Saturday, November 10, 2007

Train of thought 2 - Morning Calm

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).

**

The window-glass to my left dulls the white lights coming in from the platform. The diffused haze wakes me up. Uh, where am I? There’s this disoriented whaa-what-am-I-doing-here sensation. The eyes creak open. Memory flickers to life. There’s still a moment of disbelief – am I *really* doing this trip?

My sleep-fogged, confused mind demands other questions to be asked of it. Another beam of light seeps in, much sharper than before. The train squeaks to a stop. 'What town is this?’ - appears a suitable choice to engage the still partly dormant mind. Surat? Memories of one past trip make me wish it is. The green of the radium in my watch glows 5:40. Vadodara.

**

I wade out of, err, bed. Ugh, my calves almost feel sticky from the lack of exercise. I need a walk on the platform. The platform is tiled with people sleeping upon newspaper-sheets-turned-mattresses. Been there, done that, yessiree. I skirt the sleepers and walk on. It’s still dark. The tubelights blaze away relentlessly, but the slumbering multitudes are unperturbed.

The diesel engine detaches itself. The coach attendant explains ,”Cant stop long enough to change at Panvel or Vasai. The local trains, saab. They cant wait for us.”

Another unattached diesel engine coasts past, with its name ‘Cheetah’ written in large, friendly letters. The chill from the night is still in the air. There’s the sweatshirt around me. There’s the warmth of the bed tea(well, almost) that’s in my hands.

**

Sometime due north, the dark sky gradually fades until it is a lighter shade of bluish white. There’re rust-golden colored industrial edifices that wield chimneys. Canals and rivulets are dreary patches, wholly unlike the clear water bodies on the Konkan that made you want to dive right in.

The fields and villages are dotted with tractors that have retired for the night. The train curves around grassy mounds that look like massive pin cushions. These aren’t thick forested hills - these are stubbly hillocks that have been liberally sprinkled amid meadows and farms. Nothing is cramped or stuffed – even the two-tracked railway line has plenty of space for itself as it freely scrawls across the landscape.

**

Buildings in most towns have dull grey coatings. The decrepitude of most of these edifices suggests that their purpose isnt residential. The train slows down near another such town, one that doesn’t seem to have been refurbished in ages.

The platform harbours no rooms, no offices or stalls - only vendors who idly watch us go past. Another engine slumbers on the adjacent platform, its name ‘Prachand’ written in, you guessed it – large, friendly letters.

As my train leaves the unpeopled platform, the name board of the station comes into view – ‘Godhra Junction’.

**

The grey dissolves, the towns recede. The only habitations you can see are houses amid farms, almost like dots on a huge canvas. In a while, rocky cliffs come into view ahead.

As the train scrapes between the first of the cliffs, you see a turret topping the two cliffs on either side of the track. A pair of ornate, carefully crafted watchtowers herald the entry into an enclosure of cliffs. The train winds past subsequent hillss on either side – the rock faces are formed into carefully carved ramparts flanking the track. There’s vegetation and undergrowth amid fragments of these crumbling battlements. As the train enters the curves here, it looks like it is tucking into the remnants of a fortification or castle.

6 comments:

Gee said...

It's strange how reading this made me miss the parts of India that I haven't ever seen/visited.

Ludwig said...

lucky dawg. waiting for future installments. alack, not much travel has happened in this part of the world for a while, beyond the usual hurried scuttles to and from B'lore and Madras.

> I’d just *know* that the
> Chattisgarh Express really was
> a passenger train masquerading
> as an Express"

ah, One Who Knows.

Shamanth said...

[Ludw.] - Good seeing you here. An Amtrak-like trip is prolly just around the corner so worry not, saar.

Ah, you've had the fortune of patronising the Chattisgarh 'express' too, then. As someone would say, the Chattisgarh express builds character, and therefore the experience must be partaken.

Shamanth said...

[Gee] - Ah. Tis that 'I-miss-places-I-havent-even-seen' feeling that makes one want so badly to travel.

Anyway, you've all of Amreeka to see, my lady, which I'm sure will be as much fun.

Gee said...

You're kidding right? Making fun of poor grad students is cruel. Very cruel.

Shamanth said...

[Gee] - No cruelty intended, lady. Us desi postgrads have mug-gy, status-quo-ic lives, unlike young women whose courses comprise outdoor trips and such picnics and fun.

Oh well, I spose tis the grass-is-greener syndrome.