The train keeps getting better. It’s still thrilling to hang out the side of it and feel the wind on my face. Here’s a short video that doesn’t do the feeling justice, but does show what it looks like. The sound at the beginning is of a band I recorded that was playing on the train, which is then replaced by the title track from the Bollywood film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.


Mumbai Train Ride at Night from Nathan Shipley on Vimeo.

It was nighttime – around 10:00 – when I was headed north from Churchgate to Bandra on Mumbai’s city train. It was one of the new ones – shiny and nice compared to the rattling old trains. The train was almost empty heading south, but the trip back north was much more full.

A group of guys got in my car, took over a section of seats, put up a cloth banner on side of the train, busted out tambourines and started to sing and play. This is what it sounded like, if you want more than you heard in the video above:

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Upon taking out my camera to record the audio of the makeshift band, the guys sitting on the floor in front of me asked me to take their picture:

Guys on the Mumbai Train

Upon taking a picture of these guys, Mr. Crazy Teeth, who had been standing next to me and staring at me most of the time, requested a picture of him and I. Gladly, sir. Stick of gum? Toothbrush?

Me and Mr. Crazy Teeth

They started asking me questions which were translated to Hindi for the non-English speakers. The standard stuff. At the same moment, a friend called my phone. It was impossible to hear anything over the band and the ten guys all talking to me. I just yelled in to the phone, “I’m on the train! What? What?? Almost to Bandra! I can’t hear you! There’s some band playing and a bunch of dudes asking me questions! I’ll call you back!”

The mess of guys heard me say “Bandra” and immediately went in to helpful mode which consisted of lots of yelling and pointing. I eventually understood that I was on the wrong side of the train. I needed to be on the right side to get off at Bandra, which would take some doing. I mashed my way through the humanity to get over there, flashing smiles and thumbs up to my helpful co-passengers.

Welding at the Train StationAs the train pulled in to the station before Bandra, my cell phone vibrated in my pocket with a text message from my friend. “Get off at Dadar,” it said.

Shit. I was pretty sure that was where the train was stopping right at that moment.

I yelled out to the guys, “Dadar?”

This elicited an immediate reaction: action mode. They all started yelling again and pointing at the platform outside the train. Which, unlike me, was on the left side. “Dadar! Dadar!” sang the chorus of Indian dudes.

They all started grabbing me; pushing and pulling me through the sardine can of people. I felt like a Play-Doh noodle getting squeezed out of the Fun Factory.

The train began to roll away from the station but I had not yet been propelled all the way to the door. With a final thrust, I squirted out of the moving train into an unexpecting group of people standing on the platform.

Managing not to fall, I looked back at the door, smiled, and waved to the guys hanging out and smiling back. The tambourine sound was replaced by sounds of the station.

I brushed myself off and wandered off out of the station in to a yet-to-be-seen part of the city.

5 Responses to “Pushed out of a moving train in Bombay. In a good way.”

  1. previously.bittenon 09 Mar 2009 at 1:01 am

    Of all the things I’m going to have to do next year, taking the train in India has me worried the most – trying to get on and off with a giant pack. I’m not sure if this post reassures me, or has me more worried.

  2. nathanon 09 Mar 2009 at 1:21 am

    I really wouldn’t worry about it. There was a big Indian family that got on with a bunch of luggage and they made it work. Others bring big bags of miscellaneous junk with them on the train. People will move for you. Take this post as an affirmation of the helpful spirit of humanity! :)

    If you’re talking about this specific train in Mumbai – the in-town train – then you probably wouldn’t have your big pack with you anyway, right? It’d be in the hostel / hotel / wherever you’re staying. You wouldn’t bring your main pack with you on day trips around the city. (Or, if you’re like me, you wouldn’t even bring a day pack either. Minimal stuff in my pockets works fine and is less to worry about.)

    If you’re talking about trains to go from city to city, you’ll presumably have more time between stops to get on and off and it wouldn’t be as hectic. You might have even reserved a specific seat or bed for yourself, unless you’re riding in general-class.

    So, yeah – bottom line, riding the train really isn’t bad. I enjoy it a lot. Everyone that I have spoken with about the inter-city trains says that sleeper class or 2nd AC class is relaxing and very enjoyable. The only confusing thing I’ve seen at this point (in Mumbai on the intra-city trains) has been which train to actually get on, but that question is always quickly answered by just asking anyone standing around.

    You’ll be fine! I promise. The trains are easy. :)

  3. Jocelynon 09 Mar 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I always rode 3rd tier sleeper on the long distance trains- definitely roughing it but not uncomfortable. I’ve heard the AC trains are basically arctic conditions – which you might think you want in contrast to the heat, but I’ve heard complaints. Of course the Indians look at you like you’re a little crazy, because what the hell would a rich white person be doing on the cheapest train car, but then you’re all fast friends anyway. Once on a train my name was listed on the manifest/roster as Jolly Berger. Love that!

  4. danon 09 Mar 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Did you see any of the Quadcity DJ’s?

    Also, seems as though the people who wanted their picture taken must obviously be fans of the blog.

  5. nathanon 09 Mar 2009 at 11:48 pm

    @ Dan: Hah. Awesome. You make it devastatingly clear that I dropped the ball on the soundtrack to this video. It was so obvious that I missed it. Next train video will be right.

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