There are groups where people pretend to be from South Kolkata/Dilli. Why are there no groups where people pretend to be from the mofussils? Somewhere from Hooghly, running to get the 8:18 Bandel-Howrah local, missing the train while stopping on the overbridge stairs to catch your breath, cursing everyone because the next train is at 8:45 (if you are not going to Howrah/Liluah) while that shrewd person on the platform flashes a wicked smile at you because s/he is going to Howrah. You get up on the 8:45 pushing people and pulling someone’s long hair while threatening that beautiful woman with a freshly shampooed free flowing hair that you would make it a point to chop off her hair the next time she leaves it untied, and shouting at the top of your voice to the woman who sells junk jewelleries on train, bargaining, and people like me who buy the same jhumkos over and over again unable to even bargain, and then buying handkerchiefs (gents’ handkerchiefs) because we sweat a lot and the fancy ladies’ handkerchiefs do nothing, and then we quarrel and listen to quarrels, and listen to people talking about how school has again asked for 1000 rupees for nothing, and someone complains about growing old and her friends cheekily suggest her to go for another child since she is stil menstruating, another girl discusses how she changed at least 20 physics tuitions during her +2, another says she is screwed by taking up English Honours, and someone opens a book, and another woman who is a banker says she is anxious after 4 in the evening thinking about what she will cook for dinner at home, and someone plugs an earphone and listens to Anirban Bhattacharya’s Sati Shobhona on Sunday Suspense for the 25th time, and it’s Howrah Station then we brave the crowd where we don’t actually have to walk, we are just pushed forward by the crowd, and then we take a bus, and get elbowed, and then finally reach our destination. Breathless. Just like a paragraph without full stops. I am tired of the i-diva pretensions, but perhaps I’ll never be tired of train journeys, but I hate bus journeys.

This piece was actually written as a Facebook status sometime in April, 2020.

 

#localtrains #commute #buses

 

 

 

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-30 at 9.43.14 PM.jpeg
On a sultry summer afternoon at Chuchura station (in the district of Hooghly, West Bengal), sometime in the cursed year of 2020. Image source: Myself.

 

 

 

 

Twenty Years

— “You have one thousand and twenty rupees.”

— “What? One thousand and twenty? You must be mistaken, didi. Please check again.”

— “I am not wrong. It says clearly that you have one thousand and twenty. See! You can ask others in the compartment if you do not believe me.”

— “So, it is not eleven thousand?”

— “No. One thousand and twenty.”

The old woman fumbled with her wrinkled and faded plastic packet in her hands. One could understand that something was disturbing her and that she wanted to ask something to her co-passengers. I was sure that she did not know that the train we were travelling in was a galloping one.

Suddenly, she said to the woman sitting right beside her, “Could you please tell me how much money I have in my account? Here’s my passbook.” The other woman looked like a school teacher. School teachers have a typical appearance, you know. The lady was wearing a brown dhakai sari with a red blouse, and a pair of thick rimmed spectacle. She looked at the old woman and giving a judgemental look (or was it just me?) took the passbook from her hand and began going through the pages.

The old woman stared at her co-passenger as if she had seen god. It was as if she was desperately waiting for a miracle. If only somehow, somehow the figures in her passbook would magically change into something else. Her eyes were brimming with tears. Hope is really a terrible thing.

— “Who operates your account?”

— “Why?” she stammered.

— “Come on. Tell me.”

— “My son.”

— “How old is he?”

— “Twenty.”

— “Do you have an ATM card?”

— “The thing you use ta take money out of that machine?”

— “Yes.”

— “Yes. Yes, I have a card.”

— “Who has your card? You?”

Silence. By this time, the old lady had hung down her head. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. The question was repeated.

— “Tell me. Who has your card? You?”

— “No.”

— “Then? Your son?”

There was a faint yes from the old woman.

— “Your son has taken away all your money. Go home and talk to him.”

This was too much for the old woman to gulp down at once.

— “No, no! Please don’t say that! My son will never do such a thing. He’s a very good boy.”

— “Who else would do then? It is your son who did this. Your son has your ATM card. Your son operates your bank account. Your son has taken away all your money. It’s so easy to understand.” (It was as if the woman felt a certain pleasure in saying these. Helping someone gives surely gives us pleasure. But this was a very different kind of pleasure that this woman was experiencing. Or is it just me overthinking again?)

— “My son is not like the kids of these days. He does not have many friends. He does not have the habit of indulging in addas too. How can…”

She could speak no longer. Her tears had choked her. She was looking out of the window. Many a time we try to stub out our intuition. We try to hammer out the voices ringing inside our heads. But deep in our hearts we know what the truth is. We just don’t want somebody else to spell out the truth. We know the storm is going to arrive at any moment; the sky will crumble down at any point of time. We just don’t to delay their arrival. But how long? The volcano will erupt, the volcano has to erupt.

The train was about to enter Howrah station. She carefully put her passbook back in her packet. She wiped her tears with her sari.

— “This generation, I tell you. Your son pretends to be a mama’s boy in front of you. But outside, he must be smoking and drinking with his friends. You know nothing about your son’s whereabouts. Be careful from now on. And don’t ever give your account details to your son.”

The train entered Howrah. All the passengers started to go their own way except for one. For her, twenty long years had burnt away within a few seconds inside a local train.

 

Image Source: Myself.

 

 

 

FOR YOUR KIND ATTENTION…

Train journeys have always fascinated me. It is dynamic, it is hustling, it is sweaty, it is breathless– it is everything vibrant. After much argument and counterargument with myself, I have finally decided to start a blog. It will record all my memories of commuting in local trains since 2014. Someday, I shall look back at my blog and praise myself for creating an archive of train memories.

So, let’s get started. Board your train, take your seat (if you are lucky enough to find one), and here we go!

 

Image Source: Myself.