July 19, 2008 (Delhi to Dhanbad)
As I write this down, my hands are still trembling. I never knew one train ride could change my life forever. Today, at 0730 hours, I boarded the Kalka Mail for Dhanbad, my home for the next 4 years. Nervous as I was, the sight of the train was in no way comforting. At first I mistook it for a freight train. There seemed to be more luggage in the train than people. But when the train finally stopped at the platform, I realized this was it. It was really happening. In a few minutes, I was going to travel with Bengalis. Lots of Bengalis!
A very large woman in her 40s warmed me up for the ride by crushing my feet with her even larger suitcase. I could judge from the strength of impact that she was probably carrying blocks of lead in it, though I couldn’t exactly figure out why. After battling my way into the compartment aisle, which by the way is not a very spacious feature in Indian trains, I realized what I had seen from the outside was the tip of an iceberg. There were bags everywhere. American Tourister trolley bags, VIP suitcases, Harrison Trunks, Jute bags, XXXL polythenes. It seemed like bags were travelling with people and not the other way round. It was like every non-resident West Bengali had suddenly been ordered to relocate back to West Bengal with all their belongings. What other possible explanation could be there for a man who was carrying 2 ceiling fans and a bunch of tube lights over a distance of 1200 kilometers?
My mom had told me to keep my luggage close to me at all times. She would have been really happy that night as I was so close to my luggage I had to even sleep with my bags on the 2 X 6 berth.
Note to self- Indian Railways should take a cue from aviation sector and levy charges on excess baggage. Record profit from East-Central Railways guaranteed.
March 3, 2009 (Dhanbad to Delhi)
I am still getting used to the space issues. It is not only the volumes of their bags but the volumes of the people themselves are intimidating enough. Which is not very surprising given that one-third to one-half of their luggage is food. I have never seen any Bengali individual or family finishing up all their food during their journey. Which leads me to believe that Bengalis are always on the travel and hence the stockpile of food. The fact that no matter how early I try to book my ticket, I see ‘W/L ***’ everywhere also points to the same.
No, they never offer me anything. Unless of course I am sitting near the window in which case they frequently hand over peelings of fruits, wrappers and packing foil to me, and I dutifully throw them out. The phrase ‘being somebody’s bitch’ has started making sense to me.
Note to self- No window seats.
January 8, 2010 (Delhi to Dhanbad)
‘Loud’ seems like an adjective with a complimentary connotation when you are sitting in a train with Bengalis. It has been over a year now, but my ears are still not able to adjust to the 150 Db+ conversations happening in the compartments. Sometimes even the rattle-tattle of the train becomes inaudible, giving me a 1AC feeling while being in Sleeper. Talking of sleeper, I want to kick Shashi Tharoor in the ball sack for his ‘cattle class’ remark. Cattle don’t make this much of noise. And cattle certainly don’t travel with excessive luggage. You bastard, why did you defame poor sheeps and goats?
I have stopped purchasing magazines also. I cannot read amidst a medium scale riot that lasts for around 18 hours, if the train is on time (which is hardly the case ever). They say ‘Time flies’. To me time looks like a tortoise that has lost 2 of its limbs to paralysis.
Note to self- The superlative form of ‘vociferous’ is ‘Bengali’.
October 14, 2010 (Delhi to Dhanbad)
More than two years but I haven’t yet got a glimpse of the fabled ‘Bong beauty’. I have travelled in different trains at different times in different classes. It’s not like I am dying to meet a girl. But somehow I do believe female company would be way better than grumpy oldies or pesky Bong minions who want to see Kung Fu Panda on my laptop. One thing about the former though, every one of them looks like a CPI(M) politician. It might be my imagination but they just look like hardcore leftists, trust me! I cannot make a word of what they are discussing, but it looks like they are mostly talking about communism et all!
Maybe I need to see a shrink. That is for later.
This time I am glad to see an F-21 just below my name. Her name is Aparna. Typical Bong,eh? I got to my seat and she was already sitting besides mine. I broke the ice by asking her if she was going all the way to Howrah. She nodded in the affirmative. It was mostly a night journey. (I had made it a point to try to travel at night. That was the only time Bengalis don’t talk. Yup, these guys love their sleep. They want everyone to be on their berths and the lights out at 10, even if it means you have to sit in the dark at the upper berth and eat your food. Still, it was a better option).
So, we didn’t talk much. But I noticed she had those Bipasha Basu type eyes. Nice! I dozed off around 11 only to be woken up an hour or so later by a shrill, part-laugh part-shriek. It looked like one of those scenes from Mahest Bhatt movies where they apparently try to scare you by blocking your sense of hearing. I looked down and I saw Aparna on the phone. Somebody on the other side, not hard to guess, had apparently cracked a joke which had invoked the witch in her.
I covered my face with the blanket and tried to sleep all the way to Dhanbad.
I still get chills down the spine when I remember those long hairs, those eyes glowing in the dim light of the cellphone and that laugh.
Note to self- See the shrink. ASAP.