Traveling in train can be quite an experience, if taken in the right spirit. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Every second was pissing me off! We weren’t even halfway to our destination and I was already considering getting off at the next station.
Three magazines, one packet of cigarettes and few rounds of cards later, we were ready for dinner. Btw, my mother is a fabulous cook and I can bet on my life that noone can make a better non-vegetarian delicacy better than her. So, I forgot everything and served myself a big fat mutton piece. Mr. & Mrs. Jignesh Shah were squirming at me as I feasted myself to the bone. To be honest, I was tempted to offer them some. Maybe tomorrow. Heh.
Post dinner, it was time to get back to my third grade second-class seat. It’s strange how the whole look of a train changes when u walk from a ‘sophisticated’ air-conditioned surroundings to a ‘down grade’ second-class environment. One Gujju family wanted to strangle me while the other was offering me theplas & khakras. Strange world. Strange people.
I was kept awake by the little monster’s constant howling. I think he was trying to communicate with his buddies back in Bombay! I could never figure out the source of their energy, you know. How do they manage to increase their screams every minute? Itni choti jaan aur itni tez aawaz. Here’s an idea, why don’t we invent a car that runs purely on baby-cry? Let’s face it, we are producing these little rascals by the dozens every minute, so, why not make some use of them and reduce our sufferings? I hope no Chinese Hakka noodle is reading this… Back off!
After changing my seat for the convenience of my co-passengers, I finally found one middle birth to sleep. I think I got an hour’s shuteye before someone’s laughter woke me up. This was different, you know, full-hearted laugh, which always ended with a sad sigh! Took a peek towards the toilet and found 4 middle aged men having a merry time with handful of bidis and desi daaru. I stood there for a bit, had one cigarette before offering one to the laughing Buddha. he looked like a story teller, sitting in the middle. Now, six people were surrounding him. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse ‘Dhanyawaad baabu.. Ab aap harari bidi lo.. Specially Manali se laaye hai.. Kadwi nahi lagegi aapko’ Soon, I exchange my ciggerette packet for the gold leave bidis and within no time I was sharing the ‘homemade’ daaru as well. You must try this combination, with the same bunch of people, at this same time, in this same train! Oops, you cant! Suckers!
These men had ample of stories, about anything and everything! Some you question, while others leave u speechless and then some which will make u roll on the floor laughing your ass off. One guy was traveling to Vaishano Devi as his mother wanted to visit the God herself, but she died of some kind of disease a year back. I thought of clicking some snaps but was stopped when he said ‘Babu us wakhat hame 20 hajaar ki zaroorat thi maa ko bachane ke liye par hamare kheto ki fasal kharab ho gayee.. Bichari apne pote(grandson) ka mu dekhe bina hi mar gayee’. I had bought this phone exactly a year back and it had cost 20 thousand!
For a fairly old man, this was his fourth visit to Vaishano Devi, this time, he was sure that he would be able to muster the remaining 12.5 thousand rupees he needed to pay off the agriculture loan and wont let it extend for another year. Last Friday, I lost 12.5K in poker!
The youngest of the lot had quite a few stories as well. One reminded me of Slumdog Millionaire. His name was Pawan. He traveled everyday from Paanipat to Ambala and back, cleaning the garbage that we ‘civilized & educated’ people throw on the floor. He had a younger sister, who was too young to work, his mother works in the field and he didn’t know who his father is or was. In other words, he was the man of the house now and was very proud of making Rs. 100 everyday. He is 7!! I will be 27 in a month and I blow 100 bucks on smokes everyday!
After the daaru and bidi session, I couldn’t help but feel like the luckiest man among this crowd. I looked around and saw everyone was in snoring away to glory, maybe dreaming of a perfect world. I, on the other hand, was wise awake. Am I really the lucky one? Maybe, maybe not!
Weirdly enough, three of them didn’t know their birthdates, while the rest 5, including myself, are born in the month of July!