It was a routine bright day on the streets of Mumbai, and I was obviously getting late for my office. So, I started moving on the bustling market street to reach the metro station as soon as possible. Residing near the metro station at Ghatkopar, the metro was the most fitting option for me to reach my office in Andheri, that too in pandemic restrictions. While imagining the reasons to tell my boss for being late, I scanned my metro pass and quickly reached the platform, waiting for the train to arrive. It was a bit too hot that day, so I was clearly expecting to get inside the train. The train arrived quite soon on time, as usual, and it was one of the many reasons why I preferred traveling by metro.

During the peak hours, the crowd in the metro was as same as a typical local train in Mumbai. However, I was quite habitual to traveling in that rush after moving for a long time. The train swiftly left the Ghatkopar station and I fixed my headphones, enjoying the view outside through a gleaming window. However, when the metro boarded on the Sakinaka station after a while, a pack of passengers came through my compartment, and I suddenly got obstructed by the crowd. When I was struggling to adjust myself in that fully packed compartment, I gradually realized that the air conditioner was not working or may be not fully working in some areas of metro compartments, and my fellow passengers further began the discussion about the same.

We all waited for some time assuming that the AC will start working, but nothing improved even after we reached Airport Road station. The crowd kept rushing in and the heat kept on rising in the compartment. After a while, everyone started sweating out of excessive heat, and the rage for not being able to get some fresh air also increased with it. Passengers started getting out of their phones and began discussing what might have happened. While all of this chaos took place, my mind began remembering the time when I used to travel by local train in Mumbai. Even in that terrifying rush, I at least had a chance to get some air through open windows and doors. Suddenly, a noisy voice of a passenger crashed my thoughts, as he began complaining about this matter to the guard who visits the compartment. But of course, the guard also had no clue about the problem and he kept on advising everyone to keep calm.

I somehow managed to stand near the doors as I was trying to get some fresh air whenever the train halted at stations. However, this idea did not work, as the dry air kept reaching through the station halts. This was the time I was anxiously waiting for Andheri station to arrive, not because I was late, but to get rid of that unbearable heat and suffocation inside the metro. And when I reached Andheri, I took a breath of relief after getting out of the train and quickly moved towards the exit gate.

While I was trying to walk as fast as possible, I heard someone shouting my name from back, and when I turned, it was my senior colleague Dhruv from my office. He returned last week from a work trip to the US, and we met for the first time after his trip. Before I tried to ask him about his US trip, he furiously began to rant about the problems of these big metro cities. Dhruv explained how these metros have always had poor progress with running and ventilation in them. I wondered what he is exactly talking about, and then he further talked about the tragic time when he got stuck underground on the NYC Metro for an hour, and how it was his most unfortunate experience in that city.

While Dhruv went on with his long list of complaints, we began walking towards our office, which was barely 10 minutes from the station. As Dhruv’s complaint list was running on, I suggested him to walk fast, as we were getting late. And out of disappointment, he asked me, “What if our metro gets stuck mid-air without any ventilation?”. Trust me, I wasn’t ready for a question like that!

I overlooked his question but Dhruv insisted to think and answer. My mind began flooding with all the possibilities of what will happen if we get stuck like that. Mumbai’s metro train travels through the high mid-air spans, but what if the metro gets stuck in the way, just like Dhruv’s NY experience.

I had been traveling through the metro for a very long time, so I remembered that there were no emergency doors or anything like that. And even if there are some ways to open auto-locked metro doors, where will we go after opening them? If the train gets stuck in the mid-air tracks, there’s surely no place where we can go. And this whole incident unquestionably sounds like some type of terror! All the passengers like me who travel by metro are not completely aware of any such security protocols that we should follow if a horrifying situation like that occurs. While I was thinking about all those frightening possibilities, Dhruv pulled me out of my train of thoughts and jokingly said, “Next stop... Office!”.

We both reached the office and we parted our ways to our cabins... Yet, the question which Dhruv asked did not drop my mind that day… What if our metro gets stuck mid-air?...

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