Gone are the days when traveling by flight was so expensive that people never removed those airline tags from their luggage, just to show off and to make an statement of their high status. But, after the inception of the low cost airlines, even people like me have started traveling by flight. Yes, people like me, who have almost always obliged the great Indian Railways, burying those status thoughts either in the 3 tier sleeper or in the general bogie, traveling in the scorching heat of North India, (without reservation of course) sitting so close to an ultra clean toilet of Link Express that even the manufacturers of those exotic French perfumes would love to imitate that early morning fragrance that I’ve witnessed several times 😉
But eventually, or more precisely – not by choice, the flight tickets were beyond my budget this time (Yes, Diwali comes once a year and there are smarter guys who book their tickets early) and after almost 2 years, I was back to where I originally belonged. Boarding Karnataka Express, where I had always been an avid traveler in my college days, going home to Dehradun, peeping into the reservation charts and praying to God – not to give me those fatally uncomfortable side berths where a 5 feet 11 inches guy like me, struggles to fit in and gets enough motivation to sue the Indian Railways for this heinous act of theirs.
Luckily, my human rights were not violated. I was allotted the middle berth this time and Vikrant and Nishant slipped into the lower and upper berths respectively. After initial rituals of unnecessary altercation with our fellow travelers for placing their luggage in our undisputed territory, things were settled at ease by a good Samaritan, who acted as a mediator and soon swept us all in a wave of National integration. We finally locked our bags with those bulky chains and desi locks, as if we were carrying kilos of gold there in.
I enjoyed this long train journey, a conglomeration of varied cultures, covering seven different states, where we munched vada pau, enjoyed the famous Biryani at Daund, aalu poori, chana chat, flavored “Sanchi” milk at Khandwa and lots of other stuff. (Boy!! Who needs metrogyl or dipendal when we have such great digestion) Then there were various “artists” and singers and the inevitable eunuchs, who made few comments on Nishant when he was pretending to doze of. Yeah, it was quite an experience, be it the daunting looks I gave to a poor constipated soul for taking too much time inside loo or the 100-meter dash at one of the stations, which could’ve definitely fetched us a medal at the mohalla level.
I got down at Mathura and headed for Vrindavan to see my grannies. Just outside the railway station, the sight of getting into a local three-wheeled “tempo” petrified me (Yeah, it has an infinite seating capacity 😉 and there is an assurance of one getting sandwiched in the 30-minute journey) and I boarded a local bus instead. Nothing has changed in years; the argument with the conductor for charging an extra rupee, the cycle rickshaw that moves like a slithering cobra in those crowded serpentine streets of Vrindavan, the mouth watering “Khurchan” and “peda” outside the Baankey Bihari temple and not even the roadside garbage where a swine lies, enjoying the tantalizing sunshine.
I ask myself, do I miss something?