transport. Nearly everyone we met explained that because we were living in Vasai, we would suffer greatly. In all honesty, we are now very accustomed to the trains and the journeys seems pretty normal. I think we have even surprised many people with our skill on such a ridiculously busy transport system.
However, despite our new-found confidence on the trains and buses, we did find ourselves with a few problems to begin with. For instance, on my first train trip in Mumbai, I managed to convince myself that it would be a good idea to stand in the gangway of an 8.44 train from Vasai to Bandra. This amateur mistake not only led to an extremely uncomfortable, cramped and sweaty situation, but because of my ‘stomach issues’ from the previous night, also led to me being sick as I stepped onto the platform at Bandra. So a good start it was…throwing up at an unknown train station with numerous strangers rubbing my head to make me feel better – so I am told.
Being white, we have also been ripped off a silly number of times as we didn’t know the prices of anything (prices are relatively so much cheaper here than the UK). One particular instance comes to mind. Picture the scene: 3 English boys with no understanding of Hindi, on a bus at Thane headed towards Borivali, an area we had never visited. The bus comes to a halt in Borivali and we needed to find the train station. With absolutely no idea where we were, we thought it would be a good idea to get a rickshaw to the station. One pulled up and half an hour later we found ourselves on the outskirts of Andheri – the opposite direction to Vasai. The rickshaw driver apparently had no idea where we wanted to go!!!! After bypassing Ben’s first wave of anger (Ben is a fellow GAT-er), we managed to use some English speaking locals to explain the situation to the rickshaw driver. Another 30 minutes and 230 rupees later, we arrived at Borivali station, realising it was literally round the corner from the Bus stop.
Since this ‘accident,’ we have been severely more careful when it comes to buses and the understanding of rickshaw drivers. I have only forgotten my train pass once. This made us realize that short journeys – e.g. Mira Road to Vasai Road – are actually more fun in second class carriages. We actually now choose to go by 2nd class occasionally, simply because we like being bigger than everyone and can ‘announce our presence’ on the train or platform when entering or exiting the trains – a luxury we do not get in 1st class where passengers are much more polite.
Jordan is, as he calls himself, a GAT-er from the UK. He along with two others are working at the Blue Edge project in Bandra (teaching English) as well as at the Boys Home in Thane.