If cinema has taught me anything, it’s that when you’re in a hurry, especially when running away from a bad guy, it’s perfectly fine to jump on or off a moving train. Especially in India.
Think about it.
Jumping on the train is what allowed Jamal and Salim to escape from the evil gangsters in Slumdog Millionaire. James Bond managed to prevent a major war by jumping on and off trains in Octopussy. Hell, even those three brothers in The Darjeeling Limited managed to catch their trains with an entire collection of Louis Vuitton suitcases!
So when I arrived at the Churchgate train station in Mumbai, semi-lost, I didn’t think twice that jumping out was a bad idea…
Now, to begin with, the day had started off pretty bad. After days feeling restless and frustrated waiting to recover from my food poisoning, I forced myself out of the house to finally do some sightseeing.
Despite still feeling weak, I had made plans to meet a friend that afternoon to show me some of the city’s major sites. But after two hours of my friend’s work-related delays, my sick, frustrated and impatient self decided to head to South Mumbai on my own.
As I took the hour-long train ride into the city, I tried to remember where exactly I was supposed to get off. While I couldn’t recall the exact name of the station, I did remember my friend saying it was the last stop on the line, so I figured I would just wait until they announced the last stop.
When we arrived at Churchgate Station, I vague bell went off in my head, but since they had not mentioned that this was the last stop (as they obviously would), I figured I’d just hold my place. But when the train started moving backwards, I began to panic.
After already losing a number of days to illness and the delays in the afternoon, I was determined to not waste any more time by having to travel all the way to the previous station and back again.
So I decided to jump.
Now, if I had had time to actually think about the consequences of jumping off the train, I probably would have imagined a light, graceful Erica leaping off the train like a doe before landing softly on my feet and casually walking to the nearest exit. Actually, given my imagination, I might have thrown a few turns and a toe-touch into the landing.
But in the few seconds between when the train started to move and when I decided to jump, any notion of thought, and certainly any notion of physics, went out the window.
The next thing I know, I’m lying face down on the Churchgate Station platform, gawked at by what I imagined to be hundreds of Indians laughing at me from the train.
As I wobbly stood up, examining the damage on my throbbing, scraped knee and elbow, I forced myself not to cry. Though the damage was minimal, days of frustration at my body now added with a sense of stupidity and humiliation, and it took every ounce of strength to hold back.
Once I left the station, a few tears slipping out, my pride vowed never to tell anyone, especially my parents, about this incident, not if I wanted to retain any strand of self-respect or prevent my mother from personally coming to fetch me home to stop me from doing anything more stupid.
But the massive red welts on my arm and knee weren’t in on the secret. The next thing I know, I’m on the receiving end of a series of lectures by my hosts, Geeta and Suresh, and all of their friends on how dangerous jumping off trains is and how tons of people die every year from falling in between the train and platform. Even Ananyah, their 15-year-old daughter, took on the Mom role in telling me how stupid it is to jump out of trains.
But I think the best reaction came from my doctor, affectionately deemed “Dr. Handsome,” who noticed the welts during my food poisoning check-up. His lecture started with, “The problem with Americans is they never get properly yelled at as children…”
As appreciative I was of all the helpful advice, I’m pretty sure eating the pavement in front of hundreds of strangers is as effective as any to prevent me from jumping out of any more trains.
And, sorry Mom, cat’s out of the bag :).