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Friday, April 23, 2010

There and Back Again

Sorry, Bilbo Baggins. The title of this post seems the same as that of your immortal book, but then you’re a fictional character, and hence your book or its title doesn’t have any copyright protection. Haha. Gotcha, right?

Well, I make this post from my home city of Chandigarh, having returned from an arduous train journey aboard the Jan Shatabdi that plies from Delhi to Chandigarh. Arduous, eh? Yes, in more ways than one.

I think I can be the brand ambassador for Toyota’s JIT (just-in-time) methodology. Never ever have I boarded a train more than 5 minutes before its departure from the New Delhi Railway Station. (Sumit’s law of errr….. train boarding??? No matter how early you start, traffic on the roads conspires to make you miss your train.)

Sometimes, after stuff like this happens to me, I throw my head back, point to myself, say “You loser” and laugh loudly. (This is normally done when no one’s watching.) At other times, I shake my head sadly, look up towards the sky and sigh, “Why me?”

Anyway, so I boarded one of those cabs that ply illegally from Gurgaon to Delhi, stuffing people like birds in a coop, with the driver hell-bent on practicing for Formula I. As luck would have it, the man sitting just behind me couldn’t stay quiet for even a minute. He was rambling, and rambling, and rambling, and…. (get the picture, right?)

Then, the seat was such that we’d all be thrown forward as the driver braked, and then thrown backward as he accelerated. So, the entire journey was spent with the driver cursing other road users, none of whom seemed to have any sense whatsoever, the man in the back seat cursing/talking/shouting in some language I was unable to identify. The journey was punctuated with traffic jams caused by doting parents who tried parking as close to school gates as possible, to avoid their wards any inconvenience.

So what, if they were blocking the way for a few hundred road users waiting behind? I mean, people these days, SHEESH!! They can’t even wait 10-12 minutes, before honking. At least have some respect for family ties.

After the interminable journey, the next part was the much more comfortable Metro ride from Karol Bagh to Connaught Place (Yes, I refuse to call it Rajiv Chowk. Bah!!) and then to the New Delhi Railway Station. I rushed to the platform and found that the train hadn’t left me behind. Whew!! I waded through waves of humanity of all shapes and sizes, before reaching my seat (which incidentally was occupied by a South Indian uncleji accompanied by a motormouth teen.)

I sat there for a few minutes, willing the train to move. The gods heard me! (But, they exploited the loopholes in my wish, and the train ‘moved’ but only just.) Since the number of words the teen was speaking per minute was more than the number of metres being covered by the train in the same duration, I decided to shift to a place much more alluring.

I shifted to the middle of the chair car compartment, where the best possible company for a solitary man travelling alone was present. Having eyed the fortuitously vacant neighbouring seat, I made a lunge for it and made it. I turned to my right and smiled at the object of my affection. (Argh, you useless people! I was ogling the power socket to plug in my laptop. Duh!!)

Then, I pulled out my laptop and plugged it in, but the power socket was out. With a sigh, I settled back into my seat, and began to read ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini. (Cry out in disbelief if you want, but yes I am a voracious reader who had not read the book till yesterday.)

Eventually, the book turned out to be the only positive of the evening. The TTE came, saw that I was not carrying a copy of my ticket, and rudely asked me to quote the PNR number, all the while muttering under his breath. I mimicked the muttering-under-the-breath bit, and gave him all the details in as surly a manner as possible. He fined me 50/- and issued me a duplicate ticket. Bah!!

I settled lower and lower into my chair, and became totally engrossed in the book. And so I stayed till the train stopped at Ambala. We reached Ambala at 1825 hours and stayed there till 1915 hours. (The 35 km track to Chandigarh is a single line, so we had to accommodate more important trains.) I made some deeply disgruntled noises and went back to reading.

“Trains! Never on time!!” said a voice, breaking into my reverie.

I looked up to see an elderly uncleji looking at me, in anticipation of a reply. I nodded at him and smiled, turning back to my book. I think he took that as a signal to continue. (Little did I realise that I had unleashed an avalanche of words upon myself.)

So, within the next 20 minutes, I got to know that the man was a Diploma holder in Mech. Engg, had been working with BRO for 30 years, had two sons, the elder one being an MBA student at some Hyderabad-based college offering MBA in agriculture and the younger one being an engineering student.

Meanwhile, the train whistled mournfully, and reluctantly moved on. Now, suddenly uncleji asked me about my background and credentials. I mentioned in passing that I just completed my MBA. His face remained blank when I mentioned my alma mater – XLRI. Then, he smiled sympathetically at me and told me that college brand is important and that’s why he only sent his sons to the ‘best’ colleges. When he asked me my specialization and I told him ‘HR’, he wanted to know what MBAs in ‘HRA’ did, and whether they were responsible for managing the HRA of employees in companies. (ARGH!!)

I tried explaining for a few minutes, but then the man had given up on me by then. Or perhaps, his attention was diverted by the train that had stopped again. (For the first time, I thanked Indian Railways for being inefficient, and Ms. Mamata Banerjee for being a nincompoop and a clod.)

I finished reading the last few pages of the book, as the train pulled into the station, and made a beeline for the exit, looking around to make sure that no uncles or any such menacing figures were chasing me. And so, having met my father who’d been abusing Ms. Mamatadi for over an hour, we got into the car and drove back home.

P.S. The book is fantastic! In fact, you shouldn’t wait till an uncle pushes you towards it on a boring train journey.


Nikita said...

you'd not read the kite runner?? hawww :P
yes, it's an awesome book.

and how could you not keep double the expected time in hand while going to the railway station from ggaon of all places! :O

Sumit said...

@Nikita... please don't judge me for not having read the book earlier.

And I had started from Gurgaon at 12.30 pm for a 3 pm train. I didn't reckon that even that might not be enough. :|

Abk said...

Love the fact that the string of Kaka's sarcastic humor posts are back! and in style! yay!

PS: Coming to Delhi anytime soon? :| I know i kinda missed the opportunity twice but :|

Anonymous said... dont tell me that you havent read A Thousand Splendid Suns too??? havent???? too bad...tch tch!!!

Sumit said...

@Abk... yeah, will be in Delhi soon. Let's catch up!

@Garima... ahem, I haven't read that one either. Actually, someone flicked my copy, and I haven't replaced it yet. :(

Nikita Banerjee said...

Dude read both the books by Khaled Hosseini. They worth every penny! And a nice post!