Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things we do to kill time as we chug along…

The settings: - A cubical in one of the compartments of a train run by the Indian Railways. The blue seats in that passenger train headed to Bangalore. The fans are all on, yet people are sweating profusely. The 4 people at the window seats spend a lot of time opening and downing the shutters- both the evils giving no less respite than the other. In sometime, even the seats start radiating the heat. Through this, the continuous onslaught of snack vendors screaming to make a few rupees and the occasional song performances by the urchins. This is where I sat un-intrusively observing… And here is an account of what I saw:-

 
This is the story of 8 people who were forced to spend much more than their stipulated time together. This train isn’t the preferred choice of anyway travelling from Hyderabad to Bangalore. After all, it’s a passenger train. It is not my pick either. Anyway, here I was, bound Bangalore-wards, unable to contain the joy of going home… and the train is re-routed (I hear something about an accident on the normal line). Even before the first green signal, the TT tells us we will be about an hour or so late. That’s the start to our journey. (Even as I write this at noon the next day, we are still easily an hour and a half away from our destination) Here are my observations of what we all did to kill time while Home-Sweet-Home was oh! so far away… 
  • Reading: The more intellectual of the lot, after passing the customary glances at everyone around and even managing to return a smile or two, opened the back pack (that almost all such intellectuals will cherish). Out came a not so fat, but well bound book and the reader was was then lost into the wealth of knowledge that the words offered. It is interesting what people read while travelling- the mid-level management from a techie workforce inevitably has some management related book- most probably a Harvard Business Review. I am impressed by the choice of the book my co-passenger is browsing- ‘Influencer- the power to change anything’. Given the intensity with which the book is being devoured, I have mentally made up my mind to attempt reading this one, sometime... may be! I walked through the other cubicles, the younger college goers have in hand a Jeffry Archer or a Sidney Sheldon (it’s amazing isn’t it, how these authors continue to rule hearts and minds of generations of youth) and then, there are some of the older aunties and uncles who have in hand the Lalita Sahastranamam or the Venkatesh Stotram. I simply love the gamut of thoughts that one can see and perceive all within one small cubicle.
  • Praying: Yes, praying! Come On! You should have seen that coming, given that the Lalita Sahastranamam and the Venkatesh Stotram’s are being dwelled upon, the rosary cannot be far behind. A Khan Uncle, complete with his topi was busy with the rosary. A little earlier, I had even seen someone do their pranayama and meditations. That is divine utilization of time! I ventured to talk to the person immersed in this higher pursuit of The Self and was surprised to hear what he had to say about the power of the breath. Something on the lines of “90 per cent of the toxins in the body can be released through the breath. We, however, utilize not more than 30 per cent of our lung capacity…”
  • Watching Movies: In complete oblivion of his surroundings, another of my co-passengers was watching a Tamil movie. It is funny sometimes when people use new technology, but don’t put it to good use. This guy was the perfect example for not utilizing technology… not only did he watch the movie, he ensured that all of us around him could hear it too… At any rate, I love all the gadgets that people travel with- the most acclaimed i-pod, the almost redundant Walkman’s, multi-functional mobile phones and yes, people like me, with laptops.
  • Sleeping: Guess this one should have topped the list. Some people can so sleep. Almost as soon as the train sets into motion until the end of the journey. They sit and sleep, they lie down and sleep. I think sometimes people sleep while they are awake- anyway, let us keep the philosophy aside. Sleeping can be such an elaborate activity in itself. The less talked about, the better- cause I firmly believe, that this is one act that you’ve just got to do. :)
  • Munching: It’s lovely, the aroma of freshly squeezed lemon on the bhel. It is great to taste as well. The thanda- thanda buttermilk and of course, the garam – garam cool drinks. Sometimes I think what makes street food so palatable is the fact that it’s a little unhygienic. (That is another issue all together,) but what I am talking about is an act that requires some skill- to be able to eat irrespective of your being hungry. One of my fellow passengers was a vendor’s delight. He’d buy almost everything that was sold on the train and wonders of wonders; he’d eat it up too… first the Dharmavaraam vadas followed by Chikus and then there were oranges and of course Ruffles Lays etc. etc…
  • Inquisitively Intrusive: The next species you’d come across is those who start by chatting up and then begin a friendly interrogation of your life. If you aren’t the chatty types, then you are going to hate this breed of people beside you. I was subject to the torture of one of those on one journey back home (but we’ll leave that story for later. I was just so glad that I could scoot without having to share my phone number and address.) Love them or hate them, you simply can’t ignore these conversation specialists. If you aren’t such a huge socializing person, then chances that you’ve found a great pal are as dim as finding a campfire in the Artic and you’ll just be glad that you are spared the gory details of knowing just about EVERYTHING in their life including what time they prefer to use the bathroom…
  • Playing: After listening to music, looking out of the window, eating, sleeping, wiping the sweat off your brow, finally out comes a pack of cards. Sometimes, I’ve seen a set of Brainvita. There is, of course, the much liked UNO set to play with, but the final winner is invariably the good ol’ pack of playing cards… given that the windows are down, it is really convenient to play! Hand out the cards, thrown them with disdain at the opponent’s lack of skill and expertise and even slap your thighs in celebration. The kids are busy with the rubix cube and the adults with teen pati ;)
  • The truly happy one: It is not me, though my fingers fly on the laptop… the only person in my cubicle I haven’t written about yet, is the one who is so truly happy and is in more ways than one spreading that joy. He has been bundled inside a small bed sheet and is dangling precariously from the upper berth. The motion of the train ensures that he is swinging along. From inside this makeshift cradle, I hear the happy giggles of a six month old. He is amazed by simply looking at his own feet and is in constant wonder at every jerk and stall of the train… After a few rounds of sleeping, crying, eating, laughing and gazing, the little one finds a new attraction- me and my laptop. He is enamored, can’t take his eyes off this gadget :) he decides to sit on my lap and start playing with the new toy… he has run amok with the playing cards and the books already. He now smiles as the new toy is within reach… he is truly, the happy one!

The train chugged along wearily and everyone was busy in the activities of their choice. I almost finished this piece and that’s when a change came over. As we reached Yalahanka, there was a sudden rise in the activity around me. People unlocking their baggage from under the seats, freshening up, the final dash of lipstick, the flick of the comb, the clothes being smoothed… but my mind had taken another flight, the smell of cool fresh air told me that I was home… and that people could do all they wanted on the train; their mode of expression might be as varied as the topography of this beautiful country we call homeland, but the feelings within as all the same- the same joy, the same relief, the same at the core of our being.

10 comments:

The NRI said...

Next time take a flight:)

Bindu said...

good one:)

Hayaah said...

Boy did u take us this journey WITH you or what... nicely put out... reminded me of similar trips I DARED back in college... the older me is spoiled rotten to not venture into it unless there be NO LAST OPTION left O_O

Shwetal said...

@ The NRI: ha ha ha... the fun of travelling by train is something to be expereinced and chronicled... thats how we can see the real India :D

Shwetal said...

@ Bindu- thanks babe :)

Shwetal said...

@ Hayaah- :) well, i think I am taking that route soon enough... traversing the open skies... :)

Hayaah said...

Happy traversing ;)

March Hare said...

Gosh do i miss travelling by indian railways or what! i have spent some happy days on those rickety wheels, gazing at the changing topography, attaching stories to each landscape and wondering if I would recognize them when i passed them again! Thanks for bringing those lovely memories up!

Shwetal said...

@March Hare- am glad you liked it... :) In fact I can almost picture you in the DDLJ scene when the train whizzes past the green and yellow sarson ke kheet ;)

March Hare said...

heh heh! That movie did have a big train theme now didn't it!