Mindfulness and the Mumbai Train Commute

“Next station Ghatkopar”, the sweet voice of a lady blares through the speakers in the compartment. Two bags are taken off the rack, three people pushed violently aside and four hands go up in the air and hold on to the swaying metallic handles behind me. A curious and intrepid youth ahead of me decides to lean out of the door to confirm that the station is indeed arriving. The train slowly approaches the platform and I am all but ready to disembark. ExceptI don’t want to. Beads of sweat cover my face as I consider my position in this mess. Getting pushed out seemed inevitable. “Do you want to get off here?” a gentleman standing on the side asks me just in time and I exchange positions with him. Sigh. Another day, another successful commute.

Mindfulness refers to the state of complete awareness of the mind in the present moment. Every day, every commute in a crowded Mumbai local train is a lesson in mindfulness. Mind you, the train has to be crowded. An empty train actually serves the opposite purpose it lets your mind wander to the deepest reaches of the universe and only when the name of your station repeats for the third time on the speaker do you snap out of your reverie.

In a train so full that you cannot see where one person ends and the other one begins, survival is key. Unless you have to get off at the last station, you either have to hope that you get a seat or keep shifting positions. Every position shift is dependent on which side the next station’s platform is going to come on. Amongst all of this, you have to ensure you do not step on someone’s toes, accidently yank earphones out of their ears or elbow them in the face. It doesn’t matter if you have failed a test, seen your favourite football team get thrashed or are just frustrated with life, your mind is so occupied trying to execute these manoeuvres that everything else goes out of the window. For about an hour or so, you are in the moment.

It might look like a positive spin on a stressful part of the day for many, but acknowledging those hours of commute as time dedicated towards mindfulness might actually help in reducing stress and anxiety. Having complete focus in the present moment shuts down incessant mental babble and gives way to a fulfilling and productive mind-set.

Commuting to work thinking and obsessing about the argument that you had with your boss the previous night is not going to help you win it— it will only cause mental confusion, depression and a total lack of attention to detail in any work that you do. Mindfulness helps you approach your college or workplace with a fresh mind without any accompanying baggage.

Nobody likes their daily commute unless it involves a chauffeur and a Mercedes Benz. However, it sure can decide what kind of a day you will have. And if you are commuting in a crowded Mumbai local train, it sure will give you the chance to practice a bit of mindfulness that is hard to come by in this age when everyone craves for escapism.