Remember I mentioned to you all that I’ve joined Toastmasters and put up my first speech 2 months back on this space.
We are to complete 10 project speeches in the year and I moved to complete my Project-2 yesterday. The topic I chose was the one which has been very dear to me having lived in Mumbai 26 years of my life. It also won me my first award at Toastmasters. Yes, yours truly won the “Best Speaker” award for this speech yesterday.
“Public Transport and Me”
Staggering statistics aren’t they? Don’t worry I’m not here to conduct a statistics class. Dear esteemed guests and my fellow toastmasters, I’m here to share my admiration for the public transport in a city and why I prefer to use it.
The first 2 numbers represent the two lifelines of Mumbai – its Local Train System and BEST Bus system. Growing up in the busy, crowded, crazy Mumbai city, I have spent an approximate 21,600 hours i.e. almost 1.5 years of my entire life traveling in them. Are there any folks here from London? I’m sure you are tempted to make similar calculations in your head because the 3rd line of numbers represents the London Tube – “Mind the Gap”, one of the main reasons I love London as city. However, I can also sense folks who have rarely used a public transport thinking “What a waste of time” – spending 1.5 years of your life traveling?
And that is exactly my point – it was never a waste of time.
I grew up in South Mumbai where buses governed my travel to school and college. All the institutions I attended were unfortunately very strict about punctuality, my parents were also very strict with me – as a student there was no way my parents were going to let me spend 10 times the amount on a cab just cause I could grab 15 minutes of extra sleep in the morning. So I had to catch my bus on time.
I got married and moved to Suburban Mumbai; my first office was at the other end of the town – 35 Kms of travel one way via train and bus. In my 1.5 years there, I never got late to work, catching my morning 7.41 train and then the connecting 9.05 bus – That’s how efficient the transport was or still is, despite the traffic woes in the city.
Buses & Trains taught me discipline and value of time.
Now I was spending 2-3 hours traveling daily – so I figured out ways to utilize those hours.
Reading: I read a lot! Most of the books on my bookshelf have been completed during my bus and train travel. I would complete 2-3 novels a week. Newspapers were bought at the bus-stop /train station every morning by me and my fellow travelers. We would read them on our way to college/office – in our small way we helped the newspaper industry earn some additional revenue.
Radio & Music: My favourite companions: I would plug in my earphones and listen to the constant chitter-chatter of my favorite radio-jockeys and latest city happenings. I’ve come to believe that all the radio channels in the world owe their popularity to the billion public transport users. If I got bored of the radio – I would switch to my mp3 player. When else do we take out 1 hour to listen to our favorite songs?
Information Gathering: Now, if you are traveling on the London Tube or any of Europe’s main city local transport – you’ll see most people with books or with their ipods, but my city Mumbai has to be different. If you seek information don’t bother searching on google/wikipedia, the ladies train compartment in the Mumbai local train is the best source of information on parenting, kids psychology, tackling in-laws, latest film gossip, politics, recipes, knitting, shopping, work, college life, fashion trends – name it and you’ll overhear it. I never eavesdropped but Mumbai trains are so crowded that even if you want to avoid listening, the conversations still fall upon your ears and you walk out a much knowledgeable person.
The Friendships I made: Only in Mumbai do you have this concept of “bus friends” and “train friends”. We are tied to the clock and everyone ends up taking their specific trains every single day. I made many such special friends. They lent me a shoulder when I was upset, and they jumped with excitement on any good news I shared. In those 1 hour conversations we shared our lives with each other.
Drama on the Roads: I have seen a family of 5 trying to fit onto the 2-wheeler ride, the bickering bullying bus and cab drivers, the guy proposing to his girlfriend in the 3-wheeler auto-rickshaw, the wife and husband fighting in the car, their kids making monkey faces at the other travelers and enjoying the chaos. I have watched so much drama on the roads that I rarely missed watching television.
Going Green: Without realizing I helped the world “Go Green” in a small way – by reducing pollution and traffic by not taking my vehicle. I do my little bit to reduce the carbon footprint. Did you know how much you can contribute by not taking your car out even if it is for one day? Here are some “green” stats. Also imagine the tensions you set yourself free from by not driving in traffic.
Dubai and Me: And finally, I came to Dubai in 2006 and needless to say we did not hit it off well owing to her lack of a good public transport system. The Metro construction had just begun; I thought I was the only one eagerly waiting for the Metro but I was proved wrong – that last statistic I mentioned in the first slide is about the Dubai Metro. I hope it will soon become a lifeline of this place – just like London, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai, Singapore have their lifelines.
I take the Metro everyday from work to home. I like the 7 mins walk from here to the station – I get to see the Burj lit up beautifully in the evening and even though the ride home is just 2 stations away; the 15 minutes spent with myself listening to my favourite music makes up for a tiring day spent at work
Yeah, I’m a public transport girl – I may own a car but I’ll leave her behind any day. I’m still a Mumbaite at heart when it comes to trains and buses.
I’m leaving you all with some words about public transport to take home today – next time when we meet let me know if you’d consider becoming a public transport person too?