Friday, February 11, 2011

Train to Hyderabad

2nd February 2011, 8:20 PM.
The Rajdhani Express chugs off dot on time. One of the few things that get a smile on ur face - Trains running on time. Hubby and I are on our way o Hyderabad to attend our first Maru-Jain wedding, that of a dear friend. The first wedding we are attending after ours (more about my wedding in a later post). Our suitacases are stuffed with blingy ethnic wear which were carefully chosen a few months ago for our own wedding trousseau. Alongwith the whole wedding excitement and the prospect of meeting old common friends, we are actually pretty kicked up about travelling by the Rajdhani. It brings back childhood memories of LTC family vacations way back in the early 90's. All the bank and Central govt. kids would be well aware of the once in 4 years, much-awaited, all-expense-paid-by-Govt./Bank family vacation.

Wish all the trains that run in India are converted into Rajdhanis or Shatabdis overnight! Just last week as I bade goodbye to my in-laws aboard the Guwahati Express - I couldnt feel more guilty. At MIL`s insistence we gave in to their request of travelling by train from this end of the country to the north-east - full 3 days by rail. She tried convincing us about how boring air travel is where you can 't chit-chat/gossip with other co-passengers, can`t see the 'scenery', no new friendships are struck and so on and so forth. After countless discussions on this topic we finally conceded defeat and let her have her way. Wish we knew what awaited us..
Despite having booked AC 2 tier berths, the compartment let out a foul smell even while we were a coupla meters away from boarding the train. On entering the compartment we were initially confused if we had entered a general or sleeper coach by mistake. The interiors smelt of pee and poo (adult poo that too :S ). The curtains smelt equally bad. The berths creaked at their hinges and the bedsheets and blankets provided were very visibly moth-ravaged. As I hugged her tight my eyes welled up. Don`t know what I was feeling worse about - About me going to miss her or about me subjecting her to this torturous journey of 3 days in that stinky compartment. Couldnt help but nudge hubby to bribe the coach attendant to take care of Maa and Bapi - something I surprisingly don`t feel ashamed of given the circumstances.

Fast-forward to the current settings - The rajdhani is everything that it promises to be. The attendants actually smile and say "Welcome Ma`am". Polite and courteous and ever smiling. The soup they serve is unexpectedly tasty and the breadsticks are soft. The air-conditioning is at the perfect temperature, charging points work and the food-tables do not creak while setting them up. The mirror is not cracked and looks freshly cleaned and the floor if not squeaky clean has very minimal dust/litter lying around. The co-passengers are busy doing their own thing - even the kids around seem least interested in creating a ruckus.

There are 2 aunties sitting next to us with huge balls of yarn and knitting needles spread out. One of them starts balling up the wool that is wound around her knees as she sits cross-legged on the berth chatting up with the other lady. It makes me smile. Reminds me lazy afternoons when I was a frock-wearing truant little kid who would keep pleading with mom to give me one of the brightly coloured balls of wool lying around to play football with in the playground, as mom and my maamis and neighbourhood aunties sat in our living room with their chai and assortment of biscuits and crackers and exchanged sweater and muffler designs and patterns. These were the days when kitty parties were looked upon as indulgences of housewives who had married rich and had nothing better to do in life other than play cards and flaunt jewellery and brag about foreign trips. The TT just walked by with a smile on his face and made some jovial banter with the ladies "Aap log aaram se khao piyo rest karo .. ye sab sweater bunna baad ke liye rakho ... chalti train mein bunne se aankhen kharab ho jaati hain". The aunties too shyly smiled back "Bore ho rahe hain ji .. bachchon ke liye sweater hi bun lein ... school mein kaam aati hain". Makes me smile again. How much I miss the bright pink and blue pullovers the ladies of our house used to knit for us.I somehow always found these hand-knitted scarves and pullovers way more cosy and pretty than the ones available in the stores.I havn`t really seen anyone in our genrations x,y and zee knit or sew. The slightest of mending needs a quick dash to the local tailor`s shop and as far as woollens are concerned , only the softest of branded cashmeres, at a fancy mall, having an insane price tag will do.Guilty as charged, The last time I did something similar to knitting (the end product was a shoddy mess - something I was mighty ashamed of and my mom was mega proud of :) )

I find it very selfless ... spending many a lazy afternoon staying up and knitting and poring over cute patterns and designs of flowers and teddy bears to knit into the sweaters ... and then giving away the finished masterpieces with an indulgent smile to a distant relative`s son or a kid in the neighbourhood who would pick one of these up and ask casually "aunty main ye le loon ?".Could I part away with something I had put so much heart into making , a true labour of love , to someone who perhaps did not figure into my scheme of things ? Perhaps not. Nay, most definitely not. Which again makes me rue about the sheer patience that the ladies of our moms generation had.
I mentally doff my hat to this thought and wish I could hop-skip across the country to just give mom a tight hug and a kiss and hop-skip back to reality again.

(Just as Im finishing this piece , one of the aunties worriedly looks at me "Beta, khana kha lo ... thandi ho rai hai.. paranthe sakt ho jayengi fir.. khana khake kaam kar lena" and then gives a toothy smile "iske baad icecream bhi denge ... badhiya waali". I promptly put aside my laptop and give her my brightest smile in response and as I make my way to the wash-basin I grin at seeing the trays of the badhiya-waali icecream kept on one of the berths ... the grin becomes wider upon a closer look - 'Barista lavazza Strawberry and Butterscotch' :D :D )

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