It took me nearly four hours to get to work, at the Hindustan Times Mahim office, on Thursday — double the time it usually takes. And I was one of the lucky ones. Amid the chaos caused by the fire at Kurla, I watched trains go by with people clinging on by their fingernails or by wedging their feet in space barely enough for a few toes.
At the Ulhasnagar platform, as I waited for my train to Dadar, I saw others scurry from platform to platform in the sweltering heat, as railway announcers placidly called out incorrect information, announcing local trains where long-distance trains to Bangalore and Kolhapur were about to zip through — without even stopping.
Through the next hour and a half, I also listened in surprise to the announcers making regular announcements for the regular trains that should have been arriving — even though there was absolutely nothing regular about what was happening on the tracks and the platforms.
There was no sign of the 9.38 train to Dadar, which I usually take.
When I first got to the station at 9.30 am, the indicator was still announcing the 8.57 train from Ambarnath. That train eventually pulled in at 10.35 am.
In my first hour at the platform, only two local trains pulled in, arriving packed from Karjat, six stops away. No one even attempted to board.
The indicators flashed random numbers, apparently as clueless as we were. By 10.45 am, with no real sense of when — or if — a train would arrive, people began to head back home.
It was thus at 11 am — after waiting for an hour and a half — that I finally boarded the 9.47 Ambarnath-Dadar train, which pulled in from that station with comfortable standing room.
But by Dombivli, four stops from its origin, this train too was packed, with people hanging out of the doors.
What with extended stops at each station to allow more people to get on or off, and extended stops at signals due to the chaos, the train reached Dadar nearly two hours late — at 12.20. By the time I switched trains and got to my Mahim office, I was nearly two hours late for work.
It was still better than the day before, when I got to the station at 9.15 am to find that there was barely space to stand, even at the entrance, and was forced to return home.
Tomorrow, it will start all over again…