Monday, August 31, 2009
Uff those trains, and travel !!
It's been ages since I travelled in sleeper class. I don't remember when was the last I travelled in a second class compartment of any Indian train, before my recent trip to Hyderabad that is!
And this travel paved the way for a plethora of emotions in a short time (well, not exactly - the train took its own sweet time of 20 hours to reach our destination). We got into the train at 11.30 a.m. and till almost 4.30 p.m. there was nobody in the bogie - everything around was quiet except for the chugging of the rail engine and the sound of the wheels on the tracks (which probably wouldn't have been so prominent had it been an AC coach). In fact, it was so quiet that my husband and me could fight peacefully for about 5 minutes without inviting glances, comments or intrusions :-).
The train was quite empty too but for those unplanned travelers with a general ticket trying to catch a seat in the sleeper coach just by requesting the TC. And, apparently the TC obliges in most cases - how does it matter if the passengers with a reservation are inconvenienced as long as he gets to fill his pockets before he can call it a day! His logic: 'you should be a little patient and cooperating sir. They are only day-journey-ing. You won't be sleeping till night anyway - hehehehe.' What an argument sir-ji!
So far so good - till a couple got in with their two daughters in tow and a truck-load of luggage - somewhere after Visakhapatnam. They pushed, pulled, and tugged at our only suitcase and somehow managed to squeeze in every bit of the luggage they got into the coach while the entire khandaan waiting outside to see them off tried getting into the compartment to help them arrange & re-arrange their stuff, hug the kids, say goodbye, exchange last-minute pleasantries - what a chaos! I was literally waiting for the train to start so there will be just 4 people around, and not 40. Having received many packets of chips, biscuits, and chocolates from their loving relatives, the little ones started attacking their loot the moment they got in, making a mess of the place.
Hmmm! If you thought that was messy, think again. Two stations and an hour-and-a-half later, another couple boarded the train with their two little children (a boy and a girl this time) and claimed the first couple's seats as theirs. There were mild arguments, comparison of tickets, compromises, and finally a long wait for the TC to resolve the issue - it turned out that our first couple got into the wrong compartment - S1 instead of SC1. Ahhh, what a relief!
No, wait, I was wrong. Who wants to move with bag-baggage to the other end of the train when one can make friends, and a few adjustments, here itself! So, both the couples and their 4 little devils plonked themselves well and started a conversation in such friendly tones that I wondered if they were long-lost twins separated at the Kumbh Mela!
Meanwhile the husband in our second family wanted me and my daughter "to move and hand over the window seat to them as it is theirs and they have small kids who loveeee the window seat." That's it, I totally lost it and out came a rude reply - "I'll move, just hold it. We also have a window seat but we didn't demand it back from our co-passengers as they are travelling with a 7-month-old baby. Neither you bought the entire train nor I did. Be a little patient or make sure that all four of you occupy just that one seat and not move to our part as we've the other two seats reserved for middle and upper berths."
Wicked! wicked! I know, but I just couldn't help it - I was bearing all kinds of weird behavior with a blank expression since afternoon! But S was wicked-est when I told him what happened. He was standing near the door for most part of this amazing conversation I had with my co-passenger (my husband hates crowded places and ill-mannered crowd). He almost told them, courteously though :-))) , that he wants to sleep and wants to use his own berth - the middle berth that is! Hehehe! I think that shut up the angry-young-man forever!
Their incessant chattering went on till 9 p.m. when both the guys finally decided to slowly move the luggage of the first couple to their actual compartment at the other end of the train. Gawd, finally!!! I guess some sense dawned on them as their kids were sleepy and cranky.
What a nice way to travel I say! Squeezing in a smaller space scared to even get up in fear of losing that little space too, being forced to listen to friendly exchanges of information, getting dragged into unwanted conversations -- please, whoever told you I'm interested in knowing where you live, what you do for livelihood, what're the names of your little angels, how good/bad your in-laws are, how your neighbours trouble you, and how both ye couples are married within the family, and that too to your maternal uncles (wow, what a coincidental surprise!).
So????? For God's sake, I'm not a friendly person - not in an over-crowded sleeper coach of Visakha Express at least! I told S (for the 100th time I think) that I'll travel ONLY in an AC coach during my return journey, and for all my future trips too.
Did I hear someone yell SNOB! Maybe, but I'm like this only... God save me! Or, better still, my fellow passengers from me!