Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Train of thought

I think the lulling motion of a train helps your thoughts to wander. Then you reach your destination and immerse yourself in life. But those thoughts stay on the train, imperceptibly taking up a corner of your mind, forming little trains of their own that take you places when you let your guard down.

Taking the train to work everyday has been such a revelation. Not only do I get to hear different accents fight it out over who has a larger behind and is taking up a disproportionate amount of space, I also get to window shop as trinkets, cosmetics, magazines, snacks and clothes are peddled to women who would otherwise never, on a weekday, have time to stop and stare, let alone buy. And I get to people-watch. Which is incredible entertainment for the (amazingly low) price of a train ticket.

Witnessed this morning was an animated conversation between school boys. They rushed onto my coach, four teenagers, and sprawled on the seats in the largely empty coach. I had no idea what they were saying, but they laughed a lot. Their language was unknown to me. All I could do was smile to myself and make wild guesses about what they were discussing (girls? teachers? cricket?). They spoke with their hands, and I realised I had, in my hurry, boarded the coach for the "handicapped and cancer patients". That explained the empty coach.

Their silence was loud, adding weight to their presence, meaning to every gesture, a word in every shake of the head and a joke in every raising of eyebrows. We travelled along in companionable silence, in worlds of our own, briefly overlapping when they surged past me, boisterous young boys, eager to get off the train before it came to a complete halt.

The opposite of silence is found in the other coaches, where the cacophony of "why you pushing, men" and "oof" and "ouch" and "arre jaldi utro na" usually drowns out the gentler side of most of my co-passengers. I watched in surprise as an entire crowded morning local once allowed a raggedy woman to remain asleep, stretched out on a three-person seat, cozy under a too-small, torn sheet, all the way till Churchgate. Perhaps they saw her exhaustion and homelessness etched on the blackened soles of her feet and in the three worn plastic bags that held her belongings.

Or perhaps it was the simplest way to give a little to a fellow being who would be forgotten as soon as everyone rushed off the train to rejoin their worlds.

Except that the little gesture, which meant so much in a crowded train where there's little room to stretch, will stay in our minds, making a home, snoozing under a torn sheet as we live our wakeful lives.





11 comments:

SM said...

Train travel is exposing you to a diverse activity. Very well written.I hope this one gets its place. Baba

Uday Shanbhag said...

very well written, good to know consulting hasnt cramped your style :-)

eve's lungs said...

Such a beautiful post Ana, especially the last bit about the woman .Travelling on trains and buses really give you an exposure to life , doesn't it ?

Thinking Cramps said...

Baba: Yes it is - though I still would exchange it for Dhiraj and the Indica :)

Uday: Phew! I'm trying to write more to make sure I can keep the balance.

Eve's Lungs: It sure does. I could write a post a day on those observations.

Girlonthebridge said...

Lovely. I've missed you and happy that I've found you again. I love the local trains of Mumbai. They gave me the solitude and the company I needed. At once.

dipali said...

So beautifully observed and written!

The Weekend Blogger said...

Beautiful post.

OrangeJammies said...

Sob. You keep writing about my Bombay, okay? I'm growing sentimental in my dotage. Haven't traveled by local in over a decade.

A Muser said...

Such an evocative post, Ana. Brought back memories of traveling in locals, especially the "why you pushing, men." :) Loved the people-watching too. It's been too long.

--Sunrise-- said...

Hi, just a blog-hopper :-) Loved this post, it's really endearing. The little miracles in life, eh... :)

Thinking Cramps said...

Glad you all liked it. This is all daily fodder for thought.

Sunrise: Thanks for "hopping" by :)