'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"What's Your Problem?!"

Allahabad station. A hot september day last year. Afternoon. I board a Bombay-bound train. Second class sleeper coach. My berth (and seat) is one of the 'main long' ones (not of the shorter pair along the aisle). An elderly lady sleeps on my seat/berth and the space underneath the berth is filled with some heavy luggage; I decide not to disturb her and park on the side seat in the same coupe and temporarily keep my bag under the same seat.

Five minutes pass. I sense a heavy-ish pat on my shoulder. Looking up, I see a bloke of about my own age who presently says in Bhojpuri-flavored Hindi: "APNE seat pe chale jao!" ("you, go to YOUR seat!"). A porter is just bringing in his luggage. I meekly get up and look around for some other spot to park.

"Arey, ee kaa hai?!" ("and what is THIS??") a shocked-sounding remark emanates from the same gent. He has spotted my bag resting under his seat - and stoops with great alacrity and reaches for it: "Nikalo usko!".

I reach forward, "actually, woh mera bag hai..." ("actually, that is mine")

He turns and growls "To kaa hua? hamra saamaan rakhna hai!" ("So, what? I have to keep MY stuff!") and starts dragging my bag out.

I hear myself snapping "Haath mat lagaana!" ("Don't touch the thing!") as I swoop down and snatch my bag away, unmindful of whether it made any hard contact with his person in the process.

"Hey, tumra problem kaa hai?" ("What's your problem, Man?") he demands to know.

"TUMRA problem kaa hai?" I quietly ask back and turn away, looking for a place to keep the bag.

A tense silence. It persists for the next 24 hours until I get off the train at Kalyan.


Ernakulam. A sultry afternoon, last week. I board a 'Reserved' 3-tier sleeper coach in a Bombay-bound express and occupy a vacant seat. I have a 'sleeper class ticket' with which one could (legally) travel as a sitting passenger in day time in sleeper coaches (even in reserved ones, with the consent of the reserved passengers). My destination: Shoranur, 2 hours and a bit away.

Three girls occupy the rest of my berth, all of them, like me, sleeper-class ticketers. A guy stretches out on the top berth and goes to sleep.

The coach fills up with other sleeper-classers and the train leaves. An hour and a half pass.

Trichur station. Our seats seem to be under reservation here on - a large crowd is getting into our coach. I wait, hoping against hope that my particular seat is booked from a future stop (the reason, I am not in very good health)...

A middle-aged couple thrust their way into our coupe with a lot of luggage. The wife survyes the scene and remarks very audibly in Malayalam: "Oronnu keriyangu irunnolum!" (difficult to translate in all its punch but here is an attempt: "Squatting wherever they see, as if...". And then she sternly orders the three girls sitting next to me: "Get up, baba!" (in English). The girls get up and slink away. The husband proceed to pat up the chap sleeping on the top berth.

I stay on my seat - if there were just the couple, I figured I could remain seated for the remaing 30 minutes of my journey (the lower berth could seat 3 people comfortably). But I soon realize the famly has one more member - an elderly lady (probably the mother of either of the couple) follows the couple in and addresses me in malayalam: "Eneettu poyikkoode? ... Varunnathu kanaan paadille?" ("Can you not move it? Are you blind not to see us coming in?"). I promptly stand up - and resist the temptation to say something equally nasty, confining myself to: "Eneekkaan paranjaappore?" ("you could just have told (me) to get up!")

The wife has begun to stuff their luggage under the lower berth and mutters, spotting my bag in a corner: "kettiyangu vecholum!" ("generally stuffing their trash wherever they see some room!") and then switching to English with a declaration "Throw it away, whoever(sic) it is!" proceeds to grab at the said article.

Almost yelling: "Hello, just lay off!" I snatch away the bag. And just as I walk off in a mighty huff, I hear a familiar question from behind, this time in English: "You, what is your problem, man?!"


  • At 8:39 AM, Blogger LuvfromIndia said…

    its amazing the extent to which train passengers go to -- in display of their ownership of the space that is temporarily theirs! However not much is done to even keep their real lived-in cities clean.

  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks for visiting rhoda.

    yes, ours is a rather territorial society; but what else could it be in these times of paucity? the best that could possibly be done is to *try* to be a little less rude.


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