August 18, 2010

My friend for life

Bombay-Delhi train journey, sleeper class on the Golden Temple Mail, some impressions. Maybe more later.

* Two men on berths near me are playing nonstop with their phones. One uses a stylus whose cap he carefully unscrews and carefully hangs on his finger, then taps furiously at the screen for hours on end. He calls his wife thrice through the journey, speaks to her in speedy Marathi, but for some inexplicable reason puts her on speakerphone. Thus it is that all of us in the compartment, and possibly some outside, find out that she paid Rs 320 for some sari blouses, she bought some mutton, her reaction to his suggestion that she should not sleep in the afternoon ("I shouldn't?") and her reaction to being told that he had just eaten a cucumber ("Be careful!").

The other man stares for long periods at his phone screen, which has a thick green arrow making circles, with the words "Please wait" above it. He's waiting, that's for sure.

* Woman and her grown son sit next to me. When it's sleeping time, she tells him to change his shirt. He refuses, but she gets up and digs a striped beige one out of their bag anyway. He says, "that's too short, that's very short", but takes it anyway and changes into it. On him, it is exactly the same length as the dark blue one he has taken off. The blue one, he folds carefully, then uses it to wipe the surface of the table near the window, spreads it on the table, leans his elbows on the shirt and looks around expectantly.

His mother produces dinner, also from their bag.

* Ratlam station is swarming with men in light green uniforms with white shoes. The uniforms say "Eureka Forbes", "Clean Train Station", "CTS" and "Your Friend For Life". (Who's my friend for life: Eureka Forbes? The station? The man in the uniform?)

Some of them mop our compartment, telling us curtly to get out of the way. Others mill around outside. On a parallel track is a goods train made up of those cylindrical coaches, marked "Not to be Loose Shunted" and "Fit For Vegetable Oil". One of the CTS Friends for Life walks deliberately over the tracks to this train and pees on its wheels.

* The cylindrical cars all look identical to me. Nearly all say "Capacity 70000 litres". Except one, which says "Capacity 69800 litres". What makes this one 200 litres smaller?

* Nagda station has a stall that's called "SIK and SUN'S". While I'm trying to decipher that, I note that the small structure next to it has two signs. The first says "Main Power Sub Station", spelled out exactly like that, but in Devanagari. The second says "Accident Relief Medical Equipment Scale II", spelled out in English.

* Nagda is where several college buddies spent six forlorn (I think) months as apprentices at a company. I visited them once in that time. So when I passed through Nagda this time, I fired off text messages to two of them to say I was thinking of them there. One wrote back thus: "Ah, mammaries! Does the place still smell of bowel vapours?"

Forlorn, I think.


aditya said...

Ah Nagda. I have passed it so often in my college days, brings back many fond memories. Bread Omelet with butter milk made for a great breakfast! Its the point where you get down for Indore.

Ketan said...

Enjoyed reading!

You see, that guy peeing on the train's wheel was doing so precisely to keep the train station clean by not peeing on it! ;)

Jo said...

Did that one man (who put the speakerphone on) have 3g? He might have been on a video call. :-) Enjoyed reading the other ones. Of the kid and his mom, and the cleaning volunteers. :-)

V M said...

I did a few 2nd Class sleeper 3-T journeys this summer. Took a lot of notes. Delhi - B'Lore - Kottayam//Cochin - Bangalore - Delhi. And Delhi - Patna - Delhi. Yup, should have taken notes, people talk to each other in ordinary sleeper non A/C, guess the ambient noise of wind and tracks helps, and the country looks better. Frontier Mail, now called Golden Temple Exp., stops everywhere and is like a passenger train at places. You really want to enjoy rail travel on this route, take the Bandra-Nizamuddion Sampark Kranti Express, you' ll figure out why when you see the timetable schedule thing, and in 2nd Sleeper . . .