MUMBAI, India – They were the same rickety trains, rolling along the same tracks, carrying the same people — millions of Mumbai residents who a day earlier had been targeted in a series of bombings.
As the death toll from Tuesday's eight near-simultaneous explosions rose to at least 200, Mumbai's transport lifeline flowed again, the tracks cleared of debris and platforms cleaned of blood.
Stunned and scared, Mumbai residents nonetheless returned to the trains. Some said they were determined not to be cowed, others said they had no choice.
"Of course, I'm a bit scared," said Anita Dey, a bank teller waiting for her train Wednesday evening at Khar station, the scene of one of the attacks.
"But I decided I had to overcome my fears and get back on the train," said the diminutive woman in a black-and-red cotton sari. "Bombay's trains are more than mere transport. They are a part of our lives."
For Brijesh Ojha, a 35-year-old security guard, the difference a day made was stark.
He spent Tuesday night pulling bloodied bodies from the twisted wreckage of a train torn apart by a bomb. Wednesday he was riding again.
"What can we do? In this city, trains are the lifeline," Ojha said.
Mumbai's transport system is used by some 6 million people daily, transporting commuters from far-flung suburbs into the center of this frenetic metropolis, known as much for Bollywood as for streets clogged with traffic.
While most first-class compartments, where the bombs were placed, were only about half full, lower class compartments were as crowded as usual Wednesday with many travelers hanging precariously from the doorways of the overflowing cars.
Mumbai's feisty female fish mongers exchanged gibes with delivery boys laden with packages packed into the cars. Children in school uniforms fidgeted, while women in bright nylon saris chattered easily.
Some passengers hailed the spirit of Mumbai's residents in time of crisis.
People from all walks of life — from the city's wealthy, cosmopolitan elite to its impoverished shanty dwellers _reached out to help each other, said Deepa Kumar, who commutes more than an hour each way to her office in downtown Mumbai.
"Complete strangers were carrying the injured in their cars, not minding that their fancy leather car seats were getting bloodied," she said.
"It's at times like this that I believe this city shows it has a heart, no matter if people think Bombay is the world's rudest city," she said referring to a recent Readers Digest survey that pegged the Arabian Sea port as one of the world's least polite.
Mumbai's 16 million people are also known for their determination.
"They can't scare us this way," said Ojha. "Life has to go on. People have seen such attacks before, but Bombay has a knack of bouncing back."
Nothing, it seems, can stop the residents of India's financial capital from pursuing its main obsession — making money.
"It's tragic, but its good business for us," said Ramesh Karwe, 23, a newspaper salesman at a train station. He laid out his papers, with their bold headlines and bloody pictures of the attack, on the platform.