The daily one-and-a-half hour journey from Kalyan to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) is not just about jostling for space and promising seats to one another on the 8.01 am ladies special local train. Over the years, the first ladies special service of the day to reach CSMT by 9.31 am, has forged friendships that may last a lifetime.
Other than making it to offices in time, the women, who regularly travel in the train, have several reasons not to miss the local. From birthday parties, farewells to celebrating festivals, the women have bonded on the way to work, have become friends, confidantes and almost family to one another.
They decorate the compartments to celebrate birthdays, exchange sweets on festivals and arrange a farewell for a commuter when she retires, knowing it also marks the end of her daily journey in the slow local train. The train, which usually remains packed during the whole journey, is extremely popular among government, bank and courts employees, who are expected to reach office before 10 am.
Unlike other ladies’ special services, many women in this train have known each other for at least 15 years — since the service became operational.
Manjiri Damankar, a Railways employee and a regular on the ladies special said many commuters board this train early so that they can get the time to decorate their compartments. “If its someone’s birthday or if there is a festival on that day, we board the train before it reaches Kalyan, from where the service begins. We then get additional time to throw a surprise party for our friends.”
“We also cut cakes in the train. We remind each other on WhatsApp groups and accordingly arrange for the celebrations,” Damankar said.
The commuters meet each other on holidays, plan trips and remain in touch through WhatsApp groups. During Navaratri, they play Garba inside the train and sing on Ganesh Chaturthi.
“Though we come from different offices and walks of life, we applaud our friends’ achievements or support them on their tough days. Like most Mumbai residents, we spend one-fourth of our day in local trains. During this time, travelling with those we feel comfortable with makes the journey interesting,” said Lata Arghade, who works in a private office in CSMT and has been a regular on this local.