The Talkative Man speaks
<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
  Railway journeys - II
A train journey being a rarity during most of my school days, I got hooked to it once I started travelling. But this honeymoon phase did not last long. The taste of reality came in the form of the blackened and bulletproof chappatis, half-cooked vegetable curries and watery dhal that the Rs.25 Indian Railways meal provided. Meanwhile the seasoned travellers would treat themselves to a gourmet's spread come lunch or dinner: newspapers spread out, the casseroles would come out with homemade fresh chappatis, rice and varieties of curries. They would enjoy their meals in paper plates and toss them away.

To add insult to injury, even as I discovered that my stale Bisleri bottles purchased at jacked-up rates of Rs.15 or so had warmed up in the heat, resulting in water that was barely drinkable in the hot afternoons, some of the Know-alls would come out with their little water-filters and coffee-flasks bearing fresh liquids. The tale isn't over yet, we are all-too-familiar with the Railways' idly-vada breakfast whose offering of chutney would make Saravana Bhavan appear philanthropic in comparison. Not to mention the Rs.8 tea/coffee served in teeny-weeny plastic cups lasting barely a few sips. In short, for a one-day journey, you end up spending upwards of Rs.100 consuming the most atrocious food ever 'prepared'.

After a few journeys, I decided to react and in Satyagrahic fashion: A huge portion of the journey would be encountered on an empty stomach, after an okay-ish breakfast. Occasionally, I might break the fast if the train stopped at a good railway station where decent fruit juice was available. At the end of the journey, I would feel happy to have kept the marauding Railway staff and the even deadlier food at bay.(Although I am no snob, an accidental entry into the pantry compartment gave me a stark idea of the environment in which food is prepared on board!) In any case, food or no food, any passenger would feel completely drained, mentally and physically, at the end of a long journey. Driving my sanyasic instincts to a higher plane, I would reserve train journeys for reading something really hyper-advanced and hardcore techie: multithreading, sockets and the like. I soon dropped the pleasurable stuff like Narayan or biographies or film melodies since they really should be savored on a comfortable couch with some delicacies at hand - definitely not in a train on an empty stomach closely surrounded by 50 people who are forever cursing the heat, haggling with the hawkers, fuming at the delays or throwing fruit peels/groundnut shells* on the floor. My decision, based on extreme sadism and selfishness, gave me immense fulfilment - I was reaching my destination smug and satisfied having learnt stuff that typically tormented students and those in the IT world, whereas my tired co-passengers were lumbering out completely drained in mind and body. Like my school deskmate who would start writing sree rama jayam in panic whenever the material taught in class frightened him out of his wits, it was an alternate form of Transcendental Meditation that was oblivious to the hostility of the surrounding environment!

The other big hassle was the packing. It was bad enough when you are packing alone, the worst is to pack with your family doing a random inspection. Just when you have tucked in the fresh pack of toothpaste/soap thoughtfully purchased the previous evening, along comes a family member and runs an unsolicited audit - did you forget the toothpaste? have you taken soap? Ticket**, ticket! WHAT ABOUT THE TICKET??? - the voice would rise to a crescendo, especially if you leave the initial questions unanswered. I would shake a finger and mutter between my teeth, "'re interrupting my train of thought and might make me forget something; just leave me in peace for 15 min and I will be done, run your checklist later." They would look at me as if I were hell-bent on committing suicide! In due course, I learnt the art of packing within an hour for a long journey - when you arrive on vacation, just keep the 'constants' among your travelling kit locked in the bag and you don't have to deal with them when you pack for the return trip. Of course there will be those inexperienced travellers who believe in driving every non-travelling family member to an extreme and advanced state of frenzy - the hankies are still wet...did anyone see my purse??...Fetch me the water bottles!!!...Oh my God, run outside and call me an auto, quick! - when they finally leave, the family are on the threshold of collapsing in suspense/relief and fatigue. One of life's small pleasures is to pack in advance, reach the station early with family members, buy them coffee/Milo and then engage in leisurely chat even as you ask them to pick some magazines for you. Few things will beat that :)

To offset the harrowing experience of a journey made in summer, Appa once booked me in A/C. It turned out to be an equally tedious one - there were just a few pan-chewing and pot-bellied Marwadi businessmen in the entire bogey! The a/c ran all day and I huddled under a blanket in solitary confinement. But for the caterers, not a soul entered the bogey the whole day. You couldn't even open the window to get some fresh air. I promptly reverted back to sleeper class from then on.

Things took a happy turn after a while. Annapoorana chappati packs arrived. Soon along with Ruchi pickles and 777 puliyodharai paste, they became an essential part of every journey. I would elaborately prepare my food packets, wrap them in aluminium foil and later, say an emphatic and triumphant no to the Railway caterer who took orders on the train. Oft-times, one of my packets would be consumed by a grateful fellow bachelor in the compartment. Second-class travel truly became my cup of tea from then on.

* Railway travel has its own unwritten protocol when it comes to dealing with the poor beggar kids who pass right through the bogey sweeping trash and pausing to ask for alms: you are expected to keep a few coins with yourself and take turns with your co-passengers in giving alms, which are essentially a means of sending the needy away from your seats. It is not appropriate to have one passenger give out alms all the time!

**First it used to be hall ticket, then railway ticket and later flight ticket. Thanks to VCDs, cinema tickets were spared.
me (feeling) too nostalgic!!

I remember how me and my brother used to pester our parents for every eatable that passed thro' the compartment. The cool packet lassis and maazas used to be my favourite. I hated idlis during my childhood but made an exception when it came to the molaga podi soaked ones that we usually carried for long journeys! The Dip-dip Tea used to be a big fascination too!

For India trips, officially I start packing almost a month before the start date!

Getting to the station early was important if one had too many luggages(to fill all the under-seat spaces before others did!)
Like 'me too'. Engulfed in Nostalgia..All those intense fights with sibblings over the berth. Craze for 'all kinds' of eatables. Adhu oru Kanaa kaalam!!

Sequel is as good as the first one :)

Is it a Trilogy??
Yeah fights for window seats :( Ipovum undu! Bytheway enna bond btwn u and train ;) ???? Enna enna enna?
""'re interrupting my train of thought and might make me forget something; just leave me in peace for 15 min and I will be done, run your checklist later."
You are too polite :p

"Annapoorana chappati packs arrived"
aahaa.. indha matter enakku theriyadhu sir.. Eppo??
I've packed food for a train journey only once... somberithanam driven to the extent of tolerating railway food!

1) ungalukku diesel engine pudikkuma illa electric engine pudikkuma?
2) How important was the jannal seat to you?
one month is 3 much, ticket itself reaching much late.
Luggage handling reminds us of Pootu-sangili! I used to go with a Tiger pootu and switched to a Godrej 7 levers one. One of my friends used a Dindigul pootu that no looter would dare to touch!!!

trilogy-a? cha cha, it's a megaserial/Cheran philim! Ippo thaan cheran-style small lecture over.
no bond and all, just easy matter to write. If any problems, will contact you so you can escalate to higher authorities :-)
why shout during a rare home-visit? :) Annapoorana chappatis arrived around 2001/02 itself. Maybe in blr/chn, you get them in FoodWorld type departmental stores. Railway food ok for less than 10 hr journey, unless u enjoy cooking.
no difference wrt type of engine :) Generally the older/women folk take the lower berths and automatically ease into the window seats. Jannal seat isn't much of an attraction for a long journey.
You had to add that h in dal, right? ;-)
The last time I travelled by train, we had booked tickets in A/C. I discovered a cockroach in one of the blankets. When I told the TTR, he assured me it wouldnt bother me and politely asked "Madam, America laendhu vareengala?" I cant exactly explain how I felt then.
If the diluted chutney is too large a quantity, the miniscule lime pickle piece, is too inadequate for Dahi bath. Masal vadai at the Railay stations, always score over any other offerings the Railways have.

Sitting near the window, head reclining on the window grills, even while reading a magazine ( preferably Thuglak)when the wind gently blows on your face, early in the morning or around evening - an experience worth several times more than the few hundred we give to the Railways. My quarrel with Captain Gopinath is that he deprives me of my railway comforts by his tempting fares in Air Deccan.
mahadevan sir:
dahi bath Romba naala outside TN sir ? ;-)

One scene that did strike a chord with me in Anniyan was the railway catering contractor scene. Most of them need to be beaten up.
deepa :-) TTRs are interesting characters too! Potential story there!!!

MD Saar,
Window seat ok for Madras I would say. I got a 2nd Sitting window seat once in the Bangalore 6AM train - holy cow, the cold gusts freezed me to death!! Was huddling and praying for Hosur to arrive :( :(
anniyan innum paakala :( kandippa Vaali dialogues kekanum :)
Never been myself on Indian rail. Irunthalum ungal piece romba nalla irukku
thanks rh. hope you get a chance someday :)
The railway vadai is among the best you cna get
Its always the sudden jerk before take off, the monotonous rumble and the din of conversation drowned by the engine, that a train journey evokes; more than the vadai it is the vaadai that i think of, the breath of fresh air that dulls the senses. Brings to mind Calr Sandburg;


NIGHT from a railroad car window
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light
Carl Sandburg
During bus journeys the hotels around Salem bus stand had some scintillating vadais too.

good one. The start always gave me a panic - whether I had my ticket or not :)
Carl remind me of his poem on Arithmetic in my 8th std text.
The food these days in the trains has improved a lot. But has still a long way to go before it becomes edible. Somehow the pleasures of second class have faded out to make way for the goodness of the Shatabdi a/c. Thanks to your postawski's book, I'm able to sleep much faster these days anywhere
Quite right about Sandburg's Arithmetic. Nice poem that.

"Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the window and see the blue sky"

Ends with the line
If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?"


Is it true that the first sentence RK wrote - I mean when he began writing his stories- was about a train arriving in Malgudi?
Food isnt a problem for families. Looks like fares have skyrocketed :( Nice to hear Postawski helped!

You are correct about the Sandberg poem! RK's sentence is correct too. Somewhere on the net there was a cartoon showing a panoramic view of Malgudi.
Malgudi fictious name should be
adopted to some village/town/city
to respect great indian english author rasipuram krishnamurthy narayan. As suggested by Kushwant singh Tamil Nadu/Karnataka/Andhrapradesh
have many good villages situated on the banks of dome river or the
other may not be sarayu
still we can have one Malgudi
Perugu balasubramanyam
interesting! although I have no expert, but I want have to know more and more, on your blog just interesting and useful information. Keep it up!
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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
Rediff is just another TOI
Malgudi Days on DVD
TN Cricket - I : Early heroes
Bala, Bharatan and Guha
Warne does the trick once again
Remembering PV
A rare pic: Aandavans of Alwarpet
Random jottings on friendship
A gutsy analyst
Rarest among Jewels
Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam(2005)
The Terrorist(1997)
Holiday plans
Those small pleasures
Stalwart Narrator


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