2016 SM intern Emma reflects on the modes of transportation she encountered during her first few weeks in India.
There are many types of transportation that I’ve seen used here in India. To get to Bardoli, we started by taking a plane from Boston to Paris and then to Mumbai. From there we got a taxi, then caught a train to Surat, and then took a car to Bardoli. Once G and I got here, we settled in and then were whisked away on motorbikes to go shopping for food and clothes. The motorbikes have been my favorite type of transportation that we’ve taken so far. At first I was worried about tipping over, but they were much more stable than I expected and zipping around through traffic was great fun!
In the last couple of weeks here, we’ve mostly used walking to get around Bardoli. Our trips to Station Road seemed long at first, but now we’ve gotten used to the walk and head over there almost everyday for a juice or milkshake at our favorite juice bar. Occasionally we have taken rickshaws to get around, but our first long rickshaw trip was when we headed off to Mumbai for a weekend of sightseeing.
We woke up early in the morning on Friday, hurriedly finished our packing, and headed downstairs to meet our rickshaw driver. We set off for the train station in Surat, and the ride was long but comfortable. The rickshaws may not go as fast as cars, but they’re smaller and can more easily weave through the clustered roads full of slow traffic. It’s easier to see the landscape through the open sides of a rickshaw than through the windows of a car or train, and on our way I saw fields of crops scattered with people, women in every color sari imaginable, and clusters of shops that seemed quiet and sleepy in the early morning light.
The seats on our train to Mumbai were comfortable and spacious. I slept for a few minutes at a time, then watched out the window, then read my book and listened to music. We arrived at Mumbai Central and hailed a taxi to take us to Andheri. This was the wildest ride we’ve encountered so far in India. Our driver took us on the ceiling road over the city, and we weaved through traffic with incredible speed. Our driver was not messing around, and he was going to make our ride as short as possible by going as fast as he could. The windows were open and the wind whipped through the taxi, bringing in dirt that stung my eyes. This ride was certainly an adventure.
The next day we headed off for some sightseeing. We rode the Mumbai Metro to a nearby train station, and I was happily surprised by how modern and pleasant the Metro was. Our local train did not share these same qualities. We were forced to shove ourselves onto the train, pushing into tightly packed bodies to find ourselves with barely enough room to reach up and hang on to the handles for balance. We were lucky to have chosen the all-women’s cart. The other option would have been significantly more uncomfortable. After a little while on the train, it began to empty out and we were able to lean out the doors to feel the fresh air rushing past.
During our time in Mumbai, we took more taxis and trains as we made our way through the city. We were constantly met with packs of people and vehicles that made things as simple as crossing the street seem much too daunting to be achievable. On our way back to Bardoli, we took a rickshaw and I observed the different means of transportation that covered the roads. The one thing that these rickshaws, trains, taxis, buses, wagons, and motorbikes have in common is that each can be seen stuffed with more people than I could ever imagine safely fitting without maxing out capacity. One thing I am still discovering in India is the sheer number of people that inhabit these areas and travel along the roads and streets, going about their daily tasks in clusters and groups larger than I could have imagined possible.