How not to, humour, Narratives

How NOT to get off a crowded Indian Train

I am stuck in the narrow passageway of a general bogie reserved for ladies and my whole life is flashing in front of my eyes. Well, this would have been completely true, had it not been for the woman standing in front of me, whose acute politeness has me, distracted. Her voice has staggering intensity; my ears are barely managing to protect my eardrums from crumbling to the symphony of her cuss words. I am stuck. She is stuck. Behind me is a long queue (as long as the tiny bogie permits) and behind the meek woman, I am busy listening to, are the wild bison cramming their way into the coach that’s already filled till the brim. “Let us out first!” Another woman behind me screams. And I, both leading and blocking the queue of angry goddesses who want to get off the god damned train, am stuck with my bag engaged in an unbreakable embrace with the luggage of the other woman whose symphony has me hypnotized. All around me are people telling me to move! Move woman! Move! But then I can’t. Funny, I think sometimes that’s how life works as well.

I try to recall how I got into this situation in the first place. Well, it all began with  my decision to board a crowded general bogie. And I guess that’s the end of it. The tiny ladies’ coach is an objectified sexism in itself but of course I am not going to get into that debate. I am probably going to get old here, amidst this friendly crowd and feminism is not something I would like to ponder about right now. Paying my special gratitude to the size of this bogie, my mind wanders to the immediate reason that had caused this chaos – The woman who was sitting on the floor (because obviously we don’t have enough seats), blocking the way to the door and absolutely refusing to apply what’s called the common sense, that is, to get up when a train halts at a station. Ultimately when others tell her to stand and make way, she takes eternity to do the same. And by the time she clears the way for us to move ahead, the passengers on the other side have already started to rush in. And the result of her stupidity? Chaos. Victim? Me.

Move! Woman! Move!
Well I can’t. My bag is stuck. I am stuck. Can’t you see?

The polite woman finally stops shouting and decides to apply her brain. She lifts her bag and I am able to step ahead and also drift my bag forward. But there’s still a long way to freedom. There are too many people inside and now it’s my suitcase that’s creating havoc. As I push myself (and the bag, the god damned bag) forward, I accidentally hurt a small kid who was standing on the way. Her mouth turns into a gigantic O, her cheeks turn blood red and river and its tributaries start flowing from her eyes. I want to apologize. I obviously didn’t mean to slam my bag into her foot but there’s this major part of me who just wants her to shut up. She is a kid and I shouldn’t bear such thoughts but I am never going to be able to get off this train and these women and this noise and this wailing child are turning this place into a hell and I haven’t sinned enough to deserve this (Or so I thought!). I have already started formulating alternate plans. I realize I am never getting off here. So, I start thinking what the next stop of this train would be and how will I get back from there.

Move! Woman! Move!
Woman can’t move. CAN’T YOU SEE!
Woman is stuck in between all these people and shouting doesn’t help.
And amidst this greatest struggle I have ever endured to get off a train, comes a helping hand. But the helping hand isn’t polite either. Helping hand is angry and is shouting too, “Why are you coming out so late? So rahe the kya? (Were you sleeping all this while?)” I lose my temper at this. Now is not a good time for the glare and the taunts. If I just knew how to punch, I would have punched you right across your face. In fact in this moment, I can punch god himself. But I settle for glaring back at my Messiah, the red shirted coolie who is lifting my bag. But he doesn’t shut up. Then something rare happens, “Would you stop shouting?”-  I shout (ironically). I scream so hard, in fact, that my voice breaks like the light splits through a prism. Damn. I immediately regret it but at least the coolie is silent now. When I finally get to get off the train, I feel like I have been reborn. The coolie has placed my bag on the platform and has disappeared. Good, I wasn’t going to thank him anyway. There are still significant traces of anger left inside me. I avoid thinking about the near-fatal swarm of the women. I avoid thinking about the crying child. I avoid thinking about the cuss words I had been showered with. Obviously, I fail. I notice that my breathing has become erratic and I am still a bit dizzy. So, I sit on a nearby bench, take a few deep breaths and make myself believe that I really am alive and safe. Get off the train! That’s all I had to do! Realize how powerful chaos is? Realize how hazardous a heavy and huge suitcase is? Don’t carry a bag that weighs more than you do. Or join a gym and set major weightlifting goals. And yes don’t underestimate the stupidity of your fellow passengers. Avoid crowd! Avoid crowd! Avoid crowd! (This suggestion is, in reality, a sham because there’s nothing in India that’s not crowded.) And that’s how you get off a train in India safely.

***

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my life, PATNA CHRONICLES, random

The general bogie

So, now we are in Delhi. And quite far away from Patna but the ghosts haven’t left us alone. We have missed our train. And we need to reach Surat.

But how?

Well, here’s how…

The general Bogie tragedy

 

Since getting an AC/ sleeper bogie train ticket a day before is as good as winning a lottery in India, we know that our journey can’t possibly be comfortable.

That’s another Impossible that doesn’t say I’m possible.

We could go by flight but then that would have led us to Bankruptcy.

So, here’s what we do; we decide to go by general bogie. If you are an Indian, then this statement would have brought tears in your eyes. And if they haven’t then your heart is made of stone.

Fourteen hours journey in a general bogie; Oh! My sad little life.

But by this time god has softened a bit on us. When we boarded the train at New Delhi Station, it was pretty much empty and we got seats quite easily.

But General Bogie is so crowded that even if you are sitting comfortably on the seat, you can’t really be comfortable. And then there is always that one person around you who would make you consider the possibility of jumping off the train immediately over and over again.

And in our case, we had many.

  • You-mess-with-us and you-are-dead family

These were a bunch of small vendors. They shipped goods from Delhi to Goa and sold it there. And hence they had a lot of luggage.

They entered the train and almost immediately we hear the heated altercation between the “meals on wheels” food vendor and them which was pretty much regarding their heavy luggage.

The meals guy wanted space for his own items and this luggage family were adamant to make a deal mostly because;

A. They couldn’t. They had so much luggage that even after stuffing them under the seats of various compartments ( wherever there was space) and filling up the whole entrance area, one could find the toilet door jammed with their remaining items.

B.They liked quarreling. They just did.

 

  • I-would-make-your-ears-bleed woman.

This woman had a valid point in getting heated by the way the other woman beside her was sleeping. But what made this woman irritating was that she kept shouting and cursing even after the matter was long gone resolved.

She wouldn’t just shut up.

 

These are the most common kind of people you find in a general bogie. On their defense, I would just like to say that maybe they lose it because they must be pretty darn tired and irritated.

 

But then, these people are the exact reason why the other people around get pretty darn irritated and tired.

 

  • I-would-marry-the-seat guy

I have seen people quarreling over seats before but this person, Oh! he takes it to another level. Not only did he quarrel over  the seat, he also sat on the children who were sitting on the seat he wanted. He gets slapped, he gets cursed at but no! Nothing can stop him from getting that seat.

 

Ultimately, I think another guy offered him his seat and the matter got settled but the Academy award winning scene he created is going to stay on my mind forever.

 

From the early morning to the night, we kept sitting and sitting and sitting.

The hot winds continued to kiss our faces but what could we possibly do to stop it? Our skin was covered by thick layer of dust and sweat. We were hungry and thirsty and so freaking tired. We had spent our whole previous night on the station. I did not even have a novel that could give me refuge in its arms. I had already read the two novels that I had brought.

Traveling in train (that too in general bogie) is adventure in its own. And I don’t think I remember the numerous times I have travelled in AC bogies but I am going to remember this journey.

India is a huge country. And traveling from one place to another has always been quite a problematic issue. You want comfort, then you gotta loosen your pockets. You want to save money, you gotta loose comfort. The number of passengers is augmenting day by day. The number of trains we have is not enough.

And still somehow, Indian railways always manage to be at loss. The prices of the train tickets get hiked every year and traveling becomes costlier and costlier.

And I have no idea why I am writing all this.

My point being; I had a painful journey back home.

And it wasn’t over yet.

The train we boarded did not have a stoppage at Surat. And so we had this task of boarding another train from Vadodara to Surat.

And most probably again in general bogie.

And this time we knew that we wouldn’t find a single seat to sit. And with the kind of luggage we had, it could prove fatal.

So, did we make it to our home alive?

To find out whether I am writing this from heaven or not, you can read –

Patna Chronicles;Dawn of a new era -The fourth and the final part of Patna Chronicles series.

 

P.S.The general bogie tragedy has nothing to do with Patna but I still connect the city to it because if our train hadn’t got late then we would have had a comfortable journey back to home.