October 06, 2007

Combined lobby for jaw crushers

In the chair car trundling towards Goa, two men in front of me spend the whole trip -- all 10 hours -- poring over a glossy colourful pamphlet from a company named, simply, "STRONG". Through vegetable cutlet breakfast and dal-roti lunch, they pore. Through countless cups of tea and two each of tomato soup infested with large toast chunks, they pore. Through Khed and Kudal and Kankavali, they pore.

And I didn't know before, more's the pity, but I do know now: Strong makes Single Toggle Jaw Crushers and Double Toggle Jaw Crushers. Also Vibrating Screens.


Speaking of Khed. The whole trip is a voyage through post-monsoon overflowing green lushness. Near Khed, looking out at glowing paddy fields, I see a pack of dogs running along a path that breaks the green. At the next path, I see several small schoolgirls, also running along.

The entire coach is suffused with the heady aroma of vada-pao. I can hear a clipped female American accent from a few rows in front; Marathi behind and to my left; Hindi behind and to my right; Konkani from the guy beside me. So far, the poring men have chatted -- when they have taken a moment to chat, that is -- in what sounds like Telugu. But now, one turns to the other and says in English: "That's what I told, it is better to take a action than be delayed."

A young couple nearby, he looks Indian but she certainly doesn't, speaks French. They have two toddlers. Ahead, an older woman turns to say something to the young woman in fluent French, then turns to her husband and rattles off something in English, then asks the attendant for water in excellent Marathi.


Eating a juicy sweet cucumber smeared with salt and chilli powder, I stroll along the Ratnagiri platform. There's the usual "Alight Here" sign, in this case advising you that you can alight here if you're interested in any of:
  • Bhagwati Temple, 10 km
  • Pawas Swami Swaroopanand Samadhi, 20 km
  • Ganpatipule Swayambhu Ganesh Temple and Sea Beach, 45 km
  • Jaigad Fort, 55 km
Not for the first time, I wonder about such a sign. Who is it meant for? The traveller who's trundling along in her train, happens to look out as it rolls into Ratnagiri, decides on the spot that she really must see the Pawas Swami Swaroopanand Samadhi, and struggles to alight? Or someone else?

Also on the platform is a sign that announces "Combined Lobby (Loco, Pilot/Guards)." Another one announces a "Precoding socket switch." There's a big sign for the Abbot Chinese Food Stall, obviously defunct. But the sign has a picture of a woman lying next to a train, as if she has been wounded in an accident and awaits rescue.


The Indian-looking male half of the French-speaking couple runs past me to a distant magazine stall. Clearly he hasn't heard the announcement I just heard: because of "crossing", our train will wait here for some 20-25 minutes. The Konkan railway has only one available track for long lengths of the Bombay-Goa stretch, so we "cross" several more times through the day. Meaning, pull into a siding at a station and wait for the train in the other direction to "cross".

Nevertheless, the Indian-looking male runs back a few seconds later, already leafing through the magazine he has just bought. A Malayalam magazine.

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