In what I hope is the final shift…

12 Oct
I’m re-posting some posts from WP to this blog to shut shop over there completely.

Reminiscent Release – 02/10/11

It’s funny how time flies and how it weathers at the same time. It was just the other day that a friend and me were sitting over tea and reminiscing about things that have happened so far. And man do I feel old! It was during this conversation that I knew I had a blog post sorted out, finally!

We’re at a place today where we’re constantly running short of time. For something we’ve had such a dearth of, is quite rapidly turning into something we struggle to hold on to today. We’re constantly hoping we had 28 hours in a day, or 40 if you were SRK. We’re doing everything we can to maximize time well spent and make efforts to reduce on things that are not time efficient. We’re scurrying, scrambling, running and panting to keep pace. And while it suits most of us fine, because we are, after all, evolving, it does not take away the fact that we’ve seen days which weren’t filled with such frenzy all the time. I’m sure we’ve all lived through days where we sent letters wondering where in transit they were, made tedious trunk calls and spoke at audaciously high volumes through scratchy static, taken journeys that didn’t amount to single digit hours, been on waiting lists and queues; to summarize, we’ve been through days of waiting because there was no other way. And we live to tell the tale and sound old and reminiscent.

One such time I remember quite fondly is train journeys we used to undertake every year. I love traveling and am a train girl having blogged about them many a time and more as well. So yes, I’ve spent my childhood summers traveling in trains, taking long journeys courtesy to our settling down South with my entire family living up North. So there have been memories of taking the train from Bangalore to Kolkata (Howrah), Patna, New Delhi and Allahabad. It must be known that train journeys from here to the aforementioned destinations, even today, span over a good 24 hours, which means to say that 2 nights have to be spent in transit. And these 2 nights suddenly transform into something that is collectively and quintessentially known as the train journey experience.

It is during these journeys, as the train meanders past India’s countryside that something magical happens. The train becomes your home and your co-passengers become your friends and neighbours. You make friends, visit other coupes, berths and compartments, take walks and have conversations, shop at the pantry car or from vendors together, share stories, discuss politics, comment on the government, talk about daily life at home and how strenuous maids can be, play games with these newly made friends, crack jokes and live those 2 days together. Sometimes, just sometimes, love stories start right there as well. It’s interesting how these turn of events take place. At first everyone’s fighting for the best and most safe luggage space with bachelors helping thankful families out. Then every one says their byes as the train whistle blows and makes its exit from the platform. The AC starts working in full form and the compartment rocks from side to side in slow comfort – and that’s when you know your journey has begun. You stash your stock of snacks, food, water, toys and magazines on the top berth along with the bedding. Every one eats in their own clique, tube lights slowly give way to blue night lights and every one calls it a night. The show of warmth and co-passenger-ness slowly starts taking over as though some transit fairy came and sprinkled his magic dust whilst every one was in deep slumber.

So the next morning begins with the grand and loud entry of tea and coffee vendors with breakfast orders being taken whilst newspaper hawkers hover around. People slowly start asking if the other wants tea, how the headlines for the day look and how there’s something about train tea. For those who do not know of or have not had the fortune of traveling by train up north, I make it my duty to say how wonderful train tea can be, especially when it’s served in small earthen pots we call kullads (but that’s only once we’ve left the South). The compartment is still filled with the warm glow of a freshly risen sun and the bachelors are still asleep. People slowly start waking up and have more (and copious) amounts of tea/coffee and as breakfast arrives, a bag of chips/bhujia does a round and the ice is officially broken. Dads slowly start revealing their food stash while mums organize plates of food that do the rounds. Yes, it takes just a few hours of slumber, tea, newspapers and breakfast to break the ice in such confines.

As the journey progresses, numbers and sometimes addresses are shared. There’s always place for everyone as mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, children and the whole jing-bang bond. I remember spending hours playing cards (including cricket and WWF trump cards), snakes and ladders, ludo, magnet games, chess and Hot Wheels games with my brother because I wasn’t the socializing with random people so fast kinds. Train journeys were (and still are) synonymous with lying in bed reading Tinkle, Archies, Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie later on to spending hours looking out of the window with my bunch of cassettes and Walkman. And of course, every one loves food. So with train journeys come hawkers that deliver a taste from different states and places. The menu transits with geography and taste buds remain well entertained all through.

Sometimes rumours that fast turn into fact about the journey’s delay make way and everyone gets into a rant/discussion about how the railways really need to buck up. Causal factors of the journey’s delay are churned and pondered over. Mums fuss, dads gather around and discuss logistics while kids carry on with their life after the momentary curiosity dies down.

And eventually, the train slows down revealing a multitude of railway lines that gather signifying the arrival of what is perhaps your destination. It chugs by city slums, shanties and railway crossings as people wait impatiently. There’s a sudden flurry of activity as everything needs to get packed again – music, books, toys, glasses and so on. Bags are zipped, locked, safety chains are unlocked and bags are slowly carried towards the door. There’s a pile up of people in the aisle, the AC turns off and we see land again. The train pulls into its destined junction, bags are counted, coolies hop on, passengers look for relatives, co-passengers say their byes, friends promise to keep in touch, secret crushes are given that last glance, berths are quickly re-checked and the train comes to a halt. We alight. We find relatives. We share hugs. We say our final co-passenger byes. Sometimes introductions take place. We breathe a sigh of relief. We feel the heat of Kolkata, New Delhi, Allahabad or Patna as glasses fog up and our faces burn. We smell of the train and we exude the train experience as we drive home still lost in the lull of the train’s slow rocking.

In the midst of conversations, laughter and fussing over getting out of the station in one piece with relatives, bags and the heat, I always always always reminisce of the train journey that just passed me by – of times where every one had no other choice but to kill time aimlessly, where workaholics itched from work withdrawals, where families lived in the confines of a coupe, where hundreds ate from one single compartment – the pantry car, where times with random strangers were spent in ease and comfort. Those were the days when we didn’t reek of hurriedness or urgency…days that just vanished because today, you and I can buy a day’s worth of hours with a few thousands. And I say that with a tinge of regret and a sense of loss because those were days that are meant to be experienced but aren’t given a second glance because we simply do not have the time today.
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