The Mumbai Local

Sri Muppidi ’17, is from Pleasanton, California and is currently a junior studying Economics and Creative Writing. She interned at the Economic Policy and Research Division in the Reserve Bank of India through a SIG fellowship, conducting research on the costs of inward remittances to India, the largest receiver of remittances in the world. Below, she writes about her daily commute to the Reserve Bank of India office in Mumbai.


The air is moist with humidity. Your hair a frizzy mane around your glistening face. Your shirt sticks to your body, insulating you further in the wretched heat.

Sri at the Mumbai train station (image source: Sri Muppidi)

Sri at the Mumbai train station
(image source: Sri
Muppidi)

You glance down at your watch. 5:28 PM. You pick up your pace, swiftly gliding between other people, yet carefully so as not to slip in a puddle. The ticket is already in your hand, but you wonder if anyone will even check it. You crumple it up, stuffing it into your wallet.

A train’s whistle goes off. You start running. You need to make this train; it’s the fast-track train. You’ll get to Bandra in 25 minutes instead of the usual 35 minutes. Other commuters recognize the look on your face, and shift out of your way as you run to the first compartment of the train, the women’s compartment.

You hop on, grabbing the pole, thrusting yourself into the mass of bodies. The train lurches forward, setting off on its journey north. You release a deep sigh of relief but are immediately pushed further in, your body pressed against other bodies, closer than you’re comfortable with.

You’re thinking. Go further into the compartment and try to snag a seat from the next person who leaves, or wait it out by the doors? It is really crowded, but it’s only a 25-minute journey, so you decide it’s not worth pushing your way inward. Other women have already negotiated with seated passengers to take their seats. You would have no chance getting a seat, so you push your way sideways to the door of the compartment.

“Pudhil station- Marine Lines. Agala station- Marine Lines. Next station- Marine Lines.” The announcer’s voice rumbles through the train, her accent changing from Hindi to Marathi to English. The train rolls to a stop, and suddenly, there’s a vacuum of bodies sucked out of the compartment. The women leave with a force and speed that’s paralleled by the women entering the compartment from the station. The negotiations start again, the new women looking for potential seats that they can leap upon.

Charni Road. Mahim. Mumbai Central. Dadar. And finally Bandra. You’re already near the door, so you hop off the train quickly. You shake your head, your eyebrows rise, and you smile to yourself as the train pushes onward past you, leaving you in the quick breeze and lingering whistle. The Mumbai local.

— Sri Muppidi