“Take my seat..” – AWKWARD MONDAYS #1

An actual conversation witnessed by my sister when she was in the Dubai Metro on her way to work. As is usual during the time, the metro was quite packed and a woman who was sitting in one of the seats looked at the woman standing next to her and offered her, her seat.

Lady 1: “You can have my seat, please sit”.

Lady 2: “No, it’s fine, but thank you.”

Lady 1: “No, I insist, please take my seat, I’m getting off soon anyway.”

Lady 2, quite charmed, thanks her and proceeds to sit down.

Lady 2: “Are you getting down at the next station?”

Lady 1 tells her she’s getting off at the 5th or the 6th station from there. 

Lady 2: “Oh, I thought you would be getting off soon. You needn’t have offered me your seat!”

Lady 1: “Come on now, how can I sit while you’re standing up. How far along are you?”

Lady 2: “Far along? I don’t understand.”

Lady 1: “…Your pregnancy of course. I gathered so from your belly.”

Long awkward pause.

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Lady 2: “..No, I’m not..pregnant.”

Now if I were Lady 1, now is the moment I would have mumbled a sincere apology – “..sorry I thought your fat was your baby..?” and waited for the train floor to open up and the metro rails to swallow me up whole but no, Lady 1 keeps talking.

Lady 1: “Oh, but your tummy..it was looking quite big and pregnant-y, so I assumed you know, hehe, that umm.. you were carrying.”

Lady 2: “No no, it’s fine. I suppose it does look that way.”

Lady 1: “Yeah, how does it look so pregnant-like..”

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Talk about a derailed conversation.

Almost like Lady 2 had some sort of (loco)motive.

OK, I’ll stop before I get way off track here. Trains of thought, anybody?

Happy (and not awkward, I hope) Monday!

Trains Trains! (pt. 2)

So Mr.Cannot-Take-A-Hint (see Trains Trains!) was not scary. Weird and annoying? YES.

But not really the scariest character you could meet on an Indian train. Trust me, there are a lot of nominees for that, a rodent inclusive. Let’s talk about the time when I got pee-in-my-pants-if-I-weren’t-so-dehydrated-scared by an old woman, shall we.

NB: If you’re a new reader, well hello there! Sit back and read what I get myself into sometimes when I’m unfortunate enough to make last minute train trips and travel ten hours without pre-booking. You might want to read Part 1 first though, for all the juice on General compartments in Indian trains & the amazing services that they offer.

Or not.

Your call.

Wait, what - old woman?!

Those gentle creatures with their white hair and wise faces, always having the funniest of stories to tell and the most sensible of advice to give? No, not them.

Think more along the lines of Cruella, Snow White’s step mother and the like.

So I was on a last-minute trip home. I get into the train and see my coveted single-seat, sit down and realise that I have an old lady sitting opposite me.

I smile but I don’t get one back but anyway, I’m busy getting comfortable in my seat and forget about it. After a while, I stretch my legs and accidentally hit her leg in the process. I immediately apologise but this is where things take a turn for the worse. She looks at me with an angry stare (you know those ones that pierce through the core of your soul wanting to rip it off? Yeah . .) and I uncomfortably look away, slightly confused, wondering if I should say something. Coward that I am, I decide to keep my mouth shut and go back to looking out the window. Out of the corner of my eye I can see that now not only is she still staring at me but she’s started muttering things under her breath as well. Oh Lord. And I can still feel her eyes on mine, boring a hole into my face. If looks could kill.

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Then after a couple of minutes, I look back at her. She’s no longer staring at me, but she’s still muttering things, no longer keeping it soft, giving me icy stares every now and then. I look around perplexed at the other passengers beside us – they look just as confused as I am, and some of them give me sympathetic nods. Now I get really freaked out when the muttering doesn’t stop – was this some Indian voodoo shit?! Not that I believe in them but I’d rather not take my chances.

Now would be a good time to describe how she looked. You could see that she wasn’t well off and there’s a part of me that feels guilty about this post. In a disheveled sari, hair unkempt, she was probably blind in one eye and I would have been more sympathetic under normal circumstances. Anyway, I love my single-seat but I decided I didn’t love it that much so the first chance I got after a fellow passenger left, I jumped to the seats beside me as far away from her as I could and ‘phewed’ a sigh of relief. Only until I was positively sure that she had gotten off the train did I dare look that way again. I know, I’m a coward! But can you really blame me?

Now this incident is almost as scary as the time when there was a rat in my compartment. YES. A FRIGGIN’ RODENT. In my compartment. I was just half an hour away from my destination, when suddenly I hear a squeak! Alarmed, I look at my fellow passenger and the dude just grins back at me. I raise both my eyebrows at him to confirm if I had just heard what I thought I heard and he just replies “You better pull up and sit cross legged on your seat; you never know when it can come scurrying over!” WHAT.

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This ain’t no Stuart Little movie, dude! Now he’s laughing at me, loving the look of horror on my face and I can’t help but curse both him and the wretched rodent under my breath. Somehow, thirty minutes tick by, way too slowly, with each minute spent dreading whether the little thing could smell my fear.

The train finally stops at the platform and I just jump from my seat and escape into the night happy to be alive. Umm, somewhat like this.

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Happy Journeys everyone!

My niece and her thoughts on Death

My niece is at that age when she’s on the lookout for new, big and interesting sounding words. We’re SO careful these days while having conversations, our spelling skills have damn right improved but the little one is always one step ahead of us. And unfortunately, the latest word in the vocabulary is ‘dead/died’.

Now obviously we haven’t taught her the concept of the whole ‘ceasing to exist’ thing. When recently, my grandma who we were all very close to, passed away, my sister and I tried explaining to the little one that granny was gone. “But where did she go?” I thought for a bit and replied, “Heaven, darling.” “Oh, alright then.” For her, heaven is just another place and dying is something like falling down or bruising your knee or hitting your toe on the foot of the bed. But sometimes it is downright uncanny how she manages to perfectly fit that word into place in a conversation.

This is what happened sometime back. After a day out, my brother in law dropped my sister and my niece in front of their apartment and drove off to search for a parking spot. They decided to wait for him near the elevator but he apparently took a while. “I wonder what’s taking daddy so long?”, my sister asks her kid. Staring back at her, my niece somberly replies, I think he died, mommy.

Not so funny when you hear it at 11 o’clock in the night from a child’s mouth.

The other day we were having lunch at our place. My niece LOVES 7-UP, especially ‘cause it’s a rare treat for her, not just because she’s three (“I’m three AND A HALF!” would be the retort to that), but also – a three year old on a sugar high? – “ain’t nobody got energy for that!”

Anyway, we had a bottle on the table that day.

My dad has been diabetic for as long as I can remember. “Pour me a glass, will you?” my dad tells me. My niece shoots up her eyebrows and says, “Grandpa! You can’t have 7-UP! Your sugar level will go up!” Yep. My niece, the little genius.

“Oh yeah? So what happens if his sugar level goes up?” I ask her.

She puts on a stern face and looks at my dad, “You die.”

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And no, that wasn’t the end of the whole ‘death’ phase.

My dad likes to think my niece gets her wit from her granddad. When we stopped at a Red signal while driving back home one day, she exclaimed, “Oh so that’s how it is! Red means Stop and when it blinks Green we can go!” Quite proud of herself, she lapped up all the “Good girl!”, “You’re so smart!” and the like that followed her sudden enlightenment.

“What will happen if I drive when the signal’s red though?” I ask her when we get back home. Quite seriously, the three (AND A HALF) year-old replies, “A car will come hit you and then you will die.”

Alright.

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Lesson noted.

When was the last time you got owned by a toddler/kid? Let me know so I can have a laugh, please!

Trains Trains!

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.

Phew.

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. 

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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?!” 

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That was one long journey indeed.

Oh boy, have there been other incidents like this! But that’s another story. For another day.