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An Indian making the most of life in sports-crazed Melbourne

Far Pavilions

Public Transport: From Mumbai to Melbourne

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In Melbourne, complaints abound that the city is getting more and more impersonal. This is often a complaint against Mumbai as well. However, a couple of events made me realize that Melbourne is no Mumbai.

Two commuters in Melbourne were indignant that no one came to their aid when they were confronted by a bag-snatcher. This, when there were about 50 people witnessing the lone snatcher in action. Something like this is unlikely to happen in Mumbai. In the two years I lived in Mumbai, I have seen occasions when passengers vent their day-to-day frustrations by raining merciless blows on pick-pockets who are unfortunate enough to be caught.

The other event made me wish that Mumbai would take a lesson from Melbourne. As I stepped into a tram one morning, the journey began with this reassuring announcement from the driver:

Good morning passengers. This is the 7:30AM tram service to St. Kilda. Unlike other tram drivers, I am accessible to all passengers. If you are unsure about your stop, please come and see me before you make a mistake.

Passengers with delicate constitutions should be aware that this tram might swerve dangerously around curves and can reach top speeds of 20kmph. You are advised to close your eyes and pray if you have a fear of speed.

During the course of our journey it is likely that the tram may go off the rails and come to rest against the nearest available object. In such an event, there is a real possibility that our destination might be severely altered. Please wait until the tram comes to a complete rest before getting off.

I am sure Mumbai could use drivers with such a sense of humour.

On second thoughts, if train drivers were to make such an announcement in a Mumbai local, the harried passengers are likely to take the announcements seriously and rain blows on him.


My use of public transport is limited at best-however from what I have seen in Oz and the first world nations of Asia (any quibblers?) what dismays me is the cocoon that every well dressed perfumed one withdraws into. Apart from the doof-doof-doof of clamped on headphones, everyone is withdrawn, quiet,unhappy at the invasion of their 'personal space'.

While I did not really enjoy it during my infrequent forays there, in retrospect I think I rather prefer the Mumbai locals with their infinite characters-the bhajan mandalis, guava sellers, Koli-s and their malodorous baskets, discordant singers and their harmoniums and the ever present risk of the 'pocket-maars'.

Sometimes I think an entrepreneur ought to package these highlights and market them as performance art on the lifeless first world trains.

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