Disclaimer: The following article was intended to be taken with a pinch of good humour. Just in case that wasn’t already clear.
There’s something about sitting in a train passing through a beautiful landscape that’s just so..peaceful. But no! That’s not what this entry’s about. Nobody wants to hear about your perfect seamless journeys.
It wasn’t until I started University that I started travelling by trains regularly shuttling myself back home and forth. And let’s just say, where I’m from, train journeys can get erm..very interesting.
The few years I’ve been in my home country I’ve had my fair share of harrowing incidents. And one thing you should know about me is that I’m a very silent traveler. When I’m in the train going home, I don’t want to meet new people nor do I want to engage in fabulous conversations. I just want to get home, flop onto my bed and get a good night’s sleep, so usually I’ll be the snob in the compartment with my headphones on listening to music or watching a movie avoiding humanity totally or just dozing off having a death grip on my belongings (you just have to!).
The first couple of times I travelled home, I had friends who were going the same way for company and even though my place was almost 10 hours away, I would travel without a pre-booking ‘cause my friends were the kind who would just get onto a train five minutes before it left the platform (with a ticket of course) so obviously I used to follow suit, plus I had no idea how the system worked. Now that I think of all the times that we have travelled standing and in so-heavily-crowded-I-can’t-breathe trains, I think that was just plain stupid when we could have just booked a few days in advance and travelled comfortably with reservations. There was this one time during our first Uni break, a bunch of us travelled standing for around six hours straight(eep!) but that was okay – having your first college crush travelling along and engaging in conversation really takes your mind off things. Like muscle cramps and aching legs that come accompanied with long hours of standing.
But sometimes you get unexpected off days at college and there’s no time to make reservations before going home and sometimes in rush season, you just don’t get tickets and then you’re doomed to go home in *horror music rolls*.. The General compartment.
If you have ever travelled in an Indian train, you would know the motto of the General compartments is ‘ADJUST!’ Four guys are sitting on a seat meant for four, the fifth guy comes and says ‘adjust karo bhai (please adjust,bro). Alright no problem. All for one and one for all shit. Now the sixth guy comes and proceeds to butt kick the unfortunate fifth guy practically demanding some space, ‘‘adjust karo bhai’’.
So yeah, ‘cause I’m so smart, to avoid having a sweaty aunty mashed to my one side and a perverted uncle on the other side, I usually grab the single seater when I’m unlucky enough to spend ten hours in a general compartment. Although usually, before having the chance to be polite and ask a standing passenger if she would want me to hold her bag for her, more likely than not, the person would just thrust a ten kg bag into my lap so that I wouldn’t get too comfortable in my seat.
And don’t even get me started on the GC toilets! They are so ridiculously small that once you get in, you would have to make yourself disappear so that you have space to close the door! And the reserved compartment toilets aren’t any bigger – just slightly cleaner. Slightly. And no, size doesn’t matter – if inside, there wasn’t a gaping hole where the toilet seat should be. That’s right. You gotta squat and pee.. into the hole. Now if you are a guy, I’m assuming it isn’t that bad. It’s all about aim. But I’m a girl, and you’re telling me I gotta squat, aim my pee into a hole IN A MOVING TRAIN, alright we have issues. So what I do when I plan a train journey is pretty simple – I dehydrate myself. Prevention is always better, said the wise man. So I have half a mug of tea in the morning ‘cause I need that caffeine to deal with the idiots I could possibly run into in the train and then I buy a packet of chips and a bottle of water to sustain me during the trip. And I make sure I don’t drink all of it. ‘Cause I don’t wanna be peeing into no hole!
Anyway, let’s move on from that.
So on one such trip home, I was sitting in my usual single-seat. It wasn’t rush day so the compartment wasn’t that crowded. There was a family sitting in the seats beside me and I’m passing my time watching the children play their little games. The train reaches a platform and the elderly gentleman who was sitting opposite me stands up and leaves. From the corner of my eye, I can see a guy who was practically lying down on the four-seater in front jump up and come forward and occupy the newly empty seat. ‘Weird’ is the first thing that pops to mind but it doesn’t matter. Maybe he really loves one-seaters I think. So I continue looking out the window, listening to music. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s something so peaceful about looking through the window and observing all that greenery, the occasional lakes and houses with the wind blowing in your face.
Anyway, after a while, I hear a ‘pssst..pssst’. I ignore it ‘cause I know it’s coming from the seat opposite mine and also, in my book, ‘’Excuse me?’’ would be the way most civilized conversations would start. After a couple of minutes, again.. ‘‘pssst..pssst!’’ Now I get irritated, I look forward and I ask ‘’Yes?’’. ‘‘You travelling?’’, this guy sitting opposite me asks with a grin.
‘No, I’m sitting in the train because I survey idiots for fun.’, but I don’t say that of course and I reply back with an affirmative and go back to looking through my window in the hopes that the pest wouldn’t ‘psst’ anymore.
‘‘Psst.. so where are you going?’’ Yeah sure I’ll tell you where I’m going, I’ll even give you my home address you potential stalker/murderer/rapist. But I just tell him the name of the station I’m getting down at and hope that will be the end of it. But no, this inquisitive fellow here is not done yet.
“Where are you coming from?” “Are you working or are you studying?” “What are you studying” are the questions that follow next and the whole time I’m squirming in my seat because I don’t want to be having this one sided conversation in the first place and I’m too polite a person to be rude. Oblivious to everything, what’s-his-name keeps talking, introducing himself and his life story and I’m barely listening to a word. I know appearances can be deceptive but this guy here doesn’t look like the kind of person I would feel comfortable talking to either. Anyway, I take out my phone so that the guy would take a hint and just shut up. As I’m scrolling through my Facebook page, I hear “Oh! You’re on Facebook too! What’s your user name?” I just stare at him, dumbfounded as apparently, he doesn’t have a problem peeking into others’ phones. He still keeps talking, “You can look me up, my name is ___ (I really don’t remember), and do add me up!”
Yes, ‘cause we’ve become best of friends from this one sided conversation.
And if that hadn’t brought me to the verge of exasperation yet, this next bit of conversation certainly did. “My brother is in 12th grade and he’s so confused about his career choices. Since you’re a finance student yourself, I think it would be great if you would talk to him so if you could just give me your number – it’s not for me *nervous laughter*, I just want to pass it onto him.” Smooth. NOT.
I think about this for a minute, ‘Sure! I’ll give you the number of the Institute, they have a counselor, he can clear up anything with her!” For all this while of torture I was subjected to, I had the satisfaction of seeing his face light up and then flush in the space of a couple of seconds. I continue, “I have the number in my phone, you can take it down.”, and when I proceed to read the number, he actually says, “Wait! I don’t think I have a pen and a paper now, I’ll take it from you later.”
I’m doubling up in laughter in my head and I just nod and go back to looking through my window having a hard time keeping the smirk off my face. Now you might be thinking, why doesn’t she just switch seats and avoid this mental torture. Well, a. I did not want to be the coward who ran away from a weird guy and b. I did not want to give up my coveted single-seater.
Thankfully it is silent again for a while (THANK YOU LORD) but all good things have to come to an end. He breaks the beautiful silence again with another question, and thankfully my phone rings. I talk to my friend for a while and thank him for saving me for a while atleast. I notice Mr.Cannot-take-a-hint opening his mouth seeing me done with my phone conversation and without even thinking I blurt out, “That was my husband, he just told me he’ll be meeting me at the station.” I could visualize the person in my head just sitting there nodding her head condescendingly – Really? That’s the best you could come up with? Anyway, convinced that I’d finally got rid of the pest, I slump back to my seat and look out the window again, enjoying the silence.
JUST ENJOYING THE SILEN-
“Really, you’re married?!” … “Wait, you don’t look that old!” … “What does your husband do?!”
That was one long journey indeed.
Oh boy, have there been other incidents like this! But that’s another story. For another day.