A letter from inside the Mumbai local

This is a collaborative piece

Art : Sashrika Panchal

Text : Preetha Banerjee



The next train is at 5:16pm. 

I move to the pillar where I know the gate to the coach opens. The people around me are nothing like the characters that I imagine I may commute with. That is always the story— the story that makes the daily train journey from my Malad flat to my office in Bandra so much more interesting.
I hear people complaining over the phone about this commute. I, on the other hand, live for these 30 unadulterated minutes of observing fellow human beings. 

I do the daily course of pushing and shoving and get into the train. Being exposed to a horde of people almost always makes me deliberate upon the issue of loneliness. Recently, I have concluded that loneliness is something that has come to Indians as they try to ape the western ways of life.

If you have ever travelled in a local train, you will know that people are simmering with things to share with those sitting or standing around them. Last week, I was standing in the same position in the aisle as today, hugging the metal pole and there was a woman about my mother’s age sitting at the edge of the seat right next to mine. She smiled after our eyes met twice and told me my faux-crocodile skin bag was pretty. I told her she wouldn’t believe the price I bought it for. She used to be a soprano in her high school choir and she recently travelled with her dog to Pune. 

All in just 30 mins. 
The very pregnant woman got a seat immediately. She was beaming with joy but the two ladies opposite her, chopping the vegetables they wanted to cook when they get back home, didn’t look too happy. They sounded certain that they care more about her safety than her in-laws and didn’t stop scolding till she promised she would stay home till she gives birth. And a few days after that. 


I push and shove my way to the gate and get back to an evening of staring at screens. 
If I sit down and calculate, I realize that I have spent a considerable time of my life in the classroom called the local train, learning things that books have never attempted to teach. 
And just like in the classrooms in school, I don’t feel lonely on the local train. 


Sashrika Panchal is an applied art student from Mumbai. She is inspired by her surroundings and draws what she sees. This is a part of her attempt to create art that people can relate to. 

Preetha Banerjee is a social media executive who denounces the very existence of such platforms. In her imagination, she is constantly drifting among galaxies.