Trains follow tracks and trains follow rules.

Explosive as a 7.42 Virar Slow may seem at Dadar, there is order in the chaos and a method to the madness. Rationalists argue that science is applicable everywhere, so why not to the unpredictable, unmanageable experience that is train travel in Mumbai today?

Newton’s First Law of Train Travel states that every body continues in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled by some external force to change that state. For the physics-ally challenged out there, this means, braving pushes at the door may be pushing your luck, and ‘May the Force be with you’ is an expression of interest in your impending death. This force may appear in the form of an incoming or outgoing fellow passenger or a jerk of both the sudden and obnoxious kinds.

His Second Law explains that the rate of change of momentum of a body is directional proportional to the external force applied on it and this change takes place in the direction of the force applied. More simply, whether you enter or exit a train depends on the size of the tumultuous crowd that wishes to disgorge itself from the compartment, compared to that of weary travellers waiting to climb in. I say ‘whether’, because one’s personal wish to either board or alight does not matter in the slightest. One can only go with the crowd.

Newton’s Third Law says that for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every effort made to break through the throng and into the compartment, one amongst the throng will make an equally determined effort to push you back onto the platform. There is balance even in bullying.

Pascal’s Law of Changing Positions states that the pressure applied at any point in a confined compartment is transmitted equally and undiminished to all parts throughout the compartment. Straining to reach the door as your destination nears can cause mortal pain to every occupant of the fourth seat, and standing to offer a lil’ old lady your place can displace and despatch the ragamuffin hanging off the footboard. Now you know why I dislike people who throw their weight around.

The first law of trainodynamics is also called the Law of Conservation of Space and has several corollaries. This all-important principle declares that space in a compartment can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be occupied by one body or another. When a certain number of people get off a train, an exactly equivalent number of people are required to get in. Hence the total space in an isolated compartment remains constant – how you contort your torso to insert yourself into the newly available half-foot of legroom is your problem.

Then we have a set of interdependent laws that connect configurations with conditions. Boyle’s Law states that temperature remaining constant, the volume of a given mass of people in a compartment is inversely proportional to the pressure exerted by the same. The more you squirm, the less place you will get to squirm in.   On the bright side, full-body massages are almost free these days.

I’m sure you’re puzzled by ‘temperature’ in the previous principle, but you’ll be amazed to know how important weather conditions are for ensuring a comfortable journey. Charles’s Law states that the pressure remaining constant, the volume of a given mass of people in a compartment increases or decreases by a constant fraction of its volume for each rise or fall of one degree in temperature. On hot and humid days, we sweat from every pore and orifice in the body and perform fantastic gymnastic feats to avoid contact with each other, while on the days that are cold and freezing…wishful thinking.

Avogadro’s Law states that equal volumes of all compartments under similar conditions of temperature and pressure contain the same number of human beings. A single compartment can accommodate ‘n’ human beings at Standard Temperature and Pressure,  where ‘n’ stands for anything from three on a Sunday afternoon to one of the last few three-digit numbers, at 8 pm on a weekday.

As we come to the end of this scientific journey and prepare to disembark, there come two laws that govern our movement towards the door. Graham’s Law of Diffusion surmises that the rate of movement possible within a compartment is inversely proportional to the square root of the density of the crowd occupying it. Ohm’s Law goes on to explain that this movement is directly proportional to the pressure difference across the two ends and inversely proportional to the resistance encountered.

Laughing yet? I can well imagine scientific pioneers such as Newton, Pascal and Avogadro rolling about their graves, shaking with laughter at the colossal joke that is a Mumbai Local. Day after day we are pushed, pushed past and pushed over. And day after day we keep coming back, ready for yet another day’s journey.

Now that’s called the Law of Attraction.

* * *



  1. Crisp essay, Mrigank! It is as humorous as it is instructive. I never paid much attention to physics when I should have. (Your essay would have elicited a nod of approval from my physics teacher, Ms Tuscano). Keep writing.

  2. in a andheri-cst slow train, there’s only bliss….41 minutes of glorious sleep. but in a virar train, probably a few more Laws. nice read. njoyed. as krishna says, keep writing

  3. Luvly corelations dude…i was jst blessd wid off-rush trvllin last 4yrs..n almst whole compartmnt used to b ours to rock n roll 🙂

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