Monday, November 05, 2007

Train of thought 1 - Due north again

Note: This is one of a series of posts about this journey. Other episodes of this trip are here: numbers 0, 1, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 4.75 (in order).

**

Not too much sleep. Sigh. I push back my overgrown hair and crumple my blanket into a heap. I look out into the dull grey of the water to my right. It’s just after 6, but the halogen lights atop the adjoining road bridge are still on. The blunt orange drips down through the half-sunlight, and winks back upwards from the water surface.

I am tired, sleepless after the exertion of the last evening. There still are 8 days to go, and here was the dank Nethravathi, intent on enveloping my first morning in gloom. The decrepit, unpaved, almost bombed out looking Kankanadi station that follows doesnt do much by way of looking cheerful.

When the milk powder + hot water + tea bag come by, the cup verily overflowed, so to say. Sigh, I know I wouldn’t be getting anything resembling proper tea for a while.

Not the most promising of starts, then. Still, the hot water of the mix warms my hands. As I slowly sip the drink at the door, I protectively hold on to the cup.

**

Stations on the Konkan Railway are all far away from the cities and towns whose names they bear. Most of them stand aloof, all by themselves. Murudeshwar has a distant mountain range for background and emptiness for foreground. Ankola is a small raised stage amid paddy fields that go flat out on every side. So is Karwar, except that it’s also at the mouth of a tunnel at the foot of a huge hill. All along, there’re no crowds, there’s hardly any sort of milling and activity that you’d have been accustomed to see at transit termini.

There’re brief glimpses of the sea, occasionally atop grand bridges. The river Gangavali comes by, but it refuses to sport the profusely green-draped look that it did when I saw it from the road. Goa comes by, and the track tucks into hamlets and villages that seem to have folded themselves away from the rest of civilization. The damp wetness of the morning is gone. The sun’s up and shining as the train brushes through glades and vegetation.

**

Past Madgaon, the train goes deeper into the Western Ghats. The green gets denser, the hills go higher. Streams and rivulets sparkle away in the mild afternoon sunlight. Viaducts pull away the ground beneath my feet, revealing yawning drops underneath. Wide, deep valleys open up. There’re tunnels that are areas of nothingness that distort my sense of space and time – the longest spans more than 6km.

As I get off at some of the smaller stations here, human habitation is farther than ever before – Vilawade is perched atop a high ledge between tunnels, Rajapur Road between two rocky faces, Vithalwadi Road amid thick forest cover. Some stations are beside waterfalls, some atop valleys, but none close to any extensive human presence. At some of the railway stations, fish flap around in the inter-track drains.

Droplets of rain come down, intensifying slowly. There’s wetness in the air. Everything appears washed, cleansed. The water dulls the greyish-steel top of the train bogies. The train ambles ahead on the sole, lonely track in the bright orange afternoon sunlight.

The train attendant asks me to move from the door for a moment. As I move away, he does a heave ho, emptying the day’s quota of waste food, bottles and packaging into the Sahyadris.

3 comments:

Karthik/SK/wimpy/SKimpy said...

yikes
the last statement is disgusting

and do you still travel side lower?

Gee said...

Ah - that's how I became a tea-lover/addict. I began with getting some to just keep my fingers warm on foggy winter mornings:)

Shamanth said...

[Dubj] - To be precise, I travel doors. I sleep side lower.

Reg. last statement, such is life.

[Gee] - Aah, them foggy winters are another of those joys that are unavailable South of the Vindhyas. Sigh.

I can only hope climate change holds its horses until I've had my fill of a North Indian winter!