“Yaatri krupya dhyaan de, Bandra se a rahi aur Jodhpur ki aur janewali 2480 Suryanagari Express, platform no.2 par a rahi hai”, the train chugs in and the people standing near the “GS1” and “GS2” board get ready for the battle that will ensue for the next 5 mins (duration of its stoppage in Vadodara). Just as the train stops, wild scenes await us. People throng the doors, pushing and pulling each other, the passengers are not allowed to alight first but they somehow manage to, that is after all the Great Indian Commuter Skills possessed by one and all Indians specially if they travel by the Indian Railways!!My friend and I somehow get in GS2 and the cacophony of the vendors (who have easily managed to sneak thro’ the compartments!!) starts.
You get all varieties of items on sale here. Perhaps it is a bigger supermarket in the compartments than the Walmart’s and others. (Something for them to think). Right from “Chana chor garam” to “Imitation necklaces” to “Evenin Newspapers” and obviously the Indian Travellers’ Fav Drink “TEA”, you can get everything here. Most of the people who have just entered the compartment are busy searching for a place to sit and put their luggages such that they can see it easily from any angle they sit. (Another Indian traveller’s admirable quality). I try to get a seat but the person sitting besides quickly retorts “A raha hai”!. And I, not being an expert in stealing seats, have to resign to my fate and stand for the next 2 hours.The train leaves Vadodara in the next 6 minutes. People finally get their seats (obviously the daily “pass holders”). Amateurs like me just keep staring at those wicked “(p)ASS holders” waiting for them to offer atleast a quarter of a seat but all in vain. Now, the train is heading towards Jodhpur and obviously the compartment has a lot of “Rajasthanis” speaking in their peculiar and incomprehensible accent. You also have the Gujju contingent who are mainly the pass-holders. People who had their upper berths reserved thanks to “handkerchiefs”, “bags”, “bottles”, etc are givin a harrowing time for the one’s sitting on the lower berth. First, they climb up with their shoes on and then keep their legs just inches above the one’s sittint below. Such a situation always induces an altercation. This time too, a quarrel started. But, fortunately ended with only a few exchange of abusive words. The worst sufferers in the “General” Compartment of an Indian Railway Train are its “FANS”!! No, not those facebook fans, the “DHONI-ENDORSED PSPO” fans. I have no clue if they are actually “PSPO” fans as they do not comply their standard of “Kone-Kone me zyada Hawa”!! The fan has all varieties of shoes on it with most of them unpolished and cow-dung stuck on it. It is actually a very smart and safe place to keep your shoes as there are literally no chances of them getting stolen from there. (Hats off to the Indian Traveller Again)!! But the fans which are not working are troubled the most. Everybody tries their hand, in their own way, to get the fan working. One of the persons inserts a ball pen and comes up with some magic which actually makes the fan rotate. Bravo!! (Hence, India does not need to invest in R & D. The Indian Traveller is so “INVENTIVE”!!)
The train picks up speed and most of them are now sitting either on the floors or near the toilets and blocking the way of the people in urgent need to go to the loo. Then, from one of the other compartments comes a “magazine wallah”. He has all the books(readable) in his stock. Right from “SMS jokes”, “Shayaris” to even the erotic ones like “PATNI, PATI SE KYA CHAHTI HAI??”,”Sex aur Sansar”, etc. And no prizes for guessing about the ones in demand. Few try to pass their time by just going thro’ the books without paying. Some others buy the “SMS” one’s and others the erotic ones. The erotic ones have bold pictures as their cover photos and the ones who havent bought it, keep staring at it either with amazement or with annoyance. Not many people fall in the latter category though! The ones who havent bought it , keep tryin to peep in those books to catch a glimpse of whats written in it or get their eyes on a bold photo.
Finally, the 2 hour short journey is about to end but not without a twist. At Maninagar, though its not an official stop for the train, the pass-holders again swing into action, this time by pulling the chain and saving the precious 20 mins it takes to reach Kalupur. Surely, time saved is money saved. The train eventually reaches 10 mins after its scheduled time which is a commendable job considerin the punctualness of the Indian Railways. The train finally chugs in at Kalupur , which is a 12 platform large station, at platform no 4 and similar scenes as described earlier are to be witnessed. My friend and I get down but not before fighting our way thro’ the doors. This was a very short trip in the General Compartment but whatever it was, I thoroughly enjoyed observing the people and will like to write more on “The Great Indian Commuter”. Standing on the platform, I realised how the normal Indian middle-class Traveller earns his bucks, by toiling not only in the fields and offices but also while travelling. Hats off to “The Great Indian Commuter”!!
A true “The Great Indian Commuter” fan.
P.S:- If you are still not inspired to take a trip in the general compartment, its only your “BAD LUCK”!!