[This post should have ideally come earlier – a day or two after the events it describes but the delay can be well attributed to the sense of lassitude I find myself in over the past few days due to a variety of reasons, most of which I cannot share publicly… However, it was events like this, which happened last Wednesday (March 23) when I was returning from home that provide a moment of cheer. I wanted to share it as soon as possible but kept delaying. A phone call yesterday (Saturday, March 26) however provided some impetus….. so here it is.]
I can have just cause to fondly remember a number of train journeys I made in the past few years (and also would like to forget a number of others…. but then, let me not digress from the point). Though most of these journeys were between two fixed points – this city and my home, they were no less remarkable. Of the handful of others I have made to other places (and I think they do not cross ten, even after adding the return journey) – two and a half of them work related (to the east, south-west and the north, if listed chronologically) , and one suddenly-planned, vastly uncertain one to points west, it was the only the last one that was remarkable, while the first two had some high-points but nothing quite key.
However, let me focus on the most recent one – the one back from home.
It was in the middle of this week that I set back – and I must admit I was not in the best of moods. First there was the same sinking feeling that I have everytime I return from home, secondly there was a feeling of dread at getting back to the routine, thirdly the brace on unpleasant incidents clouding the visit, and then the fourth and last, the unearthly time the train leaves – 0525 hours, necessitating keeping up the whole night – a state of affairs hardly conducive to a calm demeanour.
However, all the packing was done (and the baggage inevitably kept getting bulkier and heavier), the slow hours slowly crept on and on and it was finally time to go to the station. And as I reached the station, one major snafu crept on. Having learnt the train would go from platform one and my coach would be quite near the entrance, I decided to have a quiet sm*** outside before I lugged my stuff in. However, a crucial appertunance was missing. I thought I had put in my handbag and decided to scrabble through my things for it, but the state of the zippers put me off. So with a small curse and sigh, I abandoned my intention and went in. (Major curses ensued later when I later discovered that the key implement had been in pocket all along). However…..
I went in, bought a glossy, and settle to wait for the train, which trundled in 20 minutes before its time of departure (as usual), found my coach, dumped in my stuff and then went outside to see the chart to find my berth. I found it was luckily the first one. There followed another small snafu, with a bossy-looking, bespectacled woman and her clueless-looking companion creating confusion as the stood in the compartment and asked everyone else (including me!) to get their luggage out of the way. However, realisation soon (fortunately) dawned on them that it was them who were in the wrong place and off they went with scarce an apology.
Prime facie, I found my surroundings pleasant – the comfortable appearing, red plush berths…. the only problem was that my berth was on the upper ones but since I anticipated sleeping most of the journey, it wasn’t that much of a setback. I checked there was another man travelling with me and the other two would board on a wayside station well ahead.
It was then my co-passenger, a bluff middle-aged man, arrived and asked which one was compartment A. I answered it was the one he found himself in and gave him a hand with his luggage – which instantly broke the ice. Throwing my haversack on to my berth and wedging the handbag in one corner, I fished out my – by now dog-eared – copy of Fasana-e-Ajaib, which regular visitors here may remember I am in the process of transliterating, kept it on the seat and went outside for a stroll till it was time to go….
Outside was the same bedlam that seems a regular feature of Indian railway stations – tardy travellers rushing up, people dunning for seats, but soon the green light flashed, the whistle blew and we were off….
To be continued…..