You may have heard that Mumbai is India’s most populous city. Nowhere is this more visible than at Dadar train station during commute hours. I once stood there, missing train after train, unable to push my way into already over crowded compartments. The sight of watching people explode out of these trains remind me of angry swarming bees, making their way out of a smoky bee hive.
After a month in Mumbai, I have finally learned to maneuver the crowd. I know not to get on a fast train during commute hours. A few weeks ago I was unable to get off one, but that is a whole other blog. I get to work early by Indian standards, 8:45am. I time my commute home accordingly to avoid massive crowds. While I am avoiding crowds, the rest of Mumbai is trying to save time. Mumbaikars will push, shove and elbow their way into a train rather than wait 5 minutes longer for another one. I have heard that women even chop their veggies on the train to cut down their cooking time. I come across the best entrepreneurs on the train. Have a broken zipper? No problem, someone can fix that for you. Missed your breakfast? There is plenty of dhoklas, upmas and roti sellers, who will provide you with a quick plate of your favorite. Toy vendors always get the best of my guilty-busy-working-mom side.
The train station themselves are filled with entrepreneurs. My favorite one is a cow, or rather it’s owner. Not too far from Churchgate station, as people are frantically swarming to their destinations, a healthy cow waits to bless passers-by. There are no signs that say, “seek my blessings” or “feed me”, but everyone seems to know exactly what to do. For several days I wondered why this cow was tied at this busy intersection and why its owner was rolling what looked like laddoos. The next day I noticed some men stop their mad hour rush to gently touch the cow and then touch their foreheads. It took me a while to finally see the exchange of money, Rs. 10 to feed a wheat laddoo to the living goddess. You could also choose from a pile of greens because the goddess prefers variety.
There are no shortages of entrepreneurs in India, but this one is a perfect example of a social enterprise. The owner of the cow is not only getting a healthy and well-fed cow, but is also providing a service to the commuters. It is a win-win situation for all parties involved. The cow’s blessing may or may not guarantee a good day ahead, but it definitely makes the busy bees stop, even if it is just for a quick second. So, people in Mumbai may not have time to stop and smell the roses, but they certainly have time to……well, you know the rest.