Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Train through Eternity

Well I haven’t blogged in sometime, the reason was that Diwali was approaching, so were five days vacation and R&R in dear ol Chennai. I kept looking around and found so many topics to blog about, right from the Kodambakkam high road’s potholes which have become a Chennai treasure, considering they are preserved so well ,to the numerous sari shop billboards which have sprung up around the city, that they outnumber the poor pathetic trees which have been left by the developers.
However what took the cake or the entire train was my return journey back to Bangalore. My dad, innocently booked my return in 4 pm Lalbagh train ,2nd class- little did he know that he would give me a real insight into Indian resoluteness of ticket less travel
Given that the seats are meant for 3 people, but considering that theseindividuals must be
Somalian or been starved for the last month. I someone squeezed in with the two other guys in the seat beside me. Looking up I saw about 10 people standing near the entrance, thinking that they were send off relatives, I buried my face into my Dan Brown’ “Angels & Demons”. Looking up after an hour I just realized that the send off people were actually passengers and they were prepared to stand till journey was over. A couple of chapters and stations later, I realized that there were more people standing than sitting in the coach. !!!!

Pandemonium will be an understatement to describe the scene. I had a lady with a barely 3 month baby sitting on the floor in the compartment, her mom is law was on the side right in the middle of the walkway . We had about 9 ladies in rich silks standing a 3 feet area, having atleast 5 kids below the age of 4 between them, plus I had a grandmother who kept telling me to get up.I nearly did but the elderly gentleman opposite to me pulled me down, muttering that if I did so, all the guys in the compartment had to do so.
In between all this, we had a vegetable vendor, who decided to plonk her basket on my feet , loudly exclaiming that she could do so as this was the government property and she had every right, I am sure my mom would disagree with her.As the coffee, tea & soup guys kept wielding there way through the mass , it was clear that these guys were given intense training in jugglery and balancing before their job in the railways.Then came the dosa/ omlet walas, but considering that I could eat only if someone fed me,( my hands were jammed between the guy on my right and the lunch box on my left), I let them pass. We also had the stray doll/key seller who wormed his way in, however he couldn’t show off his wares as the kids kept jumping on him and scattering all to the floor. Finally the railway conductor showed up in his splendid blue suit, slightly frayed . And man!! did the guy know how to bend his body. He actually bent his top half sideways to avoid the baby throwing its rattle at him, and slithered through gap between the old lady and vegetable basket. He nearly fell into my lap , gave me a greater fright than the ghost throwing up in Sixth Sense, regained his balance and continued, actually asking people for their open tickets.

As we crossed Jalarpet station the wind cooled inside of the compartment, tiredness slowly overtook the group and as the multitude of bodies in the train kept increasing , it struck me that this happens only in India. Though people were standing on each others feet, they bonded on talk of how absolutely unpunctual and dirty the railways had become, the political climate and how cold the Bangalore climate would be. As we finally reached cantonment station the sea of people descended onto the platform in a rush, the gateway being too small to accommodate the rush, there was a jam on the platform. That’s when I truly figured out that I reached Bangalore :).

I realized in the end, that somehow hours pass quicker when you are among people, even strangers. Its funny how 150 unique people can be crammed into a compartment and pass the time in peace , but people of the same family cannot spend more than 30 minutes a week to spend time with each other. It was an learning experience, I didn’t for the 5 hours go back to my book nor did I look out of window. The entire time was spent just looking around and listening. As my mom will say , a lot more can be learnt that way….

And the train joke is….

Accountants and Engineers on a Train

Three engineers and three accountants are traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three accountants each buy tickets and watch as the three engineers buy only a single ticket.
"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks an accountant. "Watch and you'll see," answers an engineer. They all board the train. The accountants take their respective seats but all three engineers cram into a restroom and close the door behind them.
Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, "Ticket, please." The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.
The accountants saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the accountants decide to copy the engineers on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money, and all). When they get to the station they buy a single ticket for the return trip.
To their astonishment, the engineers don't buy a ticket at all. "How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed accountant. "Watch and you'll see," answers an engineer. When they board the train the three accountants cram into a restroom and the three engineers cram into another one nearby. The train departs.
Shortly afterward, one of the engineers leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the accountants are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please."

Keep Smiling


Blogger Chakra Sampath said...

very well written... cd visualise that as I have experienced a similar journey few deepavalis back.

btw, first time here and certainly won't be the last. Keep writing!

- Chakra Sampath.

5:53 AM  
Blogger JaganLee said...

A nice blog..this is my first visit..and its quite impressive.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Anu said...

Chakra and Jagan.. thanks.. it's a pleasure having new friends..


11:59 PM  
Blogger Sriram said...

so u had an educating journey..ha ha ha...nice one this....!
And thanks for the good words on my blog, its a nice feeling to be patted on the back.

10:47 PM  
Blogger hari said...

Hi Anu,

That was a perfect picture of the state of Affairs of Indian Railways. Nothing much can be done about that. It is the result of the hard work our fore-fathers had put on the family expansion front that you are experiencing today.

The last paragraph gives some food for thought. 150 people squeezing you all around nastily did not make you irritated for 5 hours, but the same patience or sanity does not prevail when you are among your family members, even for 30 minutes. Why ? I hope you would also be generous to give the answer to that. Is it ego or the lack of will to give and take or is it that we develop all our good qualities like adjustment, tolerance, patience, politeness etc… only when we are under pressure and forced to do so.

Regarding your joke, I think you have not completed it. It goes like this.

After the engineer collects the ticket from the CAs, he gets back into his rest room. When the ticket collector comes, the Engineers’s hand over the ticket as usual and the CAs are left without any ticket and fooled again. Next time, the Engineers and the CAs get to travel in the Local Train in Mumbai. All the Engineers purchase tickets, but the smart CAs purchase only one, determined to win over the Engineers. The Ticket collector comes and the Engineers show their tickets while the CAs run around searching for rest rooms in a Local Train.(Local Trains do not have rest rooms.)

Nice blog Anu. Hope you had a great Diwali.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Shyam said...

Cant remember how I came to this blog, it was too random a route :) I'm glad to see that somebody else besides me has used the pink skin for their blog! Your train journey brought back memories of travelling on the GT to Delhi... up to a certain point it was ok, nobody got on. But after that "reserved berths" didnt matter - if you were sleeping on the lower or middle berth, you would be woken rudely so that half a dozen people could squeeze in all the way to Delhi. I have to say I really didnt enjoy such journeys. :) I like my personal space and my privacy... whether it's strangers OR family! :))

7:59 AM  
Blogger REFLEX said...

Good joke. I heard another versions of this joke where CAs are replaced with Sardarjis. Nice one. Keep up the good blog. Find time to visit my blog.

3:37 AM  
Blogger REFLEX said...

It happens to me when I come from Pune to Chennai. Many people who want to get down in near by stations get into our compartment and sit next to u and for the same seat, I have to book 40 days in advance to get a reservation. Even people with WL tickets get into this compartment and sleep in the pavement and in day time they will just sleep in Upper berth and sit wherever they get seat. All u said is True. Sometimes it si Fun and sometimes if you don't get place to sit and eat, it is irritating. Good one. The Train through Eternity is more Fun than the joke.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Castelgard said...

Well written Anu...but remeber "Oh Darling YEh Hai India"( a Ketan movie

3:18 AM  
Blogger Anu said...

thanks castlegard,,, n welcome to my blog:)


4:49 AM  
Blogger kpowerinfinity said...

I loved the joke :)

This by the way is a common sight on most local trains, and I see it almost on all of my trips home :(

The point is that when you are travelling with complete strangers, you do not have any expectations, you do not even notice them most of the time. Familial expectations always bog you down when you are with close ones. More importantly, you are with a new set of people on every train journey, trust me, you wouldnt want to meet the same set everytime.

8:57 PM  

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