Of trains and men

Since yesterday, I have been thinking of a topic to ‘speak of ‘ here. Considering the fact that a lot has been happening lately, and that I am never at a loss of matters to plod on these days, ┬áit is curious that I still haven’t been able to arrive at a topic to write on. Hoping that I will find something on the way, I continue writing. The most prior occurrence of the time is me joining ‘The Institute of Engineers, Trivandrum’ for GATE coaching. As is evident, I have to travel to Trivandrum and back every Saturday and Sunday, something which I thought was going to bore me a lot. But things did not turn out as bad as I expected., in fact, they did not turn out bad at all. The journey, it seems, is an interesting one. Though my dear ‘acha’ had convinced me that there would be no rush at all in the Madras Mail express which I take on the onward journey; or the Intercity or Vanchinad, which I take back; (NB: he is a regular train traveler); I haven’t been able to sit in the train for the four trips so far (not counting the one when I got into the sleeper coach and the TTR told me to get off and change to the general coach at the next station). But standing in the train, be it besides the ever-wet wash-basin or the never-wet toilet, has its own advantages. I get to see a lot of action all around. As the train leaves the station, I see the Kollam station moving away from me. There is something beautiful about this place.Maybe it is the morning sun seeping through the holes in the dusty sheets around, maybe it is the pigeons that take abode in the railings above, maybe it is the ‘chaya-chayeeey’ or ‘uzhunnuvada-pazhamporeeey’ calls echoing out from the pantry-men. By the way, have you noticed this? – since the beginning of time, all pantry-men seem to raise their calls in the same voice-the same flat, rough voice that covers more than two bogeys at a time. It is a thing, I think, only pantry-men can make. Maybe they have a secret training centre where they are trained to call out in this voice or maybe they are all children of a BIG pantry-man who had this voice which his pantry-men-lings inherited. Whatever it be, it has got a ring to it. (I, as a kid, had tried making this sound and had succeeded to some extent. Maybe, I would make a great pantry-man one day. Maybe, I was destined for it. Take THAT B.Tech !!!).

Coming back to our topic, (you see, I have found a topic), one sees many a thing on the way. Little kids waving from the sides of railway tracks, bigger boys howling at people they don’t even know…

Two of the best poems I have read are related to train journeys. One is ‘kothambumanikal’ by the great O.N.V where he describes a girl he saw in a wheat field in Punjab, as his train passed by. He lets his imagination fly, guessing things about her,singing :

“perayiyathoru penkidave ninte nerariyunnu njan padunnu…”
(Oh girl, whose name I know not; I sing, knowing your truth).

Another one is ‘The story of Lost Friends’ by Ruskin Bond. To quote him

“I haven’t seen you again, bright boy at the carriage window,
Waving to me calling,
But I’ve loved you all these years and looked for you everywhere,
In cities and villages, beside the sea,
In the mountain, in crowds at distant places;
Returning always to the forest’s silence,
To watch the windows of some passing train….”

Words are never enough if you think; to describe anything that you love. Then again…Am I in love with train journey ?

“….bright boy at the carriage window………..
……..of some passing train………”

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