Its not just a ticket that costs you to travel by train. Apart from the money, you need to spend a lot other stuff. And if it is the travel in an unreserved compartment then, you should be either devastated at the end or feel exhilarated for doing something brave in your life. He/she (preferably he, the fairer sex might not be able to handle the situation) has to have some qualities to get into these mediums. In the sense, one needs to be gifted to travel in the unreserved compartment.
First thing for sure, is you need to be athletic, ‘Coz you need to catch the train before it stops. This involves atleast a 100 meter run, a perfect jump and strong hold on the handle bars to finish the first task. Bravery is a key criterion based on which your fate is decided once you get inside. At first, this has to be used to grab a seat and once you find one, then the most important part is to protect it from the constant tries of invasion from the fellow travelers. You also need to have strong legs, just in case, you are not lucky enough to get a seat. And to make matters worse, if the train is crowded then the only place you get is at the door way, inches away from the toilet and to take the worse to the state of worst, you find place sufficient only to fix your legs firm on the ground but without the liberty to move around. If you move, you may end up invading others liberty to sleep!!! Its that point of time in your life, you wish to have suffered from a terrible cold.
I had to rush to my town, so, thought of taking a train that night. I decided to let my adrenalin be at rest as always and took to the less adventurous medium, the sleeper class. The scene here is more or less the same, except that I was armed with a weapon to protect myself, the reserved ticket. An undertaking by the Indian railways, that I and only I will be the sole occupier of the seat mentioned in the agreement and no one will have the right to trespass it. So, if anybody tried acting fresh with me or my seat, I was ready to flash my ticket as elegantly as a Smith and Wesson.
I got to see (I usually get, but now that I have started writing, lets assume this is my first time) a different set of people during my travel. I thought of mentioning some of the “worth mentioning” ones.
Senior citizens- They might have got a discount on their fare. But they end up having wrong seats most of the times. They can still make an attempt to get into a middle berth. But an upper berth? Tch, tch, they have no choice but to start searching for a lower berth to trade off with. So on one side I had these aged people marketing their upper berths.
Youth brigade- On the other side I got to see this bunch of noisy boys. The first thing I noticed them doing after they got to their seats is to patrol the entire compartment in search of “you-know-who”. They were quite early to be successful so they hit the next resort, the reservation list that’s pasted on the doorway, which was like a social networking site, showing most wanted detail, ASL i.e. age, sex, location.
Eunuchs- Enough is seen and said about this sect. The only thing I did is to handover a nice 10-rupee note and wished them luck in their future endeavors before they turn animated over me. Thank goodness, they were not traveling along, that night.
Snorers- These are usually seen camouflaged at first (mufti). They show their prowess only in the middle of the night. Especially if your train is humble enough to let others to pass by at every station or even in some deserted place, you get to hear the jugalbandi of snores in the peace of night. And that’s what had happened on that fateful night. I was woken up by these bomber men, one right beside me, one below my berth and the other at the next coupé. I got to hear different versions of snores viz. the funny snores, weird snores, loud ones, the whistling ones, the ugly ones. And suddenly in came the ugliest of all, when I started to think, “What was that?” The next 10 seconds became decisive when my other sense organ cleared all my qualms.
Confused ones- these are the people who wake you up from your sleep and then ask you politely to get lost from “their” seats. It’s the deadly combination of “right train-right seat-wrong compartment” that makes these people special.
The XXLs : Imagine, what happens when the stuff to be stuffed is bigger than the box. You obviously get a spill over. Imagine a 6ft man, getting a Side Upper Berth. Spill over!!!! People walking over the aisle are constantly blessed by the protruding legs. Kicking people was never so legal.....
Ice-Breakers (or Head Breakers?) – Definitely worth mentioning. The over enthusiastic travelers, the ultra-friendlier ones. They start the conversation with some cribbing on the railways, or a local event and end up exchanging cards and phone numbers by the end of the journey. I wonder whether they even meet after they depart. I was at the receiving end of one of such species.
Less-Luckier ones – They are the less privileged, who manage to get a seat but only to sit and not to sleep. These people should either possess an excellent power to plead (to put it courteously, the negotiation skill) or the magical power of money. Both have the capacity to change their luck. Ultimately, every thing lies in the hands of the jahanpanah, the TTE.
Bloggers- Yeah, you can even find bloggers in a train. They, in their endless search for inspiration to blog, easily let others to identify them as they tend to observe everything too keenly. They usually do not sleep peacefully at night, but start putting their experience in words right in the train. So now you know, in which category I was belonging to, that night.
Apart from these, there was a regular sight, of noisy woman folk who almost turned their berths into their kitchen, with all the utensils and the food they brought. I wonder they would have even started cooking, had the railways allowed stoves inside. A group of people fighting over the space for the luggage was not far away from the epicenter, my berth.
Its not that the journey was a very memorable one, but since the time I started blogging, this was certainly an eventful one.
So the next time you travel, its not the Déjà vu, you are experiencing You would have accidentally tripped into this post, and remembered the characters.