Friday, July 15, 2005

Good Days Bad Days

* A few defintions so that the newbies are not deterred by the terms :
-->Compartment/Boogie : the 72 berth module of a train
-->Coupe : The 8 berth module within a compartment

As my train (Jhelum Express : from Pune to Delhi) left the station in the evening around six, I arranged my three piece luggage - compacted it into two pieces, chained one of them, used the other rock-hard bag as a pillow...and gazed out. Pune city is beautiful...nature wind weather etc etc. I had great confidence that my diffident poetic self would find courage to emerge and spill some thoughts for the next July blog. The situation was perfect. By some grace of Laloo Yadav, my S7 compartment was empty. A few ticketless gentlemen boarded at Pune, but they were company only for a little while. I munched some chips, read the book(s) at a leisurely pace. Sleep itself wasn't a delibrate task. It just happened...bliss...

The obnoxious kid stared right at me as he squealed, "Aap utro, ye poora boogie hamaara hai!". I looked at my watch to decide whether it was Rahu-Kaal enough to slap the moron. It wasn't. I retorted, "S7. bateeees. mera hai." He turned and walked away. The train began to rumble a few seconds later. I peeked from my side berth. A gazillion replicas of the kid of various sizes began boarding. I thought it was all a bad dream. The kid appeared again and repeated himself. I replied ditto, at an increased volume. He probably heard me this time. I slept no more. The army in orange had arrived. As they established base, I peeked through half-closed eyes, plain confused. Another kid (probably 12 years old) emerged from the chaos, with teeth that screamed chocolate dosage and behaviour that oozed pampering. I enquired, "Kahaan jaa rahe ho aap log". "Vaishno Devi" he said. Pat came the next question, "Kitne log jaa rahe hain?". He nonchalantly replied,"four hundred". Thats when I noticed the t-shirt graffiti - 'Ma Vaishon Devi Samiti, Durga Chowk Itarasi (M.P)' The front side had a curvy 'Jai Mata Di' imprint.I knew it....
This was penalization for all the sins I had committed over the last 20 years - the extra bit of tea I poured in my cup at home, the scale I didn't return to Sameer, the beer I shouldn't have had, the classes I shouldn't have missed...This was the ulitmate Hollywood horror film, and I was the ultimate blond in the bikini screaming at everything, minus the sex angle (Sure, there were two good looking females. But like...nothing happened).

Once the T-shirt ceased to interest me, other aspects took precedence. What amused me initially was that all the saffron people had an urgent need to move in the other direction. And I am giving a full half hour buffer for travel confusion. Bade Miyan, Chote Miyan, Mama Ji, Bhaiya, Fufaa, Fifa - each had a duty they were completely aware of, and it had to be accomplished within that minute...or else.. They pushed and jostled and continuously transported boxes and bags towards and away from where I sat and meekly observed. Aunties screamed for 'mera waala blue bag' while males sincerely searched everywhere. Soon, amusement sublimed to form irritation.

My pee sessions were momentous tasks. I had to plan, mitigate, evaluate and implement mission impossible amidst the din. As I said, the JMD highway no. S7 was no place for mortals like me. I feared I would be swept to the end of the coach by the stampede. Believe me, I have waited over 20 minutes finding the right monent to get down.
Getting down itself consisted of 3 acts -
first : Making sure the floor was clear for the next 30 seconds
second : Spreading whatever stuff possible across berth no 32 so that encroachment was minimized
third : finding my displaced sandals before another contingent attacked.

Ironically, the prettiest lady with the most squeaky voice gave me the dirtiest looks whenever I rummaged under the berth. When I removed her sandals and placed them aside, mama ji sitting above received a curt order, "Mama ji..mere joote andar rakh do !"

While I have felt anger, amusement and indifference for the Pantry workers, this journey evoked a completely fresh chemical reaction - pity. The poor guys (Binay, Jitender and others...) had to wait indefinitely while the JMD gang did all this. And their signals weren't a subtle 'please wait a second while I clear this'. It was a rude stare, followed by 'abe ruk naa yaar!' or a more terse 'time lagega'. This behaviour was quite naturally aped by the kids.

Here's the final pee incident, before you close the window with revulsion. One of the little ones did a little pee-pee (specifically on the pretty lady in the yellow suit). She yelped and handed over the baby to mama-ji and rushed out. I noticed a glittering puddle on the berth and I am sure the other JMDs saw it too. A minute passed and another wandering JMD felt an urge to sit at that very spot. Yes, over the past minute the baby had received all the attention while the berth lay neglected. The tapori's hand rested over the little puddle. No aahs ! No screams. Uninformed, he coyly wiped his hand on his trouser and continued to enjoy the breeze. I silently screamed inside and prayed to Mata that things shouldn't get worse than this.

If the above mentioned atrocities aren't enough, my coupe was also turned into the nerve centre of all food activities. Movement, emotions and volumes escalated during the distribution. The time-table as I remember it :

9 a.m : Poha, Jalebi and Biscuits
11a.m : Tea for everyone - homemade..not pantry stuff.
1p.m : Food : some squishy stuff
4p.m: Kela. Cartons of them. Each individual probably received more than one.
5p.m: Samosa and Cold Drinks
9p.m: Dinner - Pulao and Raita

Ahh..So you noticed the abnormal interval between Pepsi Time and Dinner. That my dear reader(s), was Puja time. And you know what Puja Time is all about ...

dhum dhum chuk, dhum dhum chuk...Three drummers, a clarinetist and thankfully no vocalists. The little babies and aunties presence around me ensured that they sat 3 coupes away. But hey! enthusiasm and raw noise knows no boundaries. Each significant station's arrival would herald a cacophony session lasting for indefinite periods of time. The ensuing energy burst would ripple through the annoying kids, leading to more kiddy-panju behaviour...aaah...

At Nizammudin, as the train left the station, you bet I didn't wave goodbye to a single soul. I didn't exchange addresses. I didn't make small talk with ANYONE throughout the journey (except the abject pantry-waalas) . I didn't smile at the cute babies. I finished a book from start to end, in that order. I do hope one of those JMD's accidently lands up here. That, would be a real test of bhakti...whatever that is...

3 comments:

  1. hahaha.. the ultimate blond in the bikini screaming at everything, minus the sex angle..

    JAI MATA DI!!!! lolz..

    ReplyDelete
  2. And the last time I travled I had a railway romance!

    Oh-I can see those envious looks!
    *Brushing them aside*

    Hmmm... I'll blog about that one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Arvinder,

    Hope the things are fine. It is your great effort and hope it will be more better day by day.

    Best wishes,

    Dinesh Sharma

    +91-9810001803

    ReplyDelete