It was a pleasant, mild and sunny morning. The stench of the railway station,the maddening crowd and the ever late Indian trains -all made sure I was troubled to a certain level. To add to it,there were heads turning.Thanks to my balloon pants and the nerdy glasses,I was very close to looking like a clown out there in the midst of people with whom the look had quite not caught up or had not gone down well. Oh yes, I knew those stares and was willing to forgive them,might anyone realize his mistake and ask for forgiveness. Err..hold on who was I fooling! Forgiveness for staring ..Ma’am/Sir,that’s a birth right, no one dares to take it away…isn’t it?
Slowly and gracefully the train chugged in and now I had to concentrate on getting into the train safely with all my appendages intact and luggage in a whole. I wouldn’t have to tell you about the huge chaos that ensues once the grunting machine stops. Too many emotions at the doorway:people waving, wailing,smiling,laughing and you trying your best to tell people that you would be grateful to them for a life time if they could just make way and let you board this train. Phew!Certain things that are so mundane have become so difficult these days.
Okay!So where is my seat …Oh God please be it by some decent guy; a girl would also do. It gives me creeps sitting beside an elderly person for I don’t know what action or words of this spoilt generation might offend them,and I dread not sit beside a kid since I feel the onus of entertaining the kid for the whole journey so that he spares me of his screeching wails or painful tantrums. My prayers were heard and a nerdy college-going kid happened to be sitting by me. He was gracious enough to spare me the tangles of his laptop wire since I had the window seat and the electric socket was right above my head. Once I settled down,I pulled out the book,’Far from the maddening crowd ‘,and it just seemed apt for my mood. The scarlet sun rays making way through the curtain that was left ajar,reflecting off my tanned skin and lighting up the otherwise dingy bogey had a placating effect. The air-conditioner temperature was set just right and the seat had enough cushion for my otherwise tired back. A comfortable window seat,a good book in hand and an amiable surrounding. What else does one need for a wonderful journey.
A bee-line of hawkers walked into my compartment as soon as the brown-red serpent slithered out of the platform. There was so much to choose from -‘jhal mudhi'(Spicy puffed rice),’masala chana'(chickpea curry),’ghola dahi'(skimmed curd),’mitha dahi'(sweet curd),’Amoool coool'(Amul cool)-that’s exactly how it was said out. We Oriyas, do know how exactly certain things are said in the typical Oriya accent.Phonetically rustic but idllicaly endearing and you know how much you missed this when you weren’t living here. Nevertheless I called out ,”Bhaina gotiye chana masala debe”(Brother-in-law,give me chana-masala) and of course every stranger guy is a bhaina(brother-in-law) here in Orissa, either by choice or by chance.Fate you see!
As I relished the ‘chana’,I had my ears open to people around me-there was an Oriya speaking gentleman who seemed to be a nice guy, conversing in Hindi, endlessly,with a chap sitting by him who was interested in nothing but the games on the man’s electronic tab and taking full advantage of it since his kids weren’t around. There was something uncannily sweet about the way he spoke Hindi(because of the mother-tongue-influence ) and the topics he was choosing to get the chap into a conversation. At one point in time, I did feel like snatching away the tab and asking the chap to acknowledge the Uncle’s presence(again any gentleman or lady above your best judgement of age and to your discretion can be called an Uncle or Aunty;not to forget I myself have been subjected to poor judgement and been called ‘Aunty’ a dozen times). Of course I let the uncle and the chap do what they were doing and happened to enjoy it somehow. I moved my focus to the unassuming lad sitting beside me. I am someone who always has this urge to break the ice with a fellow traveller since it’s too hard for me to keep mum for long. I was definitely not letting this college kid go without knowing his views on college education and lo – once I let him loose,he went on and on and stopped only when he got down. It was a healthy discussion and we did see eye to eye on most issues on college education. As the lanky lad moved out,a comely lady moved in. I tried, a couple of times,to strike up a conversation with her but I realized she was not a let’s-have-a-conversation-on-college kind of lady nor was I a let’s-have-a-conversation-on-vegetable-prices kind of person. So that signalled a retreat to the open book on my lap that was unattended for a long time now and was demanding my attention to the beautiful story in it.
That was my journey from Jharsuguda(a small town in Orissa) to Bhubaneshwar for one of my best friend’s marriage. The excitement was tipping and emotions overwhelming. It was time to shut the devices off and look forward to a gala time with my belladonas.