Saturday saw the start of our much awaited ‘summer break’. With a change in the school academic pattern, we now break for vacations when majority of the kids get back to school. Yet, it was our first day of holiday and we decided to do something fun. The newly opened Metro along the VAG corridor (Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar) seemed adventurous.  The daughter and I, having travelled in the metro in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, we were eager to experience it on the home turf.  So, 14th June, 2014 was a date. My mom and sister accompanied us as well.

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The steps led us to the escalator at the Versova junction. The station can be accessed from either end of the street. It culminates at two ticket counters at both ends. The crowded lines amid ample security and checking seemed like a given, considering the inaugural rate of Rs 10/- for a one way ride.

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The token coupon counters greeted you post the security check. There were personnel to help those who were novices with the token system, and the mechanized entry barricades. We, of course, breezed through like pros. But must make a mention that the sign boards were well etched out.

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The tokens were quite cute. So far, so good. Now we were headed for the ride itself.

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Unlike their foreign counterparts, the Mumbai Metro does’t have segregation of coaches.  Also, since these are manned routes, the end coaches don’t have a ‘window’ from where you can see your journey. Dubai Metro is automated, so at one end you have the first class and at the other end, you have the glass facade that gives you a 180 degree view of the ride.

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The coaches however were clean, bright and shiny. The AC was functional at full blast, a real welcome in Mumbai’s sweltering heat. The crowd was noisy, yet manageable.

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The Line 1 route is clearly chalked out above each door. The 11.4 Kms journey took about 15 minutes to cover which is totally unheard of in Mumbai Road travel, unless of course it is 4 am.

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The coach has bright sunny yellow instructions with illustrations strategically pasted, along with a camera to keep an eye.  So while littering and spitting is a no-no even otherwise, eating and drinking is not allowed on board either. And am I glad about that! Prohibition is better than persuasion, at times.

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Even though there were clear demarcated spaces for ladies, senior citizens and differently-abled people, seats were occupied by all and sundry. I am hoping that once the enthusiasm of the ‘new ac train’ dies out, and people start using this for commuting, this aspect will fall into place. I am also hoping parents travelling with kids will not let them stand on the seats or sit by the window. Teach them young, and watch them grow is something we need to endorse.

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The soft yellow light above the door would flicker when the doors were about to be opened and closed.  It would remain lit while the doors were open. An indication to alight/board. The crowd was behaving themselves so far. Selfies and group pictures were the order of the day.

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So boarding at Versova was a breeze. There was enough room and plenty of oxygen. And then Andheri happened!

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Yes, even the blast of the AC could not take away the ‘railway kinda feeling’ as we thrived on aroma therapy of sweaty armpits and the likes. What sustained us though were the sights through the large glass windows. Nothing majestic, but quirky none the less.
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A lone crusader got off at an empty train station. People seemed only eager to get in rather than get off.

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The Western Express Highway, the North-South lifeline of Mumbai. This was at 12.00pm. At 6.00pm you can’t see the road at all with the bumper to bumper traffic.

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The shanties of Mumbai juxtaposed against the skyscrapers in the background. Nothing could define this city better.

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The new T2 Terminal of the Mumbai International Airport peeked from behind the green covers. For once, the heart did swell with pride. Mumbai still held hope to be on par with global cities, and not just in realty rental matters.

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We finally reached our destination. Ghatkopar, which in another time and era we would never visit, awaited. While we disembarked and began walking towards the railway bridge that connected, we noticed this. Ads that urged the proper use of this new landmark in Mumbai. They were so totally kick ass, I had to capture them.

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There were food stalls at the base of the Metro station. I guess, there is only so much you can do to keep us Indians away from food.

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We had lunch at Ghatkopar and then decided to head back home. This was a journey we had not anticipated. The mob was unruly and had no concept of ‘standing in a line’. The security personnel tried to maintain discipline , but unwittingly added to the din with their ‘loud whistles’. Them, urging people to move gave the impression of an army of matrons asking the giggly school girls to turn off the lights and go to bed. Utter chaos! We almost contemplated coming home by rickshaw.

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Suddenly, I was back in time. It almost looked as though we were on a Western/Central Railway platform and all it would take would be a push to get you in and out of the compartment. People boarding even before passengers have exited, zero civic sense and very loud personnel made this experience one that I’d not remember fondly.

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And then my sister saw this. A screen frame that had no screws at the bottom, as a result the  frame kept oscillating in motion. A ready toy for the bunch of kids seated right beneath it.

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Versova arrived in good time. For all that is was worth, perhaps these were teething issues. I am hoping they get ironed out with time. What we hadn’t bargained for, however, were the rickshaws. Not a single fella was willing to ply the short distance. Share an Auto was functional right at the footsteps of the Metro, albeit without the ‘Share an Auto’ sign. So needless to say, the charges were anything but accommodating. We walked for the better part, till we managed to hail an unwilling autowallah. He had to go ‘fill gas’ even though he had his meter flag raised ‘for hire’. My sister told him he could either take us home or to the cops. With four women, he had little choice. Yes, it runs in the family. But then, I digress.

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Mumbai Metro One is surely a boon as far as East to West connectivity is concerned. What we need to address is this.

a) Parking of vehicles for commuters.

b) Rickshaw for short distances.

c) Efficient Ticket dispensing.

d) Maintenance of standards.

e) Strict action against miscreants.

But all said and done, Mumbai Metro One, better late than never. Welcome.

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