Wednesday, December 14, 2011


To sound poetic when the topic you are writing on in is the ‘ Indian railways’, is tough. Especially when the not-so-fond memories of the last time you had to use the ‘loo’ comes rushing into the mind. Or the distinct nauseating odour of Lord knows what that haunts the entire train. We do have the dirtiest trains in the world. But there is something about these trains, a feeling that lacks a proper adjective, that makes you excited each time you make a journey.  Something very uniquely ‘Indian’.
My earliest memory would be that of the ‘passenger’ (shuttle) train ride with my grandparents to the Thrissur district.  A ride that had more to do with the rail moving ‘backwards’ than us moving front.  And I used to sit in the corner of a seat  or sometimes even in the space between the legs of some kind strangers, imagining a ‘flat world’ and the roaring train coming to end at some mysterious place.

Life moved on. Aristotle's deduction , the concept of ‘relative motion’ et al. were stuffed into our systems.  But train rides only got better. The Thiruvananthapuram journeys  to conquer a certain ‘I.T’ quiz with fellow comrades.  And then a series of college fests and the ‘iconic journey’ .
The key to enjoying  the train ride is to be the silent observer and not the participant. Engage yourself in a conversation and you’ll soon find yourself having to listen to some random person’s take on the nuclear bill or the lunar hoax(this is personal experience talking).  Shy away into a corner, perhaps with a book or an ear phone as a precautionary measure, and watch the world through the five iron grills that usually makes up the ‘window’.
I’ve read poems and stories about trains before. About ‘giant centipedes’ crawling through different terrains. Ripping the forests, bringing light to the long dark tunnels and so on. But that to me is just a part of the story.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A train ride is worth a thousand Pulitzers, if only could frame every second.  The story of that rubber plantation worker tapping the tree who stared at you. The kid missing his milk teeth who waved at you. The station master with his green flag in a remote village. The man whose job is to ensure that ‘those’ long dark tunnels are safe .  The odd man eying the transgender seductively. The hopeful fisherman. Women queuing up to get their buckets filled with water. Storks making life easier for a buffalo. Hundreds singing like possessed beings to the Lord almighty. The ‘ayyappa’ devotee  drying his clothes on the ceiling fan. The gypsy man carrying his wife of his shoulders as they cross the railway line. The people moving in synchronization with the train's sound. The stories are endless..
And the train? It moves on. Leaving all that as just mere memories. At some point its just an inanimate object that symbolizes a human life so beautifully. The dirty, old engine just keeps on running. Never wanting to stop or look back.  What does India strive for ? Communal harmony? What is India? Unity in diversity? And suddenly that image of a train tearing through societies comes into your mind. Muslims or Christians. Biharis or Malayalis.
To call our trains a mere mode of transport would be a serious failure in understanding what it really is. This is life. Brutal, honest and impartial as it can ever be.  And it is also life to many. From people  who survive by selling plastic bottles that travelers throw away to authors who sell their own books. 

“Pazham pori, uzhunnu vada …”. I looked at my hands, smiled to myself and asked for two. EACH.
                                                                          ---- Venad Express. 13/12/11  (signed with an oily hand)


Shrijith Nair said...

nice work nev ... :)

Aswathy said...

awesome!!! i just loved it!!! man u are getting better every second!!! :)

vmv said...

consider publishing a book nev :)

Nevin said...

Thanks Varna. If only I were that good :D

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