The Congestion Challenge.

Saeed Akhtar pits the Mahindra Rodeo in a race against Mumbai’s famous local trains and BEST buses.
Photography by Sawan S Hembram

One of the nicer things about living in a metro is the plethora of options at your disposal in every aspect of life. From consumer products to dining and entertainment, you are literally flooded with options. And this has fringe benefits too. Like being able to take various modes of transport to work. And when we are talking about a city like Mumbai, the array of choices becomes truly bewildering. On the one hand, you have the usual taxi-cabs, auto-rickshaws and buses and, on the other, you have Mumbai’s famous local trains, the city’s ‘lifeline’. And then there is the slightly better-off class who prefer to commute on their own two and four-wheelers. But which mode of transport really is the best? To settle the matter once and for all, we decided to have an only-one-of-its-kind shootout wherein we will pit the three most popular modes of Mumbai transport against each other in a purely scientific test.

The plan was straightforward. Starting from the same place, three commuters (including myself) would take three different modes of transport – a scooter, a bus and a local train – to reach our destination, an office complex in Nariman Point. The winner? Ah, that’s easy…..whoever takes the shortest time to reach Nariman Point wins. And since commuting is also about convenience and saving money, we factored in those parameters too. After much deliberation it was decided that Ravi would take the train, Minocher would take the bus while I would take the Mahindra Rodeo and document the experiment.

The three musketeers all ready and primed for the race ON FOUR WHEELS:Minocher prepares to board a bus

With the intention of proving each of their chosen means of transport the best, the three of us started from Samatanagar, Kandivali, at exactly 8:30am on a weekday. As expected, I was off to a flying start even though it took me some time to don all the protective gear. A word of advice to our dear readers here. Please don’t underestimate the importance of donning protective gear at all times, no matter whether you are popping down to the shot round the corner or revving your bike’s nuts off on a racetrack.

ON MANY WHEELS:Heading towards Railway Station

A disaster waiting to happen. But this is what drives
the legendary spirit of Mumbai.

SUNNY SIDE UP – Traffic lights in Mumbai double up
as race grids and commercial venues for hawaker’s

As I pulled away on the Rodeo, Ravi and Minocher also took off in their own ways. While Minocher headed straight for the nearest bus stand, Ravi was not so lucky, because the Kandivali railway station was located approximately three kilometres from where he was and, therefore, he had to take an auto-rickshaw to the station. Here he discovered the first flaw of travelling by train the hard way. The train doesn’t come to your doorstep, you have to go to it, just as the thirsty one has to go to the well, not vice-versa. In Ravi’s case, it meant taking an auto-rickshaw to the station and then waiting patiently. And when it arrived, it was so crowded that travelling in a can of sardines would have sounded a better prospect for him. For the uninitiated, just the simple matter of getting onto a train can transform an atheist into believing in the concepts of afterlife and righteous retribution. Also, the number of thefts and pickpockets might make one start believing in vigilante justice. Shudder.
Meanwhile, Minocher was left waiting for the bus that would take him to our common destination. Now, the buses in Mumbai seldom display the route and stops in English, preferring instead to display them in Marathi or Hindi, so the people who don’t know these aforementioned languages have to be especially careful. One also has to be choosy in selecting the right bus stop as buses don’t stop at every stop, choosing instead to stop at their discretion or simply when they see a large crowd. In theory, buses marked with their numbers painted in black commonly stop at all routes while those marked in red stop at specially designated bus stops only. It is also a good idea to have small change in your pocket before boarding one.
As for me and my trusted steed, it was pretty smooth sailing from the word ‘go’. Of the trio, the two-wheeler is the only option here that will take you right from your doorstep to your office parking bay and back. That alone scores enough brownies to make the other two commuting options seem downright pointless. If you are riding something like the Mahindra Rodeo, you can stow away your bag and rain gear under the seat. Heck, the Rodeo will even accommodate a laptop or a full-face helmet.
Call it the superiority of two-wheeled locomotion or sheer luck, I was the first to arrive at our designated meeting point outside the office building at Nariman Point, Mumbai’s premier business hub. In the course of this run, I had travelled past some of Mumbai’s most iconic landmarks like the P D Hinduja National Hospital at Mahim, the Siddhivinayak Temple at Prabhadevi, the Haji Ali durgah and Kemp’s Corner. Having completed the 37-kilometre stretch in one hour and 25 minutes approximately, in rush-hour traffic, it was time to sit back and prepare some scathing epithets for the other two competitors who dared to question the superiority of the two-wheeler. And so, cold drink in hand, I waited. And waited. And waited some more.
At 10.05 am Ravi, our train chap, finally pulled in. In a taxi-cab. Turns out that his preferred mode of transport could get him to only a couple of kilometres from Nariman Point, its route ending at Churchgate. I couldn’t help sniggering a bit, noticing that he could do with a much-needed bath and some sleep, the inevitable effects of a train journey. By the time Minocher turned up it was 10.20 am and we were all left in no doubt as to which one was the winner. In meticulous detail, he proceeded to explain how he had to change routes and buses in order to reach Nariman Point.
After noting down all the pros and cons we encountered during this run, there was only one conclusion. The Mahindra Rodeo beats the local train and the bus fairly and squarely on almost every parameter. Be it speed, comfort or sheer convenience, there is no beating it. While Minocher took an hour and 50 minutes to complete the run, Ravi did the same distance in an hour and thirtyfive minutes. While the Rodeo with me on board did the same run in a mere one hour and 25 minutes. In monetary terms too, the Rodeo made the most sense here. Minocher had to fork out Rs.85 for his bus adventures while the train journey left Ravi poorer by Rs.65. Whereas it took me less than the price of a liter of fuel ( Rs. 55) to accomplish this trip. Even setting aside the price difference, the benefits of commuting two-wheels outweighs being ferried around in a train or bus. Besides, you can’t put a price tag on freedom of mobility, can you?

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