Words on the blue T-shirt worn by a young woman in our coach, I swear I stole looks at it only to get these words down correctly.
STARING ... Sisley
TALKING ... Sisley
TOUCHING ... Sisley
With each other
It is precious time
TO SMILE ... Sisley
WALKING ... Sisley
PERSONAL ... Sisley
With each other
It is precious time
Speaking of T-shirts. At Shahabad, a twenty-something dude gets on wearing a black one. It has a ghastly lurid picture of a baby (!) holding up its middle finger (!) and these words beneath.
I HAVE A BIG DICK KING
A man appears silently and puts a pile of thin books on one of the berths in our compartment. Vanishes and returns with another pile, which he takes to the next compartment. And so on.
This is the uniquely effective sales technique of Messrs T Ramaswamy Iyer (name changed) bookseller and publisher from Bangalore. Their ouevre, there for persual on the berth, includes such clear bestsellers as Science Quiz, Mathematics Quiz, Mahabharatha for Children, Best Quotations for all Occassions (sic), Diabetes, and the one I invested Rs 15 in, Essay Writing. (See? Effective all right).
I already believe it is the best Rs 15 I've ever spent. This little 112-page gem has essays on a number of different topics, from "Friendship" to "The Evils of Dowry" to "Strikes". And it has some wisdom indeed. Some samples:
In the essay on "Choice of a Career": Nobody likes half starving and ill respected. So every where the competition lies.
In "Science and Religion": Sofa is a place to sit. A grass bed is also a place to sit. Sofa is man made and is the gift of technology. A grass bed is natural. Both serve the same purpose. The ultimate result is 'Ananda' the bliss.
In "Health and Sanitation": Like good air and tight man needs good cloth to wear, one should wear loose clothes but not very tight clothes that obstruct blood circulation.
In "Kindness to Animals": To see wild animals one has to 90 (sic) to a dense forest or a zoo. Birds fly in the sky. Horses are used to pull carts.
As you can tell, the book will never be far from my grass bed.
The little Andhra Pradesh town of Yadgir announces itself with a sprinkling of shabby structures poking out of bare fields, in the shadow of a lone hill. Then more and more shabby structures. And suddenly we are at the station, which is overflowing with gorgeous bougainvillea in multiple colours, lit prettily by the rising sun.
As I look out in admiration at the flowers, I feel a tap on my shoulder. A scrawny, filthy woman with a baby lolling almost lifelessly in her arms asks me for money. Outside on the platform of Yadgir, a young lady in a slinky tight skirt, stylish top and a stole -- she wouldn't be out of place on any Page 3 -- strides along, wobbling slightly and fetchingly on her too-high heels.
Solapur and some other stations have a "Running Room." What happens there, I wonder. I mean, I've heard of "Waiting Room" and "Retiring Room" and "Bath Room." But why have a room to go run in?
Then again, Solapur also has little sheds at either end of the platform, called "Rolling In Rolling Out." There's gotta be some connection.
At Daund, a dark muscleman in jeans, chunky shoes, tight T-shirt (no charming message on it, more's the pity), wearing a chunky bracelet and carrying a too-large belly, lopes through the compartment. I'm inadvertently in his way, looking the other way. So when he comes up to me, instead of simply asking me to move, he actually tries to lift me aside. But it's not for nothing that I carry a too-large belly too. He can't.
Anyway, he strides over to the open door of the coach, and puts his muscled shoulder and right arm into opening it an inch wider than it already is. Then he leans triumphantly against the wall and with a flourish whips out a cellphone. Chunky, of course.
Young girl in a baseball cap, one more of the travelling performers who ask for money, stands beside us for a long time, looking yearningly at our son's crayons and colouring book. Finally and quietly, she asks for one crayon.
But before we can react, she is shoved aside roughly by a skinny old woman. She thrusts in our faces a pan in which there is a chapatti and a small lump of pickle.
The girl wanders off disconsolately. I go after her with the crayon, find her performing handstands before a gaggle of jeering teenage boys in the next compartment. They look at me in surprise when I leave the crayon in her plate.
Pune. A boy comes through on his haunches, maybe the same one we saw on our journey in the other direction. Little more than skin and bone, his shorts are held up by a string. He's wiping the floor and asking for money. I watch him pick up a grape that's lying under a seat and eat it.
As he passes us, my son looks at him, then at me in wonder. "Appa," he says, "he's using his T-shirt! Why?"
My son often asks why. This time, I have no answer.