The Talkative Man speaks
<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Thursday, February 15, 2007
  Railway journeys - I
These days a host of new carriers have invaded the Indian skies. That's bad news indeed, for I wonder how much of the regular middle-class patrons of Indian Railways have turned to the skies for travel. As early as 2003, getting finding seats on popular weekend trains used to be a problem, one had to book atleast 3 weeks in advance for the Friday night trip. Surely the newly launched carriers would have been a godsend for those folks.

I was never much into those weekend trips, as almost all my train trips were long-distance essays. A fair chunk of my segment too would have switched to the skies by now. And the upshot of the move would result in several less interesting encounters, I suppose.

My first long distance(as in 30 hours and more) trip was part of a group of over half a dozen tamil guys of different ages - we were visiting home en masse for Pongal . We hardly knew how time flew, there was no dearth of bridge, crosswords, book reviews, thirai vimarsanam, cricket talk and TN paal-tics. The subsequent ones were more or less solitary affairs and by then you get to learn the nitty-gritties of travelling by Indian Railways - the necessity of packing your own food, what to buy at what station, what to avoid from hawkers, how to manage your sleep patterns, what to read and engage your thoughts so you don't disembark a torturous journey feeling like a deflated balloon, how to avoid paying a pie to the dozens of hijras - this is one strategic art : you maintain a real mean and grouchy look on your face(having a moustache definitely helps, majority of the yuppies who got pinched/bullied didn't have one) and give that newspaper or book a scorching glare. When you hear the clink of bangles you scornfully shake your head without turning your eyes. Works every time :)

But the most interesting part of the journey are definitely the co-passengers - I suppose the passengers on long-distance trains can be easily classified into the Know-alls and the Naatupurathaans. One could easily slot his co-travellers into the 2 teams upon locating his seat. The latter appear ill-at-ease, shift uneasily in their seats, promptly try to make small talk with the newcomer. The Know-all is more likely to ignore the addition, lost in a book/walkman. If at all, he does regard the new passenger, it will be a smug glance, hands crossed across his chest, as he bestows a look of utter disdain, watching him arrange his paraphernalia.

One of the things I used to do in my younger days for a short journey(8 hours and under) was to look at the chart, make a mental picture of co-passenger profiles and decide whether to talk or invest the time in a book. For a longer journey, you will get to know them all anyway. [For males with insidious intentions, here's the dampener: you just can't fool Indian Railways - what I observed is that they don't slot any young females anywhere near eligible males. If you do book some 50 days ahead for an overnight journey on a daily train, you might get the window berth 7 (since 1-6 is usually reserved for females), the journey is 10-6 at night, you won't get any time to get fresh with a co-passenger!]

The thumb rule is that there will be atleast one mallu co-passenger for a long journey. And if you're headed west, someone from South Tamil Nadu. Irrespective of background, you will end up making atleast one good pal in the course of the journey. So in my latter journeys I used to pack an extra breakfast and rare was the event when I had to finish it myself.

-to be continued-
So true. Would the 2nd part be more on the lines of Rayil snegam?:-)
//was to look at the chart//

I too look for the same to check if there is any young female (athaavathu figaru) boarding my compartment :-)
//TN paal-tics//

athuvum indha paal-teecians vandhaangana compartment allolagala padum :-)
deepa, definitely not, I don't save any lives :) Also, I really disliked Rail Sneham, 89-90 had a really good crop of DD serials but the rot started with Rail Sneham, Shakti-90 etc.
I've never seen a tamil girl venture to travel outside south whether alone or escorted, definitely not in any of the bogies I travelled!

yaaa, paalteecians...once an ADMK MLA and 20-25 thondargal in black border veshtis boarded my compt..a fight nearly broke out when the TTE asked irritating Qs like 'enga maanaadu nadakudhu?','Amma varuvaangala?', 'enna thideernu kelambitenga?'... :)
//The Know-all is more likely to ignore the addition, lost in a book/walkman//

Hahaha..Great analysis ;) Logical post...
As early as 2003, getting finding seats on popular weekend trains used to be a problem, ??? , It has always been the case.

having a moustache definitely helps Hehe, it's not just hijras. But I refuse - only stubble. BTW, what's the deal with some people calling it facial hair ? Pseudothanathukku oru alavey illa ?

For males with insidious intentions, here's the dampener: you just can't fool Indian Railways Shiva Sena jujupee - indian railways has been quiet pioneer. Can be blessing at times - saves you from having to put up with the yakking.
Sakthi-90, tell me about it. Even Ladies' hostel was better than that.
Sakthi-90 was a kaattu bore. Surprised you didnt think much of Ladies Hostel - I think most would say it was a BIG hit. Among the feminist serials of "those" days, I liked it more than Penn(maybe coz the latter had crorepati women playing realistic roles)
Good post. I have very fond memories of my various train journeys. There are these ubiquitous all knowing Mamas in trains who would insist on blasting Laalu or whoever is in power that day and make " Enga kallutha ellam..." like statements. I have met quite a number of them. I think specifically this can be attributed to Tambrahm Mamas, though I may be wrong in missing a few other sections tooo.....
There were 2 Ladies' hostel, if you remember. The first one had Uma (the famous voice-over woman) and the 2nd one was the bad one. And I think I like Rayil snegam coz it made Sahaana raagam, a little mainstream.:-)
Aah, Indian railway journeys! Me too have numerous memories of it!

I remember the time during a shuttle between Madras and B'bay (Nov' 87 after watching 'Nayakan' and suddenly feeling more in love with B'bay!), the whole compartment was following the World cup semi finals between Pak & Aus getting score updates at every station(and the unity among Indians when wishing for Pak's failure!!)

I may be among the very few South Indian girls to have travelled all by myself (a couple of times!) on long distance train journeys(feeling adventurous when people raise their brows!)
yes it's true esp when the oldies figure you're new to long dist. In my initial days I and a colleague got cornered by one of them who proceeded to enlighten us all the way, recollecting Thackeray's anti-Madras call in the 60s..

Correct..there were two with the first being a hit(Selvi who joins her cousin or someone in the LH, Radhika(?) who later informs her friends she had an early divorce..), don't recollect much about the 2nd.
me too,
that was a good one, Nayagan rel. 21/10 and Aus-Pak game 4/11. Good recollection there!!
LOL@comparison with Shiv Sena!! Even if you land #7, nos. 1-6 will be perenially lost in the 'whos-gonna-bell-the-cat' dilemma :)
Thanks to Captain Gopinath, almost all the A/C passengers have shifted loyalty to Air Deccan. There are magazines like 'Tuglaq' and 'Week' ideal for rail journey. HIndu's Sportstar( Sports and Pastime earlier) also made our long rail journey memorable. Idli, Puliyodarai, writings of Raju Bharatan, K.N.Prabhu and S.K.Gurunathan were great compatriots in the train, during the earlier decades. "Annachis' carrying nostalgic memories of Naguneri, newly married ones stealing glances in front of suspicious in-laws, eighty year olds, extolling the virtues of 'Vellaikaran days' were inseparable parts of rail journey.
MD Saar,
yeah it's really hard to believe that those pleasure will become passe soon!!! :(
train travel in India is very uncomfortable, hectic and filthy. ellarum romanticize panranga ba adha..
AC-la travel pannina padu bore-u. Adhukku Sl. class-ey paravala.
Took me time to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also engaged! I’m sure you had joy writing this article.
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Davis Cup semifinal 1987
Sai Paranjpe's Chashme Baddoor
Director Bharathan's Pranaamam
Anything but Big Fun : bubblegum
Railway Journeys - II
A Hyperactive spirit
Ek Duje Ke Liye
Looking back on Amritraj vs Jaite
Freak Encounters - I
An unlikely friendship short-lived
Railway journeys - I
Michael Jordan the greatest:The Flu Game
History at Capetown?
Images from Malgudi Days(DVD)
Found after a 17 year search!
Champions Trophy deja vu
Deepavali song
Heard in passing
Phil Tufnell fielding school
Indian cricket since its embryonic days
Journalism's Joan of Arc
Stills from Idhaya Thamarai/Aur Ek Prem Kahani
The World of Amar Chitra Katha
..and I saw Carl Lewis last weekend!
Two memorable Calypso hits
The sensational triumph in the '83 World Cup
Doordarshan and Frustration!!!
Date with a chennai girl!
Mayhem in the morning
Dream Teams: India XI vs World XI
How Dad's work
Pelting his way into the record books!
Relentless march of time
Close encounters of the Desi Kind
Thandaa paani!
Keep going
Indian Male yuppie: Boy->Man->Gentleman
Hamlet revisited
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Malgudi Days on DVD
TN Cricket - I : Early heroes
Bala, Bharatan and Guha
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A rare pic: Aandavans of Alwarpet
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A gutsy analyst
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