‘It Could’ve Been Me’: My First Thought After Elphinstone Stampede

The images from Elphinstone tragedy unsettled me in a way I just couldn’t understand – they aroused a fear within.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Every morning, I catch a slow local to Churchgate to get to work. For 25 minutes in the train compartment, I let Mumbai get inside of me. When its finally time to get off, I find myself amidst a sea of humans surging forth in waves towards one of three staircases at Elphinstone Road Station. Five minutes later, when I am on the road outside the station, I uncross my fingers.

Still alive.

This is my every day routine in the chaotic city of Mumbai, teeming with people but not enough strength or space to hold them all. Except today, I broke my routine. With a tight deadline this morning and two all-nighters behind me, I decided to finish my story and stay at home to nurse a headache.

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Just as my article was drawing to a close and I was preparing to let my boss know I wouldn’t be coming in today, my phone began to whir with a flurry of notifications. Simultaneously, my Twitter feed started going ballistic. Only one phrase struck me as I read the messages and the tweets.

‘Stampede at Elphinstone Road Station.’

Even before I could process this or read further to ascertain the severity of this stampede, images and videos began to flood my Twitter feed. I sat immobile as images of the dead and wounded accosted me. As a journalist, I had seen such images time and again. However, these particular images unsettled me in a way I just couldn’t understand; I was afraid within.

It was five minutes later, while I was on the phone with my editor, that I realised what had disturbed me so badly. Those dead people laid out on the floor of the station, the ones being rushed to the hospital with bleeding heads and limbs – I could have been any one of them. I would have been if a series of arbitrary events had not led me to stay at home. The stampede happened at the exact time on the exact foot-over-bridge that I crossed every single day.

Between the railings I held on to every morning, heads and limbs were jammed, twisted at odd angles; down the stairs that my feet led me, blood was trickling down, mixing with the dirt and rain; voices clamoured louder than I had ever heard; on the landings, between the stairs, were bodies piled – one on top of the other – haphazardly.

Through this chaos, there were people pulling and clawing and yelling and shoving to fight their way through the madness – to make it out alive.


As I saw these images, a fresh scene played in my mind. Me. Leaping out of a fast decelerating train, rushing to the staircase, jostling and side-stepping my way up to the foot-over-bridge. basically what I do every day. And, then, out of nowhere – it begins.

The single terrified scream, the reactionary surge forward, the hysterical scrambling. People stumbling and falling on to the wet cement floor, with tens of feet slamming down their backs and crushing their bones. Others clambering over the railing and losing balance, free-falling to the platform below. Amidst all of this, I stand screaming and crying, being thrown around in this implacable sea of human bodies. I have no doubt that I would have been as terrified as each person there, desperate to escape the madness embroiling me.

The  images from Elphinstone tragedy unsettled me in a way I just couldn’t understand – they aroused a fear within.
A major stampede in Elphinstone Railway Station in Mumbai was triggered on 29 September after unexpected heavy rains.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@Rajeev_romi)

The way it rains, every time since I moved to this city, there is always a chance it’ll flood like it did in 2005 and people will get stranded in knee-deep dirty water, walking for days just to get home. But, you never think it’ll happen to you.

Today, the hundreds of bodies that successfully thunder along with me up those staircases, thundered over 22 people out of existence. What a treacherous, bittersweet feeling. Just like the city.

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