"साहेबाचा पोऱ्या मोठा अकली, बिन बैलान गाडी कशी हकली ."
( I remember the above couplet from my 9th standard history school text. Any error in reproduction is regretted.)
The first train ran at 3:35 pm on April 16th, 1853, when 14 railway carriages and 400 guests left Bombay's Bori Bunder for Thane, with a 21-gun salute. It was hauled by three locomotives: Sindh, Sultan, and Sahib. The journey took an hour and fifteen minutes.
The freedictionary.com defines 'straphang' as: "To travel as a straphanger", as on a subway or bus and straphanger as "One who grips a hanging strap or similar device for support while riding as a passenger on a bus or subway."
Now, I have traveled quite a bit on Mumbai local trains, often in second class, luckily not often during the rush hours, and, more importantly, against the flow of the majority (i.e. traveling towards South in the evenings and North in the mornings).
I thought I knew a little about straphanhging and then one day I took a fast train around 5 PM from VT and alighted (?) at Ghatkopar. I felt my education in straphanhging or simply hanging-for-dear-life was complete.
1905: Comic card from the District Railway, whose electric trains defied the underground's reputation for slowness and unreliability, and taught passengers the new skill of 'straphanging' during rush hours
Image courtesy London Transport Museum and Brainpickings.org
Now, look at the following picture of inside of a Mumbai local.
People are hanging on to straphangers or bars. There is lots of pushing and shoving. But not all are irritated.
Look at the smiling man at the centre of the picture wearing a headgear. He is looking at the open palm of the man standing next to him and lo, he sees a better future there!
caption: "You are soon buying a car ! Line on your palm only is telling it...."
("तुम्ही लौकरच मोटार घेणार ! हातावरची रेषाच सांगतेय … ")
Artist: Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे), 'Vyangkala- Chitrakala' ('व्यंगकला - चित्रकला'), 2005
(note- This is Sarwate's early cartoon, first published decades ago)
I buy one Marathi and two English dailies and I did not see even a mention of this anniversary in them.
However, today morning I was glad to see that Google had decided to celebrate it, doodle style.