"Thoongathe Thambi thoongaathe"(Don't sleep brother, don't sleep)- It was irony at its best when he sat there, opposite to me, with his eyes closed and mouth wide open and clutching his 'star singer' mobile. To add to the profoundness of the moment, this was happening in the tightly packed general compartment of the Ananthapuri express from Trivandrum to Chennai. As is my luck with getting train tickets, I end up in the general compartment atleast once in two months. The speciality of the journey this time was that I sat in the same place for 16 straight hours, without EVER getting up. I had to, because the compartment was chockablock with people and moving around was out of question. I made myself feel better by contrasting it with the nine hour day journey in the general compartment last year, with an added flavour of loose motion. That time, I ended up crowd surfing back and forth atleast 4 times in those shitting adventures. Another episode that comes to mind was when a few of us had to sit and sleep on the floor, right next to the toilets. Olfactory bliss!
But keeping aside the obvious hardships that are part of the general compartment, it is the place where so much happens that you don't need the book or ipod to keep yourself engaged. The first thing you've to make sure is that you are sitting in the side berth, else be prepared to be squeezed. Because that is one seat where you can be sure that another pair of asses will never come and lay claim for three inches. What happens usually in the long seats meant for three is a tussle among atleast fifteen pairs of asses(u do the arsematics). In that packed compartment, there was this lady who came with her baby. She had carried the cloth to tie a cradle. I've seen cradles in trains before too. But what was special here was how few strangers got together and tied up the cradle. What followed was a beautiful scene. The baby was in the cradle in between the berths with 9 people sitting on each side(3 on top) and all of them looking at him and smiling. The ones sitting on the ground lowered themselves to the floor for the cradle to swing through. How I wished I could click that scene! But, I couldn't reach for my camera amidst the crowd.
As it chugged into Madurai, I doubled up as the chaiwalah's assistant. The side berth and the deep sleep of the guy sitting opposite to me made sure that the job of collecting money, asking for chai/coffee preference and then passing it on to each person, fell on me. I ended up serving upwards of 20 chais that night. Added to that was the requests for mineral water, biscuit etc. All this while, the man's mobile was still playing, sentimental songs all! With one of those slow songs in my ear, with the wind crashing on my face, amidst the cacophony in the compartment, I fell asleep...
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at Wednesday, September 14, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .