Another long train journey in just over a month...This time around I had my wife too to care care of Neo. So did manage more sleep and few thoughts:-)
Some random observations in no particular order or significance...
1. The humble newspaper is the one true community product. Especially in a railway coach. This is perhaps the only place where people sometimes don't even bother to ask for the paper. They just take and browse. The thank you is implicit, seldom verbalised!
2. Adjust kar lenge. Is perhaps the opening line of most train journeys as passengers begin to arrange their luggage in the compartment. The sweetness of the 'adjust kar lijiye' is directly proportional to the available luggage space!
3. T-bags : the bland equaliser. Till the Taj Mahal and the Tetley tea bags came into circulation, different stations had their own tea flavours and vendors had their distinctive sales andaaz. My favourite was 'Choudhary ki chai' - the adrak spiced milk-tea that I used to get ahead of Bhusawal on train journeys to my college in Surat. Choudhary was a ritual we used to look forward to. He had amongst the most lyrical sales pitch that memory recalls. Had character. A big smile and most importantly good chai.
No disrespect to T-bags; but in one swoop, they have managed to homogenise the tea drinking experience. It's the same bland sugary stuff wherever you go!
4. Graveyard shift As I have gradually migrated to the AC 3/2 tier, the buzz of the sleeper is gone. I never realised that as a nation we are so sleep deprived. A majority of the passengers sleep for the better half of the journey.
Rarely have I encountered the loud conversations/ debates on national politics, cricket and other topical issues which were an essential part of the long 'sleeper' journeys of the past!
5. Purdah-hai-purdah. The other public obsession in the AC 2 tier is the attachment to the purdah(curtains). For an otherwise open, loud, display-friendly and sociable nation, I find this cocooning inside the train purdah quite perplexing! Any insights here? Reminds me of the 'purdah' people had in the good ole Ambasador!
6. The Charger as ice-breaker. Saurabh in his post had pointed out on the ice-breaking qualities of the Nokia charger! I too had first hand experience when a portly Auntyji intruded our purdah with a warm -"Beta tumhara charger kaam kar raha hai kya". And thus ensued a relay race. Between the saas and the heavily sindur-ed bahu, they charged 3 mobile phones! Like good train Samaritans, hum thoda sa adjust kar liye:-)
But for the techno-social effects of mobile phones, mp3 players and laptops...many of the rituals of the train journey are intact...
However, the journey itself has irreversibly changed. With the constant beep of cell phones and the tracking by anxious family members, you are never on your own/ alone.
Yet again I missed the timelessness and the lost in wilderness feel...Promise to myself - Will keep the cell phone switched off for all the 30 hours next time!!
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