We hopped a train at Bandra Junction toward the old Victoria Station, now called Shivaji Terminus, ten stops away.
The tidy compartment carried just a handful of passengers scattered about on a few padded benches. Overhead the silver handles shook as the train departed.
I offered the window seat to my boys. Turns out it wasn’t mine to offer. The ladies nearby alerted my wife to our mistake: we’d hopped a ladies-only compartment.
We faced a stiff fine, they assured while smiling, if the authorities caught up with us.
At Mahim we jumped down and moved back one car, more crowded and less clean, but still found a bench together.
I stood at the open doorway, as many others do, and watched life beside the rails: the slaughter of a goat on this trestle here, makeshift roofs of plastic sheeting clustered there, fetid pools of water, smoldering piles of rubbish.
Even these don’t diminish my satisfaction at taking in the train’s full breadth as it makes a bend.
We pass stations named Kings Circle, Vadala Road, Sewri, and Cotton Green. Signs clearly mark, for even the Hindi illiterate like me, where to catch a ladies-only car. The cars themselves are also clearly marked.
Dockyard Road shows us shunted cars before Sandhurst Road, then Masjid (mosque), before reaching our destination in the heart of south Mumbai.
Today, our anniversary, we’ll visit the Gateway of India. We’ll get lunch and take in the most romantic spot in all the city—the queen’s necklace of Marine Drive.
Travel by train on Sunday in Mumbai. The rest of the week, these doors have been removed for a reason, and these handles overhead don’t swing so free.