Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The occasion was the thirteenth day of mourning and prayer after grandfather passed away. The tickets were booked by my brother using irctc online portal in tatkal quota that roughly translates into current quota. Tatkal used to be 24 hrs before departure of train and I remembered the last time when I traveled in Tatkal, I had to reach reservation center early in morning at about 2:30 AM and had to haggle for space with some touts and shared newspaper to lie for a while before the window opened. It was a huge discomfort. Now the rules are changed and you can do five days in advance.
The train was karnataka express leaving Bangalore at 7:20PM and we were not sure about the time of its arrival in Jhansi. We refused to exchange seats with another family who were eight and distributed. The lady pleaded that we were gents and could adjust but he asserted that we had wanted side berth and insisted with out choice. Later we realized that we both were tall and side births were too stuffy and short with discomfort for us.
We also noticed that ladies enjoyed most in male absence than presence, contrast this with they falling over each other to sitting soberly in straight postures.
I was learning about his friend who was multi-faceted and enjoyed reading a lot and in experimenting with social work.
The night was fitful sleep with other family chattering the night as if it was early morning for them.
The next day was heavy talk on change, culture and at society at large, I was simply emitting the recently acquired knowledge. It made him feel good at the end on the family front. Towards the evening was reading book and enjoying scenery.
I was trying to sleep in the afternoon but was disallowed by heat and replacement of the BIG family with few army men who chattered as their journey was fresh and carrying a bagful of liquor. Once the journey weared them they were falling over each other drowsily.
The second night was even more awful with some loudmouths displacing two people lying on berths in the middle of the night and the Ticket Collector accompanied with a Police man warned person of traveling with general ticket in reserved compartment but doing nothing about it.
We assumed that Jhansi would come at 4:30 and put alarm both in watch and in my phone. The battery must have died at about 3AM. The lights were switched on at about 3:40 and noise was made of Jhansi coming on rose us from sleep and fortunately for us we woke up, I was just managing to catch sleep but it eluded.
Day was eventful and hot but somehow a cloud cover had come and provided some reprieve. Before we returned to Jhansi station at about 2:15AM next day, we managed to sleep from 11:30PM. Karnataka express came back to pick us up at 3:15AM, it was meant to arrive at platform number 2 but appeared instead on 3. We had lower berths and could not sleep well even though our heads were under the window, it was sweaty hours till late in evening when coolness relieved us and relaxed our muscles.
I was curiously hearing the conversation of a Jat family in Haryanavi, a language similar to Hindi but local to state o Haryana bordering Delhi. I was wondering when I will break into their conversational rhythms.
Another individual who looked like BVK Iyenger, a Yoga guru from Pune caught my attention and I wanted to find out if he was real or look alike. To add to confusion was another guy was chattering with him and continuously mentioning him as Guruji. Later I realized the guy was travelling on General ticket and the old man was a principal from some remote village in Sholapur and hence referred to as Guruji.
I don’t know how but I managed to break into conversation and learned that the general ticket guy was in "Gold Line" meaning business of Gold (jewellary etc.,). He had studied till Std 8 but had learned from his better educated friends and travelling, He could comment on any part of India and about their local customs.
Even the jat family head liked to travel freely and take one place per year and was well traveled man. Once he was in Ganga sagar and requested a local resident to make Roti'es for them in exchange of some rice. They carry their essential masala for a neat tadka of dal and some fried channa and atta-jaggery item. It seems that jaggery cuts the channa paste and thus prevent indigestion and sticking to stomach wall. Channa alone can expand and cause distress with excessive water intake. He requested his wife to get Roti'es made from the pantry car cooks but unfortunately they refused.
He also narrated a incident where in they distribute liquor in Bhairon temple somewhere in temple on Sunday mornings and how handicapped bangladeshies drink neat and spread around on road losing their senses. The police have to drag them into their Gypsies and leae them somewhere. Once due to a high profile visit they were disallowed to be around temple vicinity for couple of hours but once the VIP left they scampered like ants to grab their fill.
He was the first man who took bath using the water pipe that is used to fill and clean Railway coaches water system in front of my eyes. I was tempted but somehow could not manage the same adventure. He managed that after extensive research on train's stoppage time and it being more than 5 mins.
A thorn went into his head when he was in school and which was still left a swell on his head. Another thorn into his feet and came out from top of feet after ten years. These thorns belonged to weed that was brought to India from Kabul in order to get a green patch on barren lands of India where nothing else could be grown. They also had a thick thorn that was tasty to school kids.
For the first time I realized that even a Jat family can be helpful, understanding and sharing. They shared their cold water on a hot summer afternoon even though I left a few drops only for the lady.

We were talking about chambal ghatti (the Chambal Valley),famous for dacoits and somewhere close to Gwalior. Another person mentioned that it was somewhere in Maharastra and he insisted on this fact. Later we found the PoliceMan asking all to bring down their iron shutters as there had been incidents of people throwing stones at moving train and causing panic after crossing Daund. If the train stopped than they robbed the inmates. Their modus operand included putting cow dung on train signals to confuse the train drivers so that they would stop the train without any signal after a point of time.

Third day the nariyal wallah at Guntakal gave me a wrought tender coconut to drink water whereas gave a fresh and more green to a young lady who came next. The moment me came back into Coach we saw 5 people sitting our berth. I thundered and they disappeared, to reappear again in small lots. They were daily travelers from Guntakal to Anantapur, a bunch of youngsters who conversed in mix of hyderabadi and telugu. From Anatapur we had another group of more sophisticated and middle aged government employees who pleaded for the berth and thanked profusely when they reached Dharmavaram.

After that the landscape was only beautiful and I was thanking Indian railways to provide me with such panoramic scenaries whereby the sunset seemed to extend for ever until every cloud was colored yellow and then orange and then black. Some clouds formed a disk in space like those spaceships. A hill after Manmad had clear Thums Up sign on top of it in pure stone in natural setting.
The landscape is sometimes arid, dry and lost and at other times is red that suddenly becomes black and then red again. The crops sway green and some fields keep getting dug by a pair of Ox and a man. Few sugar mills leave a stink and you wonder how come the sugar is so sweet and odorless.
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