October 7, 2010

Back on track...

It all started on a summer morning in May 2009.
I stood on platform number one of Lingampally station, waiting for the train to get to Rajbhavan Road. My first day at my first job.
The train came, I got in, got off at Necklace road station after 45 minutes, and walked to my office. That same afternoon, after an uneventful first day, I took a train back to Lingampally.
I think, I can safely mark that day, May 1st 2009, as the day when my tryst with the MMTS began.

What followed were days of running for the train (I’m not exaggerating), waiting on the platform endlessly, getting worried then pissed off, because first of all, I was taking a later train, and that itself was late. You start noticing the same people everyday, a pattern sets in. If I see a certain bunch of women on the platform, I know the train hasn’t come yet. If there’s a passenger train on platform one, I know my train is late by fifteen-twenty minutes.

One of my friends used to call the 9:10 train my boyfriend. :) …I would wake up late, rush through coffee and getting ready, and I would literally run to the station. Every single day, I used to test my luck, by leaving from home 2-3 minutes late, and believe me, even two-three minutes count a lot. I would reach the platform out of breath, and there it was, waiting for me to arrive. I would get in, and the very minute, it would leave the station. And I would sit at almost the same seat in the same ladies’ compartment every day. Nothing else would do. To the point that if I couldn’t get my usual seat, I had an impending sense of doom, that my day would not go well if I sit somewhere else. My entire day used to be planned depending on the train-timings. When I took out the timetable to check the timings, my friends used to say that I’m taking out my Bible. :)
I’ve read so much sitting in the train, coz that’s the only time I used to get to read.
There would be women jabbering away about the price of rice and dal, their children’s examination, husband’s promotion.. All one has to do is lend an ear. Full entertainment.
Sometimes, workers would get in, with their duplicate phones, and Altaf Raja would be belting out ‘Tum tho thehre pardesi, saath kya nibhaaogeeeee..’ So many times I’ve wanted to snatch their phones and throw it away..

The return journey was not as easy. The trains at night would be a minimum of half an hour late. I used to think, my entire life would probably pass just waiting for the ‘sir’ to arrive. And then it would waddle along at its own sweet pace, and then unashamedly stall in between for another twenty minutes. By the time I get home, it would be two hours since I left office. Necklace Road station is where I spent a lot of time brooding, laughing, crying, thinking, looking at the lake in the distance. The benches there would know…

There was a time when I reached the station 9:15 at night, to take the 9:30 train. It came at 10:30 finally. And I reached home at 11:15, all alone. I still don’t know how I survived that day. I guess living alone hardens you to a large extent. Another time, I reached the station to take the last train back- 9:57pm. The station was pitch dark,no electricity, with just a handful of people, and I don’t remember seeing any women. There were no policemen either. Somebody passed a comment. I actually prayed that day. I promised myself and god I wouldn’t try to do such brave stupid things ever again.

The best thing about travelling by public transportation is that you get to see a lot of people, all ages and classes. And some you can never forget. Like there was this one girl I used to see everyday taking the same train as me in the morning, and sometimes the same one back. She was very pretty, and probably had been married recently, going by the traditional bangles on her slender wrists. She was very beautiful, and I always used to stare at her. And then a few months later, I saw a small bump forming on her stomach. For some inexplicable reason, I was silently happy for that strange girl. Then one night, I was in the train back home, and she got in from the next station. Her tummy had grown a bit more by then. It was pretty late, around 9 in the night. She sat looking out of the window. There was fatigue written on her face. Then slowly, her eyes started closing due to the fatigue, and her head was rolling from here to there. I felt sad for her, I don’t know why. Wasn’t there anybody to come and pick her up from office, especially when she was pregnant? Why was she having to work in this condition? Did her husband not treat her well? Did she have to go back home now and cook dinner? There were so many questions in my head. Her beauty seemed very melancholic at that moment. I hope, wherever she is now, she’s happy, and so is her baby.

Another time, a lady got in with her daughter and occupied the seat opposite me. She was a daily wage labourer, I could make out. Thin as a reed, with an excuse of a sari covering her, she looked as though she hadn’t eaten and slept in days. And her little daughter, not more than four years old, holding her mother’s hands and sitting, her innocence still intact. I looked at them for a while, then resumed looking out of the window. After a while, I could feel somebody’s eyes on me. I looked up to see the little girl looking at me curiously, and she suddenly looked away when I caught her eye. So I decided to stare at her, and she kept darting glances at me, then she held my gaze. We looked at each other for a few seconds, and I smiled at her. I got the sweetest smile in return. I can never forget it. I rummaged in my bag and found an apple and gave it to her. She took it without hesitation and gave me another big smile. She may not have learnt yet to say thank you, but that smile was equivalent to a million thank you’s. After a while, I noticed that the lady had started crying. Weeping, her chest heaving. Her daughter, not knowing what was happening, kept looking at her, holding her hand. Then she rested her head on the little girl’s lap, and that innocent little thing was gently stroking her mother’s head, comforting her like only a kid can. The lady then took out a pen she had and scribbled something on the girl’s hand. There was a moment of terror in my heart. What is she writing down? Why is she writing it down? Is it a number that people can contact and hand over the girl to when the mother’s body is discovered? I don’t know…I was scared for the little girl. A little while later, I looked up from the book I was reading, and they were gone..just like that. I don’t know when they got down, which station..I only remember praying for that innocent little thing who had gifted me a beautiful smile.

After travelling by train for a year, my office shifted, and it was getting difficult to take the train anymore. So I started travelling by road. It saved me time. But it was just not the same. And now that I’ve changed jobs, and because I’m tired of fighting with the f*&%^#g auto drivers, I’ve decided to resume my rendezvous with my old flame again. I’m prepared to wait endlessly. I’m looking forward to get some reading done. My daily dose of exercise (running) has started. And I wonder why I don’t put on weight.

Yup, I’m back on track.