Tooot! “Train number seven three zero nine has arrived on platform one.” comes the announcement and everyone rushes to board the train. A train journey is an intriguing experience. You come across all kinds of people as you journey to your destination. I have traveled many times on the Goa-Bangalore route and have had some interesting experiences.
I have generally traveled alone. My usual routine when I travel in trains is to put my luggage under the seat, plug in my earphones and begin reading a book or observing people around me. Then someone or the other in the compartment asks me whether I am traveling alone. I answer affirmative and I am requested to exchange seats with their friend who happens to be seating somewhere else. This goes on until I can’t be moved anymore. So finally I am settled. Now I see who my co passengers at my final resting place are.
Train passengers include the whole mix of young and old, men and women. The men usually are quiet and dwell in their own thoughts. Some of the more voluble ones will pass expert comments on all subjects ranging from politics to sports and maybe sometimes even on the masala used in the biryani. There are some who go to the top bunk and sleep all the time. And once there was this hep group of drunken men who made quite a racket all through the night. Loud music and dancing marked the beginning of their trip to Goa. I guess they were warming up to the place.
Then there are the ladies, whose tongues and lips never stop moving. You will hear discussions about everything under the sun. Sometimes it is a saahs bahu serial right in front of you. That’s when I turn up the volume of my earphones and bury my face deeper into the book. And all the gossip is carried out over a spread of chewda, chips, biscuits, bread etc etc. Ah, here is a tribe that certainly believes in ‘live to eat’ and talk.
And finally we have the kids who are usually whiny while traveling. These little pests can make your life miserable by playing with the switches or climbing all around or throwing stuff at you or generally just crying loudly. That’s when I go and sit by the door. Here you find the style gurus, adjusting their hair and clothes for hours in front of the mirror. I wonder who the hell they try to impress. When the train stops at a station, I check the passenger list for girls in the eligible age group traveling alone. I have never been that lucky so far except for Jab We Met. How to know if a girl is traveling alone? Check if her PNR matches any of the other occupants in the carriage.
Oh and we have visitors too. The ‘chai and caffee’ guys who come every 5 minutes and try to pass off mildly flavoured water as tea or coffee. The food vendors who sell some suspicious looking eatables. The Ticket collector who come in, looking important. This guy gets major bhav from people traveling on RAC or wait listed tickets. You should see how the ladies try to get his sympathy.
The one thing I truly detest about trains is the absence of dustbins and sewage tanks. The entire railway track is treated as a dumping ground for anything and everything. I hope the Railways would at least have one dustbin for every bogie. Another uncommon but disgusting custom is that of keeping footwear above the fans. Supposedly the footwear is safe up there. But what about the fact that the fan will circulate the stink from your shoes around the compartment?
All in all, a train journey is a wonderful experience. I especially enjoy the countryside, where you still see the rural way of life. I enjoy the pitch dark nights. I enjoy the clean unpolluted air in my face. I enjoy the rhythmic swaying of the train. I enjoy the toooot!