Life is precious

We got some shocking news from home last week. My cousin S, just twenty one, passed away in a horrifying train accident in Mumbai. Apparently there was a derailment on the central line that day, and the trains were running late and were packed much more than usual, if that is at all possible. S was in a rush to get to college for his third year engineering exam. Unfortunately, he decided to board a jam-packed train rather than wait and risk running a few minutes late. Less than five minutes later, before the train could even reach the next station, he had struck an electric pole, fractured his skull and passed away.

Such accidents probably happen everyday in Mumbai but only when it happens to one of your own do you stop and think about it. Otherwise, where’s the time? There’s a train to catch, a destination to be reached, an entire day’s work to be done. Train’s crowded? Never mind, surely I can squeeze in? Can’t get past the door? No problem, I can get some fresh air hanging outside. Train’s announced on the next platform? Let me cross the tracks just this once. If I use the overbridge, I’ll miss it.

Most folks who’ve used Mumbai’s local trains would be guilty of some or all of the above at some point of time. In my four years of college traveling by train in Mumbai, I was no exception. Except that we are lucky and get away with it. Others, like S, are not. I can picture him right now, hanging on to the doorway, barely managing to place a foot inside the crowded compartment, enjoying the cool breeze on his face, his mind intent on revising the syllabus one last time. If he knew what was coming, surely he would have waited, never mind the exam. The exam could have been cleared next semester.

Aside from Mumbai, I have used suburban trains in Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. Every other city has this wonderful PA system announcing the doors are closing, please step off. And when some idiots still manage to wedge themselves into the doorway despite the warning, the doors stay open and the train does not move. Even Delhi has the metro now. But in Mumbai, as far as I am aware, we still use the same basic train system designed by the British in 1853.

If you are reading this and use the Mumbai local trains, I hope you’ll stop and rethink your choice the next time you are running late and feel tempted to take such a risk. Your life is precious. Everything else can be worked out.


The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the news was a baby-faced S. My mother and I had brought him and his mommy home from the hospital the week after he was born. I also clutched my tummy in an instinctively protective gesture. Becoming a mother does that to you I guess. Every sad story becomes personalized in your mind. Let this never happen to my baby is the overriding thought. Selfish but true.

It seems my mother was hesitant to share the news with me given my pregnant status. She worried it would upset me too much. Fortunately, I chose to take it in a positive sense. Sure, I grieved for my cousin and his family. Especially the parents who have to cope with the loss. It is a terrible tragedy for them, one they will take months or perhaps even years to recover from. They have no choice but to grieve.

As for me, such shocking incidents only serve as a wake-up call to me. I must have surprised the husband with my extra loving demeanour that day, I chatted with my baby just a little bit more that night. When life is so precious and unpredictable, I want to make the most of it. Perhaps it sounds hard-hearted, but that’s genuinely the way I feel. What do you think?


19 responses to “Life is precious

  1. I am extremely sorry for your and the family’s loss. Without us realising, we know we are rushed all the time. A friend had once told me.. we are in a race, not with anyone else but with ourselves. We want to get everything done all at once! I agree, that we should step back, take a meniute, cherish what we have!
    Yes, in Mumbai, i guess i am guilty of all the above as well. Your post did make me mail my friends back home to slow down a bit!

    Me: I’m so glad you took the time out to mail your friends about this. I hope it makes a difference, however small.

  2. Oh my God! Thats terrible! I pray that God gives the family the strength to cope with the loss. And yes, maybe being positive about it is the only way out…

    Me: Thanks M.

  3. It’s not hard-hearted at all. Incidents such as these make us realise that we must not wait till it’s too late to express our love for people around us.

    But the incident is very sad and shocking. I had no idea things like this are nothing out of the ordinary in Mumbai! Doesn’t anyone go to the court or ask someone to take responsibility for what’s happening?

    Me: It seems these things happen almost everyday. I was shocked to read about it too. Crossing tracks is at your own risk of course, but squeezing into a crowded compartment is hardly out of choice. I hear that more than 500 folks squeeze into a compartment meant for 100 or so at rush hour. Or something close to that. But it’s also true that the Mumbai trains are a lifeline for the lakhs of folks who use it everyday. For every accident, lakhs reach their destination safely… Whom do you blame then?

  4. Really sorry to hear about the loss. I agree with your post completely. I wish people weren’t so short sighted about their own safety. Please stay positive and calm. May God bless his soul, and help his family.

    Thanks Sunshine.

  5. Very sorry to hear about your cousin.

    I am emotional hearing such news and wonder how surprising life can be. It hit me hard when the world trade center incident happened and a cousin of ours barely escaped as she missed her usual train to work. I myself rush sometimes to get somewhere on time. And incidents like this must be reminders for all of us to reevaluate value of time.

    Me: Very true, Lakshmi.

  6. So sad to hear about this. Really terrible. May God give his family the strength to deal with this loss.
    It is even sadder when someone so young passes away in such accidents and we think only if he had thought before the consequences.

    I am guilty of travelling that way in Mumbai trains too. Hanging on at the door, clenching the pole with one hand, holding the bag with other. Sometimes i have also squeezed into the luggage compartment. But once i a while mom or dad would come home telling one such incident they witnessed and it would bring me back to the safe-traveller mode.

    Me: You are right. I used to go through these phases too. All said and done, commuter life in Mumbai is very very tough…

    I think as a rule of thumb everyone should follow this “If it is not life threatening, there is no need to hurry and risk your life.”

  7. Hi,
    I quite enjoyed reading your jottings. And then I chanced to see that you are from Mulund. I am also from Mulund. It will be nice to connect up. I stay at Baltimore, MD. Do write when u have time. congratulations on the coming-up new arrival

    Me: Hi Jyothi… sure I will! Nice to know someone from back home. Actually I am from Thane, hardly any difference though! πŸ™‚

  8. Very sorry to hear about your cousin..and I admire you for the way you accepted the news and used it as a means to get stronger..rather than the other way round.

    Have not been emailing lately..( hardly check that google account), and it’s been quite some time I came here to read updates too.

    A big sorry for that..but I have you and yours ( little one) in my mind as always πŸ™‚

    Take good care..and email when you find few mins. Wanna know if you are having a bunty or babli πŸ˜€


    Me: Emailed you!

  9. I’m so sorry hear bout ur cousin.. I read this in the newspaper…but back then i dint knw he ws related to u …

    Its a small world … hope ur fine πŸ™‚

    Me: I had no idea it was in the papers… Yes, I am fine dear!

  10. Hey Sorry to hear about your cousin. A chill ran down my spine while i was reading thru. Take it easy and my condolences to the entire family.

    Me: Thanks Sumana.

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