Friday, 8 March 2013

Memoirs of a train journey

As all good things come to an end, the time had finally come to say goodbye to Zoho Corp. Three months of work, learning and fun had come to an end. I said bye to all my friends there, who in due course of time became like my family. I had to make a journey back to my college, and I had to book a ticket for the same. I had a plan of going via a day train and for the first time, I did not prefer an overnight journey. I wanted to experience the journey in a train and look out from the window all along. Thus, I booked a ticket in the second seater coach of Guruvayur Express, for the 3rd of March 2013.

It has been quite a while that I haven't woken up early in the morning. I woke up with a start at 5 a.m. on the day of my journey and boarded the train at 7.30 a.m. I had booked a window seat just for the heck of it. The seating was cramped and numbering of the seats suggested that three people were supposed to be accommodated on the seat that could hold just about two. I decided to manage, put on my headphones and started listening to the song 'You'll be in my heart' by Phil Collins. It was a pleasant day, I couldn't complain about the weather. It wasn't too hot and there was a mild drizzle, just perfect for a train journey. I didn't pay much attention towards the people around me, and just kept to myself. The train zoomed past all the local train stations. The real fun began when the train approached Chengalpattu.

The tracks are laid just alongside the Chengalpattu lake, which makes for a beautiful scene to behold. I was staring in amazement at the vast lake, with the cool breeze blowing on my face. As it had rained in the past few days, the lake was full of water. I looked around and saw that all the other passengers too were admiring the scenery. I quickly pulled out my phone from my pocket as I badly wanted to click a photo of the lake. As I started early from home, I had skipped my breakfast and was starving. I bought ildis from the IRCTC pantry staff as I am a big fan of eating stuff that are sold from the Indian Railways pantry and have tasted almost everything they serve.

A view of the Kolavai lake at Chengalpattu

It has been about thirteen years since I have traveled in a train during the day time. All my train journeys since then have been overnight and all I had done was to sleep throughout the journey. In the first ten years of my life, I have made numerous journeys from New Delhi to Chennai and vice versa. The duration of the journey was for about 36-40 hours and I initially used to insist my parents for journey in an air conditioned coach. But as I grew up, I craved for every chance to go on a second class compartment for I started loving the journey very much. I don't remember much about the early days, but there was this specific journey when the co-passengers included a Kashmiri family of three - a dad, mom and daughter. I guess I was about eight years old at that time and I was with my mom and dad as well. I remember the girl to be about two or three years elder to me and in course of time, my parents started talking to hers and got acquainted. I had a pack of playing cards with me I started playing it with the girl. It was evening and the guys from the pantry brought bread omelets to sell. The Kashmiris bought the bread omelets and while they were eating it, the girl's dad offered me some. I had always wanted to eat a bread omelet  as I had heard from my school friends that it tasted great but had never seen or tasted one myself. That wast the first time that I saw a bread omelet and I badly wanted to eat it. I accepted his offer, but my parents declined and scolded me, telling that I wasn't supposed to eat such things. Before the end of that journey, my parents and the girl's parents exchanged their contacts, only to be never seen or contacted ever again.

As there are many rivers that the train passes over during the course of the journey along the 2000 odd kilometers, I used to look for the sign boards of every river and try to remember the order in which we passed through them. Every time we would pass over a river, my mother used to give me a rupee or two and asked me to drop it into the water. I had never questioned her for the reason why we need to follow this routine, and I would simply drop the coin into the river. It was one of our final journeys from New Delhi to Chennai when my mom gave me a coin and asked me to drop it. I asked her for the reason why we did this every time. She replied, "See, you drop this coin into the river and somewhere someone who is really in need of money finds it. That person will thank God for giving him the money and God will reward you for that."

Snapping back to reality, the train was now passing over a river that was completely dry. People had even built homes made of hay at the areas where the water was supposed to flow. There were to kids playing on the soft sand and they were two little girls looking up at the train and were waving their hands at it. In return, I stretched my hand out from the compartment and waved back at them. One of the girls noticed it and called the other, and showed her that someone was waving back at them. They seemed to be very happy to see that. It was about noon and a person from the pantry was selling 'Sappadu' and Biriyani for lunch, which many of the folks around me bought and ate. The train passed over another river, and this time I read the sign board that said 'Cauvery River'. I knew that we were nearing the destination and the journey was about to end. I saw outside the window and found that this river wasn't dry and there was a stream of water running in it. I took a quick glace around and saw that the people were either sleeping or busy eating their lunch. I quietly took out my wallet from my bag and pulled out a five rupee coin and secretly dropped it into the river. That simply made my day.


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