Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trains and Rickshaws

This morning Dad, Mom, Ivan, and I went walking through Mumbai taking pictures.  Mom and Ivan and I wanted to purchase new sunglasses and Ivan needed a filter for his camera lens.  Other than that, we had no real errands to do and just let our intuition guide us.  We quickly found three pairs of sunglasses that were suitable.  They were not the best quality, but we will not be able to buy sunglasses for a while and they will work.  We then asked a shop keeper where to find a camera store for Ivan.  She suggested we take a cab to the V.T. Train Station and nearby we would find many camera shops.  

We got out of the taxi at a huge building that looked like a classic European gothic church, the V.T. Station.  The four of us concluded that it was built in this style by the British when they occupied India. The original name is Victoria Terminus Station, but local people call it V.T.  We walked inside and found a crowded station.  There were people pushing and shoving to get to their correct track.  This train station was one of the targets in the Mumbai terrorist attack a few years ago.  Now, there are several security men inside of the train station and I was not allowed to take pictures. The  V.T. is an interesting and historic monument but it felt a little out of place in the poverty of India. 

Back on track, we walked back to the camera district where Ivan successfully found a U.V. filter and a polarizer for his camera lens.  We caught a cab back to the hotel where we ate lunch and met up with the gang.  The plan was to take a train to a different part of Mumbai said to be more exotic, chaotic, loud, random, populated, and poor.  I was excited to see the real India and be in the most confusing place of my entire life.  After arriving, we planned to practice driving rickshaws for tomorrow’s honorary start of the Rickshaw Rally

Back in the hotel, we all split into groups of three and four and each group took a taxi to the train station.  This happened to be the same station we viewed earlier in the day, the V.T.  We arrived at the station on time and pushed through the chaos. 

The train metal was rusted and had many dents and pealing paint.  Between the cars, there were no walkways.  Each train car had four very big open doorways, two on each side, with no protective doors or gates.  The seats were hard metal benches and hanging from the ceiling were old fans and rusty hand holds.  When we first got in the train, there were not very many people on board, but that soon changed.  Suddenly we stopped and a huge crowd of people rushed on.  We were soon cramped, barely able to move, all smelling each other’s sweet when we suddenly realized we were on the wrong train.  We had to change trains and travel in the opposite direction.  After the chaotic ride, we got off the correct train in the Chembur district of Mumbai and were shocked with amazement.

Around us, were thousands of rickshaws, some even with goats inside.  We saw huge piles of garbage and trash.  We saw many Hindu and Muslim adults and kids who were all smiling and friendly.  As I got off the train, kids ran up to me, shaking my hand and laughing.  They all loved having their picture taken.  When I started to take a picture, they would play fight to be the center of the photo.  The buildings we saw were old and run down.  After seeing them, we all appreciated our home in Alaska.  Seeing this poverty and joy is a real shock.  It totally makes me see how luck I really am.

The last event of the day consisted of learning how to drive the rickshaws.  We first arrived at a dirty field expecting to start right away.  Sadly, a photographer from The India Times was there to take photos of us practicing.  This actually involved way too many group photos.  It brought me right back to class photos in elementary school.  The photographer was extremely picky about the exact position of every body in the picture.  It was very annoying and we were soon driving in ridiculously slow circles around the dirty field.  We finished up practicing at the field, but we were not yet done.  Our next spot was a calm road with few cars and mostly pedestrians.  At the end of the road, we could make a U-turn and return to the start.  We all practiced driving on the road and they even let me drive once.  I had a blast!  Finally, we were driven in the rickshaws back to our hotel.

The hotel is very spartan, but it will do!  We have settled in and I am dreading waking up early in the morning tomorrow. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic! 


  1. Rohan - Another great post! I really enjoy your blog! peter

  2. Thanks for commenting Peter! Hope the skii season kicks up soon for you!

  3. Hi Rohan - I am learning so much from your blog!! I thought a rickshaw was pulled by a person. Didn't know they were like little "Smart Cars"!! Are they electric or gas or battery? Your photos are so amazing! Love you, Grandmalish

  4. Fastastic! I too am learning very much from your blog. I think I will forward it to the lady from Pune.

  5. Grandma Lish, I am pretty sure the the rickshaws run on gas. Thank you all for commenting.