Friday, November 16, 2007

Train of thought 2.5 - Dilli Door Asth

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 next town appears fairly big. The train ploughs through some 6-7km of its suburbs. Most of these suburbs are populated by stone quarries and grey dust. Rows of grimy trucks are kicking up mud, stuck in a traffic jam in the midst of a field. There are also, as someone put it, sons of toil covered by tons of soil.

The station is a pinkish building, making perhaps half an attempt to give itself a sandstone look. There’re arched doorways and windows – faded white semicircles that taper into onion-domes. There’re tall, dark, wine-bottle-y window panes that narrow upwards into a rocket-like shape. You’d almost think the station is all smooth curves and no edges. No storeys, just the ground floor spread flat over the length of the platform. A clocktower barely manages to peep out over the ground floor terrace.

The sunny, muddy, cow-laden platform at Kota Junction unfolds under my feet.

Signboards that could be tagged ‘career, bright, future, excellent, 100%’ fill the railway station. IIT, CBSE, GATE, IAS – some boards manage to fit all the abbreviations. The town has something for everyone.

The attendants head towards a waiting cart, and purposefully carry the day’s lunch trays onto the train. The red flickering display board makes a mention of the Haldighati passenger due later in the evening.

**

The train’s running an hour late. But we’re on twin tracks and an electric engine, so we flit through the fields, perhaps just over a 100km an hour.

There’s a bridge across the Chambal, with a bund downstream. At 15-20feet, it’s not quite a dam – the river threatens to dunk it underwater anytime it desires.

A hill range unfolds itself parallel to the track. This one’s rather disorderly – with edges like shards of broken glass. There’re stones strewn in the valley, that see to it that nothing can grow in the rough, stony terrain.

This is the Chambal valley, which used to be India’s prime dacoit zone. The dacoit zone begins here, and spreads across the vicinity of Jhansi-Lalitpur-Gwalior. There’re no trees, no people, and hardly any vegetation along the vast span of the ravines. The mind imagines horses thundering down the hills, but the eye only meets a hard, rocky, silent backdrop of loneliness.

**

The train speeds past a dusty, open air station. The platform is unoccupied. There’re no people, poles or roof-shelters – nothing other than the floor going flat out. There’s just the station master who’s just come out of his single room. The man in white holds out a faded green flag which stubbornly refuses to sway or flutter. The only other presence other than him is one forlorn, frayed board at the very edge of the platform , marked Ranathambore.

**

I have some company at the door by now. There’s this young man, some 25 or so, who’s had my window all the time I’ve been at the door. He's in the corridor near the door, but doesnt quite want to stand at the door.

“Dilli jaa rahe ho?”

I nod.

The usual where-from-where-to questions follow, with a where-re-you-really-from added for good measure. I’ve gotten used to the irritation of the where-from-where-to questions by now. When you’ve never quite belonged to any one place, and travelled without anything resembling a purpose, you really can have any number of equally valid answers for each of these questions. I mention at random one place apiece for each question. It's hardly any effort to skip all the qualifying that’s perhaps necessary.

Madrasi hoke Hindi to achhi jaante ho.

“Haan. Thoda bahut seekha hai.”

Yeh Braj Kshetr hai. Pata hai? Krishnaji yahi pale the. Agla station Mathura hai.

I'm aware, indeed, that Mathura is in proximity, so I nod.

He pauses awhile, wondering how to continue conversation with a man who persists in looking outside the door.

Braj Kshetr ke log gaaliyon ke liye mashoor hai, pata hai aap ko?

The man’s attempting to break the ice. I do an “Achha?”

Arey? Aapko pata nahi kya? Saare UP-Bihar se zyada bhayankar gaaliya yahi pe sunne ko milegi aapko.

I stand with my back to the opened door, acknowledging that the monologue had potential to get interesting.

Ek kahaani sonata hoon Braj Kshetr ki gaalibaazi ke baare me. Ek banda Braj Kshetr jaana chahta tha. Mathura se sau kilometre door aake poocha – Braj Kshetr jaa raha hoo. Jab aayega to kaise pata chalega?

To logo ne bola, aage jaate raho. Jahaa par log bhayanak gaaliya denge, wahi Braj Kshetr hoga.

Aage jaata hai. Ek board laga hai – Braj Kshetr. Phir bhi aadmi se poochta hai – bhai, Braj Kshetr jaa raha hoo. Jab aayega to kaise pata chalega?

Toh doosra aadmi Braj Kshetr ka board dikha ke bolta hai – “Eee boarad kaa teri maa ki choot me laga hai?”

The man, verily, employs a sledgehammer to break ice.

4 comments:

Gee said...

Dilli gaye? Chandni Chowk gaye ya nahi?
If not - sacrilege! And if yes, then, consider a virtual pat-on-the-back please:)

Shamanth said...

[Gee] Unfortunately, a 7pm-arrival-9am-departure itinerary doesnt quite allow such trips.

Still, there's the consolation of having tried Chandni C. in the past(the streets you mention, no less), so one hopes that mitigates the sacrilege!

Samrat said...

hey dude great to see you are writing down your chronicles of the trip.
cant wait to read the rest of them.

Shamanth said...

[Samrat] - Hello, sir! Good to see you here. Yus, will do the rest of the chronicles in due course. You know how these acad routines are like.