07 August 2011

Chuk Chuk Gaadi

I feel like writing something today. A feeling that has resurfaced after quite some time. I will probably start with a couple of simple incidents that took place today as I started on my journey back to the ferstering city - Hyderabad (more on this later). So the train was late and I was at the station early. Something that does not usually happen but I guess K got tired of my bantering and analyzing her needs. So I wait in the shade for the train, which obliges with an appearance a few minutes prior to its scheduled departure. Of course it started 10 minutes late, but then everyone is in a rush. They always are in this country.

I stood outside the bogie after I was done with finding a place for my luggage. My co-passengers in the same compartment as I did not seem comely. So I thought I would much rather wait out on the platform for the train to oblige us once again with some movement. Since there were no pretty faces on the platform either, I gazed around indiscriminately. People following and sweet talking to the TTE in order to get seats upgraded to the AC compartments probably. Some seeking a confirmation of their waiting list status. Too many people seeking to travel hassle-free in a country that grants the priviledge to only a chosen few. The few that have planned the trip way ahead in time. You cannot just travel impulsively. Tsk tsk. That is no way to travel in India. "Get organised you filthy bastards!" seems to be the didactic taunt of the Indian railways.

As the perpetual hubbub on the platform ensued, I looked to the signal. It had changed from the forbidding red to an acquiesing yellow. The train would start any minute now. My apprehentions seemed to be shared by the family right in front of me. A middle aged couple with a late teens or a twenty'ish son. He reverently bent to touch his parents' feet. Seeking their permission and blessing to leave. Something that Indians still value. Or is it more out of a sense of formality? Either way, it was pleasing to see the boy make the gesture. The parents granted their permission, unwillingly, as it seemed to me. In all possibility, the parents were seeing their son off as he left them to attend school or work in a far off place. The father was the first to grant his blessing. A bespectacled man, with a lavish moustache, a little stout, which, in our country, means that he was well off and NOT that he was averse to excercising. Appearance matters. He put his arms around his son, drawing him closer into a hug. A prolonged hug which seemed to express his reluctance in watching his son go. He did not seem a man in habit of showing his emotions openly, especially to his son for whom he might have maintained an emotionally arcane image all through the years (of course none of this was deciperable from such small an incident, but I am speaking of the most probable scenario according to me). The son clearly was surprised at his father allowing himself a vent for his emotions. He hugged him back in a slightly confused surprise and smiled and avoided making eye contact with his father as the display of affection ended. He quickly turned to his mother who pulled his head down and kissed his forehead. This seemed more natural to the boy and he was smiling comfortably now. The mother kept saying something to her son. I was not near enough to hear the words but it does not take much to guess what they might have been. The usual motherly concerns about taking care of oneself, guidance regarding train travel, a gentle reminder to keep them informed of his arrival in Hyderabad as soon as the train stopped at the station, etcetra.

The train honked its horns and jerked into motion. People gather at the gates to shout goodbyes to the ones that came to see them off. Others trying to get into the moving train (something that seems to amuse Indians and thrill them to no end - jumping on and off moving vehicles). I was one of them. The gates are the most happening areas when a train sets into motion. All sorts of activities ensue a train's departure. People rushing out after having seen the actual passengers off. Mostly there are multiple people seeing a single passenger off, but then man is a social being. Is he not? Then there are people jumping on the train in the bogie closest at hand. Cursing the ones that come in their way and balancing the food items that they have just bought off the vendors. Then there are people who feel it absolutely necessary to keep saying goodbye to their family and friends till the moment they are visible. They will keep shouting goodbyes and waving their hands wit an exuberance that ironically seems to say that they are glad to be getting away from each other. Then there are people who stand there just to observe these oddities. They just look at the faces of the people belonging to the aforementioned categories and amuse themselves. On occasion, they make eye contact with others of their kind and both instantly realise the other's frivolous intent. They quickly look away as if condemning one another for using such trite ways to amuse themselves and continue searching the other faces.

In time the crowd gradually cleared off the gates ere the train gains celerity and begins its monotonic motions and cadence. I felt like it was the right time to sleep. Of course it is always the right time to sleep in a train. Always. A train journey is the most potent soporiphic agent in my humble opinion. I quickly spread out my sheets and engaged myself in a few hours of sincere sleep only to be left sleepless in the wee hours of the night, typing away into my laptop.

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