Monday, December 7, 2009

Whistle Blower

I love train journeys. I can't say it enough and I can't get enough of them. So what if we still have only holes in the floors of our toilets or still have to rely on metal chains to secure our luggage. Train journeys are fun. And relaxing. And oh so comfortable! Unlike a bus journey, you don't have to worry about when the next pee stop will be and whether you will have to look for a thick bush or a big tree. Unlike a plane journey, you don't have to get to the place at some god forsaken hour and some hundreds of god forsaken hours before the scheduled departure. Nor worry about not looking good for the journey, or worse still wonder which one of your co passengers is carrying that suspicious looking piece of luggage.

No Sirre Bob. You get to the station either on time or later, because not in the history of Indian Railways has any train come before time. If it is late, you look at your fellow passengers, give that all knowing shake of head and comment about the state of Indian railways. Following which, you buy a book or magazine, plonk yourself on a small piece of ledge or bench, asking the people to skooch over and make a little place, while giving them the half apologetic, half "come-on-lets-be-nice-now" look. You may start reading you material but you still look around, to look out for any interesting specimens, and of course to make sure every five minutes that your luggage, which is at your feet, is still there and very much safe.

Since it is a place always bustling with people, your eyes don't linger long enough. Occasionally you catch someone else doing the same. You look away, you don't maintain eye contact for long. You don't want to discover acquaintances, you don't want to strike a conversation. You just want to bide your time till the train comes. Beggars approach you, you pretend to not notice them. They look at you, they stay for a while, they judge you. If you look easy, they don't move away till they see you dig into your purse/wallet for that coin. If you don't, they move to the next person. If the train is really late, you catch the same beggars again and again. The same rounds, the same expression, the same tone, the same perseverance.

You see someone interesting. A kid, a family, a lady, a man, a bunch of students, a group of nuns, a gang of what looks like ruffians. You look at them in between flipping pages of your reading material. You don't want to alarm them, make them feel conscious, break their rhythm, draw their attention to you. You wonder if they are locals or tourists. You try to decide based on their clothing and mannerisms. You wonder if they are boarding the same train, if they will be your companions for the next few hours. You wish they are, you wish they aren't.

There is a rustle on the platform, a collective movement. Someone heard a whistle, someone saw a train approaching. The announcements are read out over the microphone in the same monotone. You can barely catch it, except if you hear hard enough, the train number and/or the train name. All you rely on are the porters, who are the best source of information. They'll tell you which train is late before even the enquiry section comes to know of it. They'll even tell you why, if you ask them nice enough and if they are bored enough. Then they walk away. They have to be someplace, they have to make a living.

The train finally arrives. The whole platform is now alive. You see the mad rush for the doors of the general compartment. You let out a silent shudder, thanking your stars that you don't have to be a part of it. The snob in you wonders why they can't just be civil. The rest of you feels ashamed at that thought. You walk up to your bogie and see that the scene isn't too different here. The only difference is in the attire. People are still crowding around the door, not even letting the ones inside alight. You wait for it to clear.

You get inside, not even giving a second look to the station or platform. You are more bothered about finding your seat, securing your luggage and getting comfortable. Your journey has just begun.


  1. Wow. There is a travel writer hidden somewhere in you... interesting.
    Hey you forgot the bliss of eating all kinds of junk food. And if you travel from north to south or east to west, you get all the variation of indian junk food.. :)

  2. As Kristen 'crazy wannabe rocker' Stewert would say, "Right on! Rock on!" :S

    And as I mentioned in one of my posts, 'trains fuckin rock...literally!'

    Pardon the profanity KBall. I've used the line verbatim

  3. DoooD!! ur jus awesome!! love reading every bit of your blogs.. this one was simply brilliant!!!!