20 Rupees and 1 Hour

Woman preparing food for her cow

I leave my house between 8 and 8:15am. As I walk down the lane toward the main road the sounds of Bombay waking echo in my ears, crows are squawking, motorbikes revving and gates are opening. You’ll never find an auto as quickly as I can at 8am. Before I’m even to the street an auto will have stopped and I’m en route to Khar Train Station. I should walk, I think that every morning but between the computer I carry and the clock I’m racing I rarely do. There’s a small garbage pile at the end of my street and my commute starts by swerving around the cows which gather here. I pass women preparing food for the cows, as the day gets going passersbys will pay them a small sum to feed the cow in their care. At the hour which I commute the streets are still lined with people sleeping, beginning to wake, children laughing and crying, women combing their hair, making tea over open flames on the streets of Bombay. Khar station is known as a hot spot for day laborers and hundreds of people will gather here hoping to get work for the day. I’m dropped in a line of autos, buses arriving, departing, and honking. The steady stream of people coming out of the station is in full form but it will continue to increase in intensity throughout the morning. I reach the train platform and it’s a matter of minutes before I’m en route to Churchgate Station, the last stop on the Mumbai Local Railway, Western Line. I ride the ladies car which means I sit, or stand among hundreds of other women in colorful saris, scarves, jeans, burquas and suites. There is no typical woman in Mumbai and nowhere is that so obvious as the ladies car. Women pray, eat, read the newspaper, talk on their phones, tend to their kids and gossip with one another as the train advances south – moving just a few of the 6 million commutes who travel by local train each day. I usually read or I visit the lives and stories of my friends back home on Facebook while I ride but sometimes I just stare out the window – overwhelmed even after 5 months at the sights, sounds and smells that I see. The train route provides a unique view of the city. The tracks are lined on many sides with slum home, garbage piles, men using the tracks at their toilet, cooking fired and people walking with buckets of water from pumps back to their homes. I reach Churchgate station. I step down from the train and I’m enveloped into the crowd of Bombay’s morning commuters. There are about 10-12 men for every woman walking in this crowd. I walk past the towering Victorian building of Mumbai University, The Bombay High Court and past Flora Fountain. I cut across a parking lot which is houses a number of families. They will just be stating their morning routine, some will still be sleeping. By 10 am they will disappear from the parking lot and dozens are cars will fill the lot. A few more turns and I enter Bombay House, the historic headquarters of Tata & Sons the parent company of the 100 plus Tata Companies. It’s about 9am. Time to start my workday. It takes me 20 rupees and 1 hour to get to work. There is nothing special about my commute in Bombay.

Gayatri Eassey is committed to making an impact and a difference in her community both in the United States and in India, both personally and professionally. She is passionate about education, democracy and women's empowerment. She enjoys traveling, taking pictures and spending time with friends and family. She is a dedicated advocate for educational equity and has worked for The College Success Foundation and as Associate Director for External Affairs for Seattle University's Career Services Office. She is the former Interim Executive Director for Career Services at Seattle University. Prior to working at Seattle University she served as Executive Director of City Year Seattle, and as special assistant for boards and commissions in the Office of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. She spent three years on the Seattle Community College Board of Trustees. She was the co-founder of the YWCA's Gen-Rising Committee, committed to engaging more young people in the critical work of the YWCA. Her additional experience includes work as a trainer for the National Democratic Institute in Amman, Jordan, preparing women to run for elective office. She has also served as political director for the Washington State Democrats. She recently completed a fellowship with the National Urban Fellows, America's Leaders of Change. She is a former board member for the Center for Women and Democracy, the Institute for a Democratic Future, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Network. She was the Statewide President of the Young Democrats of Washington and a Fellow with the World Affairs Council of Seattle. She earned her MBA in 2012 and hopes to align her government and nonprofit background with her business education to support public private partnerships which provide mutual benefit and strengthen communities.

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