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The Western (Rail)Way January 14, 2009

Posted by KG in FS Life, Mumbai.
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I’m a week into a short rotation in our Consulate’s Press and Public Affairs section. So far, work has been extremely busy and interesting. One thing I’ve learned, just from my short time doing this sort of work: speechwriting is hard! And it gets better with practice! In case you didn’t realize, those are sarcastic exclamation points.

Working in PA has also meant a change in venue. I’ve moved from our Consulate’s historic building on the sea to Mumbai’s American Center, further south and closer to the downtown financial center of the city. This means our regular work shuttle is basically useless to me. Ever eager to keep it real, I’ve decided to commute via the train, on Bombay’s notorious suburban railway system.

It’s a far better system than I had expected, and much more convenient. Part of that has to do with the difference between American and Indian working hours — I leave for work and leave work earlier than most. Still, this morning I had to run to catch a train and made it into a compartment through the assistance of many, many hands. Even at early hours, the crowd is heavier than any DC metro train at rush hour. If this were May or August and 7-8 degrees warmer, I’d be a lot less enthusiastic about commuting this way. But there’s something nice about going to work the way much of middle-class Bombay does. Sure, it’s more fragrant, more crowded, and more difficult to understand. But once you get the system down it’s also faster, smoother, and significantly more egalitarian, a tradeoff I’m more than happy with.

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Comments»

1. Harvey - January 14, 2009

Through the assistance of many hands? What do you mean? Do you mean that many people helped you figure out how to ride the train? Or that you were shoved into the train carriage Tokyo style?

Fun stuff thanks for writing

2. Driftingfocus - January 14, 2009

I think I’d probably prefer that system to the Tokyo system, but it still sounds like a pretty crowded option. Somehow, Seoul’s subway never seems to be all that crowded.


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