Do you know what is one of best things about Mumbai? It’s Mumbai Locals!

Locals are the lifeline of Mumbai. They are fastest means of transport which will take you to each and every corner of the city. But for me, more than a means of transport, it has been a diary full of amazing people, lovely experiences, great conversations, a place for shopping on wheels and much more.

Of many people I have met during my daily commute, I remember a special person and her name is “Malati”. She is a young lady, gracefully draped in cotton saris. She is tall, beautiful and with dark complexion, she is epitome of Indian beauty.  She has these big bright eyes, high cheek bones, her facial features are beautifully chiseled. Elements which draw your attention towards her are; her long mangal sutra (a sacred thread worn by Indian married women) and you can never see her without her flower garland neatly covering her bun. But, her best feature is her larger than life smile.

She use to take train from Mankhurd. She traveled every day to Byculla to sell vegetables. (If you are thinking, how come she used to get into general compartment? It was not her, it was me who used to travel in vendor compartment). She used to light up the compartment with her laughter form the moment she entered in. And, she will ask everyone for their well being. She would bring home made sweets on special occasions and share it everyone in the compartment.

One day, I was pleasantly surprised. The moment I got into the train, the compartment was painted in all the bright colors possible red, blue, green etc. It was a festival celebrated by married women, thanking the almighty for the amazing life partner and their blissfully married life. I don’t know how almighty came into picture but it did give them an opportunity to dress themselves up and have fun. All the married women were dressed in expensive saris and adorned layers of gold jewelry. Every one of them discussing the price of the silk sari they wore and the price of the jewelry they wore. Many of them could not contain their happiness in the glitters. It was total madness. Everyone got busy talking and sharing sweets or savories they had brought from their homes.

At Mankhurd, Malati entered the compartment. I thought she would have also dressed herself up like others. But, today something was different. There was nothing unusual about her regular self except for her smile. It was missing and today for the first time since I knew her, I saw her blank face. I wanted to immediately go and ask her if she was okay. Looking at my face, I think the lady sitting right next to me, Aruna aunty understood my feelings and stopped me from approaching her. Aruna aunty was very sweet to me. She had two daughters happily married and staying away from her and I reminded her of her daughters. She was one of the veterans of this vendor compartment and has been travelling for years to her fort office.

Instead of asking Malati, I asked her, why isn’t she dressed up? Why isn’t she celebrating? Is her husband not so good? What is it?

Troubled by my questions, Aruna Aunty decided to narrate a story.

She told me that once upon a time there was a very happy family. The father was earning well enough to provide for the family. He used to love his family and had dreams to educate his children to best of his ability. During summer vacations, this family went to Kerela, their native place and something happened which changed the course of destiny for this family. The father died due to organ failure. Till this time no one was aware that that father had a problem of alcoholism and the family was devastated. He was the only earning member. Now who will take care of the family, children’s education, the expenses etc.

After performing the last rites of the father, the mother decided to return to Mumbai so that the children’s education is not hampered. But, even that night was cruel to her. While going back home, some guys tried to trouble her by asking questions like where is your man? Why are you alone? Do you want a man in your life?

She was a single woman with two children and with loads of problems to take care of. It was this night that made her realize the importance of having a man in her life more than ever before. It was as if the world said that the life was over for her.

But, instead of getting scared, she reached home and decided to work for her children’s future. That night transformed her. Next morning she got up and wore her mangalsutra before going out. When her children asked, why is she doing this? She answered I am still married to your father and this mangal sutra reminds me that he is always with me and that she doesn’t need another man in her life.

Do you truly think this was the reason she wore her mangal sutra again? She wore it in order to prevent the people from troubling her. She does the same till this date only to take care of her children and protect herself from the evil eyes. Not for once, the children mention that the father is not there. Today, she sells vegetables and provides for the family with honesty, dignity and integrity.

It’s been long that I met her but it was that day when I saw courage being personified. I can never forget her face and her perseverance to not to give up for her family and herself. And I completely agree to what my mother says that no one can ever imagine what a woman can do for her family and her children.

Photo Credits: Elayaraja S

Link: For more work of Elayaraja, please visit:

25 Beautiful South Indian women Paintings by Elayaraja