26 May, 2007

My train journeys

Train journeys have always fascinated me from childhood. I liked the concept of sitting in one place comfortably and going around beautiful scenic places. I have always enjoyed my train journeys during my childhood days in India. My first long train journey as far as I could remember was a trip to Pune from Madras by Dadar Express. One of my ‘Periappa’ lived in Korattur. If we had to travel from Tambaram to Korattur we had to necessarily cross the train links at Park Station and walk towards Central station. Those were the days when the Zoo was close to Madras Central station. There was another landmark called ‘Moore Market’. You can get any old stuff, and good old books in Moore Market. Then walking to Central and while waiting for local trains to Korattur, my sisters and myself used to keep looking at the long distance trains waiting to leave Madras Central. Just on seeing the different colour trains and their Engines we used to get excited.

I used to look around. I always wondered why some of them were in tears when the trains moved. We never knew the emotions. We as kids were thinking that people should be happy to travel by trains, rather than crying. Slowly we realised that it was due to separation and the thought of missing the dear and near ones. Our first journey to Poona was exciting. We had food for two days and I was keeping on asking my mom, when she will open the Tamarind Rice box. My sister said that the Tomato Thokku was so good and she tasted it when my mom was cooking. We were quarrelling for the corner seat and reached into an agreement to share the seat in turn. The first long distance journey was excellent. After 17 days stay in Poona with my Uncle’s family, we went to Secunderabad. It was another great experience. After another 3 or 4 weeks we returned back to Madras. By now we had become experienced of long journeys. After that, it became a routine for me to travel far distances by train. But till date, I have been enjoying those journeys. I like to travel sitting in a corner seat, and enjoy seeing the country side. It is wonderful when it rains. Now, I laugh to myself when I travel during the weekends.

It is becoming a great experience. I work at Wolverhampton and travel from London Euston on Sunday nights, to return back the next Friday night. Sometimes I come across some people who really enjoy their trip. On few Fridays, I had to get early and leave to Manchester from Wolverhampton, in the morning, attend meetings and then return back from Manchester back to London. Just thinking of it could be a nightmare, but since I enjoy it, I do not worry about it.

Out of my experiences of this kind of weekend travelling for the past four months, I have come across young Indian software professionals during these trips. It looks like they are here through their Indian companies for few months. While talking to one of them who were on a short trip from Pune, on a casual chat I found my ex-colleague was his Project Manager. He was excited about it. I told him to convey my regards to her. He was glad that he found a new reason to increase his rapport with his PM.

During another trip, there was this Indian couple with their kid wandering for a seat. I offered them a seat. The gentleman came and sat next to me. I tried to talk to him, but he was a bit reserved. His wife was often looking at him from her seat. His son was naughty and wanted to come to us. Within few minutes his kid got attracted to me, and believe me or not for the next 2 hours, me and the little one were so engrossed in talking until we reached Manchester. The parents had a sigh of relief and the gentleman went and sat along with his wife. He never bothered to have a look at his kid. But the lady was often peeping and laughing and admiring at the way we both were getting along. The kid of less than 5 years old was adorable. I spoke to him in Hindi, since he could not speak English, and we both enjoyed our trip. He was a cute little boy.

Once I hurriedly rushed into the compartment to see four seats (2 on each side with a table in the front) was occupied by an English lady, and an Asian lady sitting opposite side. The English lady was busy taking her make up set from her bag kept on the other seat next to her. The Asian lady had kept her bag on the seat next to her. When I asked whether she could give me the seat, she immediately said that someone was about to come. Hoping that somebody would have gone to the toilet, I went and sat in another seat. The train left. But to my surprise nobody turned up. The English lady was still busy with her make up, and applying creams over her body, and changing herself presentable. The Asian lady was keeping on looking through the window. When the train reached next station, another Asian lady rushed in straight to this seat and occupied the seat. It seems like this one reserved a seat for her friend who gets in at the next station. Both of them seem to be born and brought up in this country, though of Indian Origin. I thought of teaching them manners. But realised it will be a waste of time. Will they ever learn? At least she could have been polite, and explained me the reason for keeping her bag. I prefer a seat with table because, I can scribble or be busy doing Sudoku which helps me to spend my time.

This week there was a huge crowd getting in one of the station. One English lady was struggling with her baggage and there was crowd both the sides waiting for her to give way. She was getting tensed that she could not find a space for her luggage. I got up from my seat on realising that she was my daughter’s teacher, who had taught her a year before. She was excited and I helped her in settling down. She went thanking and shouting in the train “You are a star”. Sometimes you meet people whom you know.

In Madras, just before when train reaches Central, it will slow down from Basin Bridge. In the same way, just before the train reaches London, there is a junction called Watford. I pack up my baggage and get ready and go near the door. In India, we can open the door, but here the doors will open only after the train stops. During our childhood days, I used to have a bet with my sisters about the destination platform. I do it every week here with some unknown passengers waiting near the doors. I had been successful till last week continuously for the past 14 weeks until last week. Last week I failed in my bet and the platform arrived on the opposite side.
As I was rushing out in the crowd, I heard a voice saying "Oru nimisham iru seriya ketkalai.." I stopped walking and looked around. There was a young Tamil couple talking over mobile phone and I smiled at them and walked towards my local train station.

There are no vendors shouting and selling fruits or peanuts. There are no beggars in the junctions. It is calm and there is frequent announcement about the way the train is progressing. If there is even a minute delay it is being announced. Last but previous week it was announced “We apologise for the delay. We have not received any information for the cause of delay and we shall let you know before you reach London”. After few minutes there was another announcement. We were almost reaching London and the announcement was “Kind attention please. We will be calling at London Euston shortly. We apologise for the delay. We are yet to get the reason for delay. We are not sure whether we will know the reason, since the train has already approached the platform. We wish you all safe journey home”.

Every week I get down from the Train happily looking forward for my next week’s train journey.

After all I travel by “Virgin”.