Five co-passengers, Two Stalls , a Stray Dog and a railway station – Part 1
August 7, 2010 2 Comments
I was returning from a short vacation to kodaikkanal back to Bengaluru. As my wife was a bit indisposed, we decided to check out from the hotel, a good 5 hours before the train was due to arrive at our station – Kodai state road – to obviate any medical emergency travelling through the ghats later in the evening.
Our train was scheduled to arrive at half past 8 in the evening and we were at the railway station at 5 pm.
3 hours ahead of the schedule.
As we wheeled in our luggage into the railway station, the first thing that struck me was the audacious silence that seemed to engulf the station. Every bit unlike an Indian railway station.
I hold the view that Indian Railway Stations are among the best in the world, that is for the observant:
Battery operated cars would compete with squeaking push-trolleys ;
Evian water bottles would be stacked in some stalls to be bought by the affluent, the less fortunate would drink unsafe water direct from the taps;
Swanky American tourister strolleys on one side while the other side had the humble jute/cloth bags stuffed to the point of being torn apart.
Rich kids sipping a coke or a pepsi while the poor kid wailing his lungs out for one more of the Re 1 hardboiled toffee.
Indian railway stations are, just as india is, an embodiment of extremes.
KQN as Kodai Road station is abbreviated was nothing like an Indian railway station.
Deciding to take some rest, we decided to check out the waiting rooms. Sure enough there were waiting rooms, not one but 3.
The “upper class” waiting room was dark with shining steel chairs. It wasn’t too difficult to decide avoiding it lest we end up searching each other inside the “cave like” room.
We skipped the waiting room for the “ladies” and settled inside the common waiting hall. It was markedly better than the “upper class” room with less shining steel chairs and 4 high-roof fans.
And here we saw 2 of our co-passengers – a typical “maama and maami”. Maama and Maami (M&M, hereinafter) were just typical of any other Indian parents whose son/daughter was in the US and they were in India with lots and money and loneliness.
M&M had converted the waiting hall into something of a marriage choultry except that the famous “jamakaalam” (thick chaadar or carpet for those who are unfamiliar) of the marriages. Instead they used a bed spread.
They had about 5 to 6 pieces of luggage arranged neatly around the bedspread. The pride of place, ofcourse was a bright red dell laptop which M&M were staring into, seeing a movie.
While maami was perhaps a bit shy, maama was fully enjoying the hospitality of Didi Mamta Banerjee. He had removed his shirt and pant (guess !) slipping into the typical “Mylapore full banian” and a veshti
(dhoti) and lying spread-eagled on his tummy.
Like a crocodile he lifted his head to stare at me and my wife and continued to watch shriya or tamanna or some other tamil heroine gyrating to a peppy number.
I began wondering, just a decade & a half ago, what would have been the options for a “maama and maami” who’d reached railway station hours before schedule ?
May be they would have drunk cups of coffee ; They would have a stack of kumudhams and vikatans (both vernacular weekly magazines) to read ; Perhaps maami would have her own stockpile of “mangaiyar malars” (vernacular magazine for women)
If anyone needed further proof of the success of Dr Manmohan’s liberalization policies, the technological advancement of M&M was the clincher.
Driving through the ghats we were hungry and so we opened the food parcels of the hotel. After eating little bit of the fried rice, I stepped out to wash my hands.
There was a good old “cooler” but will it work ?
It worked ! Amazing !
Indian Railways had indeed come far but not very far – none of the lights or fans at the waiting room were working.
Feeling stuffy, we decided to abandon the waiting room and instead use the steel chairs of the platform to continue our wait.
The station was fairly clean – rows of steel chairs, over hanging fans and a foot over-bridge to cross over to the other side.
My wife insisted on me checking out the platform at which the returning Mysore express would stop. With the confidence of a Sehwag chasing a short wide one outside off, I pompously said that it would be Platform no. 1 because we were dropped in that platform when we arrived three days earlier.
Just like Sehwag losing his wicket to an inside edge, I was hopelessly wrong.
To the polite enquiry of “Bhaiya”, the ‘only’ tea vendor of the station stopped to answer my wife.
“It will arrive in Platform No 3”.
My wife gave me a stare and a clear thumbs-down.
With an useless husband as yours truly, she didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
‘Do you know where would coach A1 would be coming ?’
Quickly spotting that my wife knew little tamil, the vendor spoke to me.
‘You see the neem trees, just go till the last neem tree, that’s where you would find the AC coaches’.
We had clear 2.5 hours to go.
Both the stalls in the station, one in Platform 1 and another in Platform 3 were closed. But we were very close to the time of reopening of the stall, licenced to a certain Mr Abdullah.
I started peeling one of the oranges that we had bought enroute to the station and ate one. As a responsible citizen, I dumped the rinds to the dustbin and took a walk.
I found the station master’s room open and a soul inside. Wanting to lick my wounds and a vain bid to perhaps prove the tea vendor wrong, I asked him about the platform at which Mysore express would arrive.
“Platform 3 sir” (oh no !) and to rub further salt into my wounds “It is on time sir”.
I trudged back to the row where my wife was busy talking to one of her team mates.
“Where were you ?”
“I checked the train timing with the station master !” (vanity !)
Soon enough she dozed off. Some temporary relief !
A few minutes later, we saw a small group of locals descend on the platform. As I was wondering what could bring them to kodai railway station, a booming voice announced that the Dindigul – Madurai passenger would be coming shortly.
The good old passenger arrived with only second class carriages and tired (!) government officials (who else would be leaving home on time these days ?) sleeping on the ‘window seats’.
The announcer successfully woke up my wife.
Still 2 hours to kill.
‘I’ll check up with the station master…I don’t trust you’
After 5 minutes my wife came with a funny look in her face.
‘You said you spoke to the station master’
‘yeah, well, yes’
‘But I think he is a ghoonga (dumb)’
‘See I asked him which platform does Mysore express arrive in ? He showed me 3 fingers. Then I asked him the coach position of A1, he stretched his arm towards the end of the platform. Later I asked him whether the train is on schedule, he just smiled and nodded…I think he is a ghoonga’.
The poor station master.