Mumbai: Like thousands of others who don’t get the day off for Christmas, I too had to go to work. I had been warned of the December 25 mega block between Kalyan and Dombivli until 2pm on Wednesday. I accordingly adjusted my schedule and left home shortly after noon, reaching Shahad station at 12.30pm. I hopped on a Kalyan slow, scheduled to leave at 12.56pm, a journey which went off without event.
Since during the block period, there was no direct service to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), I left Kalyan and sought an auto for Dombivli station. I found that ‘surge pricing’ was in effect, as is common practice during a public transport crisis; I would have to pay Rs 100 for a seat, I was informed. Having no choice, I boarded the auto along with three other passengers. Thanks to the heavy traffic, it took us more than hour to reach.
The scene at Dombivli station was unnerving – the platforms were crowded beyond imagination. There was bandobast, with CRPF personnel and lady constables instructing commuters to allow people to alight from trains first and refrain from pushing and shoving. All these instructions were thrown to the winds when a CSMT-bound train pulled in. Somehow, I boarded the train and managed to find a seat. With every halt, the train only got further crowded. It was suffocating to say the least and I saw how at major halts like Thane, Ghatkopar and Kurla, people were afraid to board the train because it was near-impossible to do so and stay alive. There was a massive exodus at Dadar, only after which did the dozen-odd people left on the train breathe easy. It was 4pm by the time I reached work. All I could think was: Would it have killed the Railways to have run extra short-distance locals to Dadar and CSMT from Dombivli and Thane?