Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Railway Musings!

Ever had a two-day-old egg curry…? Chances are many of us have, certainly those who traveled by the good ’ol Indian Railways on any stretch of this great country. And this Bharatiya Rail ensures that the two-day-old curry often matures to a ripe three-day affair. This must be part of their ‘more for the fare’ deal…for one; they ensure you get to spend more time enjoying their hospitality as the trains invariably runs late.

But since the entire system seems to run on the Indian Stretchable Time (IST), how late is late, one may ask? Is it an hour, or about two or three? Nay too less by any standards. So how about ten? Yes, that sure qualifies as late by any standards. A recent return trip from Kerala (traveling Sleeper Class to enjoy the three S’s – sights, sounds and smells), my super-fast train – thanks to Rains, Floods and et al - to decided to be ‘expressively’ late.

The traveling conditions changed, and ambience too changed the second every one in the compartment came to know that they would be spending more than a few extra hours there itself. And out came some interesting facts in to focus in the compartment’s fluorescent lights. Fact One – ‘Delay equals boredom. And boredom equals ‘nosey parker syndrome’. Fact Two – when lemon rice runs out, the ‘Subramaniams’ turn sour. Till now they are with relish, the four tiffins (Baby ‘S’ a healthy 13 year old girl, ate rather well) of the ‘sappad’ garnished with ‘Thakkali’ (Tomato) chutney and crisp ‘Appalams’, while I survived on the railway’s foil packed rubber reinforced chappathis with yellow curry of indeterminate origin.

With food gone, Mr & Mrs ‘S’ (and the pig-tailed baby ‘S’) need some new entertainment and quickly found one…! Me ! they could ignore me for the past two days as I was buried in my books. But now with the journey going over-time, I am an easy target. “What is that you are eating” ? Asked Mrs ‘S’ leaning over to my side. ‘Egg Curry” I answer. “Terrible Choice” she declares, “Simbly Terrible” He adds an adjective, ignoring my raised eye-brows.

From then on, I am treated to a holistic lecture on exactly how terrible my egg curry is. From the state of the hen’s mental make-up, to the physical make-up and the sweating habits of the railway cook, and even the water they use to dilute the curry ! “God knows where they came from”.

I wanted to heave. But refuse to play to the gallery. Instead I try a chess move, and offer some of my lunch to the ‘pigtailed devil’, who driven by her teen-aged appetite, tucks in, with so much as a glance at amma and appa.

The strategy works, and her parental units have been silenced, effectively for the rest of the journey. And I made a mental note to pack a kilo of lemon rice for myself, the next time I travel on Indian Railways.

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