‘Manoeuvring the twists and turns on the tracks feels wonderful’

Pooja Keni’s friends and relatives were apprehensive when she decided to apply for the job of a train captain last year. Soon after she graduated in electrical engineering, she responded to an advertisement for the upcoming monorail project — the first of its kind in India.

“I wanted to be a pilot but my parents were hesitating to send me out of the city. So I decided to apply to MMRDA to become a train captain,” said the 23-year-old who is one of three women who form part of the first batch of monorail captains. “My friends were initially sceptical and thought that driving a train was below my standards. But now, thanks to the brouhaha surrounding India’s first monorail, I have been getting congratulatory messages from the same people who were dismissive. I am now looking forward to getting passengers aboard,” she said on Saturday, a day before the monorail was to be thrown open to the people of Mumbai.

Fareed Alam, dressed in his uniform of crisp blue shirt and black trousers, could not contain his excitement on Saturday after being told that he was chosen to be one of the two accompanying the Chief Minister on his first ride on the monorail. The 22-year-old was given the responsibility of being the “observer” in the driver’s cabin while his friend Ashish sat behind the wheels.

“A year ago, I had not imagined that I would get such an opportunity. I was always fascinated by the train network in Mumbai — it carries so many people to different places,” said Mr. Alam who completed his diploma in electronic engineering last year. “Driving the monorail gives me a high. Literally as well. When you manage to manoeuvre the twists and turns on the tracks, it feels wonderful. During our training sessions, the best part was people standing and waving out to us, cheering us to go ahead.”

There are 43 train captains who make up the first batch in India. Over the last year, they underwent theory training for two months and drove the train for 100 hours. These people now know how the train works and what needs to be done in case of an emergency. “Each of the captains has an education in engineering. They went through several rounds of interviews and assessments before they got selected,” said Mukesh Gupta who works with the monorail manufacturer, Scomi.

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