Do not take the Railway Ministry's warning to commute by local trains in Mumbai only if it's an emergency lightly. Ferrying panic-stricken commuters are jittery motormen, many of whom have never driven a local train.
Among many first timers who came to the rescue of the stranded Mumbaikars was 47-year-old A R Khanilkar.
Khanilkar has been driving a goods train for nearly a decade and motoring a Mumbai local was nothing less than a nightmare come true.
He was one of the many motormen who drove the last local out of CST on Monday at 11.51 pm, which was packed with commuters. An engine was attached to each end of the train, which Khanilkar ran.
"It was risky. I was worried because I never imagined ferrying thousands of commuters. I had to stop the train twice at the station because the length of the platforms was short and I'm not accustomed to it. Driving a goods train is a different ball game," he said.
Commuters were stranded for hours on end, desperate to reach their destination, but the motorman was reluctant to accelerate. "There are so many bogies attached to the local with so many people in it. I was scared to speed. But when I reached Badlapur I was relieved. It was a great feeling to come to the rescue of helpless commuters. I would like to do this again, but never in such a situation," said Khanilkar.
If the motormen continue to strike work, Khanilkar may find himself in the driver's seat of the local train soon, again.