Friday, September 23, 2005

Journey - Part 1

Ravi got on the train and found his way to his compartment. He tucked his suitcase under his seat, settled down with the newspaper. He hoped it wouldn't be too crowded.

All he needed was some quite time. There was the usual noise from outside the train and from groups of people trying to find their seats inside the train. His mind was not in the paper. His memories haunted him.

In a little while, others trickled in to his compartment. One middle-aged lady who should probably have booked 2 tickets instead of her one, to cover her ample posterior.

A young couple, looking scared; they were probably eloping, Ravi thought. A middle aged man, bespectacled, his shoulders seemed to be carrying half the world's weight on them. Worry lines ran criss-cross on his forhead. A young woman, ears plugged to some kind of bouncy music, shoved her bag above and sat down across from him. A young man, talking and laughing loudly on his cell phone, sat on the other side. Ravi looked at him with a frown. He was hoping the journey would be quiet. He seemed
to be a college kid, in his tattered jeans and mussed up hair.

The young man seemed to be afflicted with some kind of nervous disorder. He couldn't sit still. What is wrong with these kids these days, he thought. The young man caught sight of the young girl and gave a supposedly winning smile and quieted down. Well, thank God for that, Ravi thought. The young woman was looking out of the window, not bothered with her co-passengers. These young girls have grown gutsy nowadays, they have no problem travelling alone, Ravi sat musing.

The guard waved the green, and the train with a small hoot, started on its long journey. The older lady, who had been chewing her paan , leaned across him to spit it out, raising the heckles out of a bunch of people waiting on the platform to send off their friends and families. She sat down jarringly, a bit too close for comfort.

"Thambi", she called to him, "Could you get me that bag up there?"

There, it's started, he thought. He stood up to reach for her bag and handed it to her.

"Thanks, You are going to Delhi too?", she pestered him.

"Yes". And he turned to look outside.

"Thambi", this time it was the older man.

He turned. "If you are done with that paper, do you mind if I borrow it?"

"Sure". He hoped that would be the end of it.

"How depressing! All the news nowadays is so violent. This one killed a few. That one committed suicide. War in one country. I don't know why we bother reading all this."

Ravi just looked sympathetically and turned to the window.

"I am Rangabhashyam. I am on my way to Delhi too. Business, you see."

Ravi kept quiet.

"What is your name, thambi?"


"Do you live in Delhi?"


"Official visit?"


"Going to see family?"


Finally, Mr. Rangabhashyam got the hint and hid his face behind the paper, muttering something like "young men these days... hmph".

The coffee guy came by. Ravi bought one. The older lady got one. The young couple got one after deliberating quite a bit. They shared it. The lady slurped hers noisily. She complained it was not hot enough. The poor man promised to bring her straight off the stove next time. Another guy came by to see if anyone needed dinner. The lady ordered pronto. The young couple ordered just one, again. Ravi ordered one. The older lady started off a (loud on her side) conversation with Mr. Rangabhashyam.

Her name was Komalavalli and she was going to visit her son in Delhi. He was a big officer there. She stayed in Chennai with her other son and husband. She asked about
him. He said that he was going for official reasons. Then she took a bag of spicy mixture, and continued her conversation, crunching loudly in between. She next turned to the young couple.

"Newly married?"

"Y y yes."

"Eloping?" Her face brightened with an unholy gleam.

"N n n no", the girl this time.

"The younger generation is too bold, I say. They do whatever they want, dress as they like, no fear or respect, I say. What do you think, Komalavalli madam?" This from Mr. Rangabhashyam.

"Yes, yes. Take my daughter-in-law. No respect towards elders. Always arguing about everything. Those days we never opened our mouth unless spoken to."

Ravi thought, you are compensating quite nicely now.

"My neighbor's brother's daughter ran away with a Christian boy, you know. And then he abandoned her when her father and brother went to seek her. Spineless fellow, you know. All these movies and western culture, you know, spoiling our kids. Very bad."

"Mr. Rangabhashyam, I agree sir, it is this new culture. They watch MTV at home all the time. It is hard to switch to my favorite shows nowadays. I have to fight to watch the good programs. Why can't they watch these serials with us? They are so good, very real, things that happen in our houses. But they want to watch all these foreign channels, so they can ape them."

The young man who had been silently eyeing the young girl, seemed to be annoyed at this and walked towards the door. Mrs. Komalavalli finished her packet of goodies, took out a bottle of water, drank some and burped loudly. The young couple smiled at each other. The meals started arriving. Mr. Rangabhashyam opened his home-made packet of curd rice and pickle and ate that with his bottle of water. The young couple put the plate between them and ate it together, smiling and talking among themselves. Ravi opened the lid off his plate and tried to swallow the barely edible fare provided. Mrs. Komalavalli, ate hers with relish and when she was done, opened a tiffin box from her bag and literally swallowed 2 huge laddoos. A few burps followed. The young man took out a bar of chocolate and chewed on it. The young girl seemed to have dozed off.

Soon everyone got ready to climb into their berths. Ravi went up to the top one. The young man stretched out on his seat. The young couple had the upper and middle berths. The young lady had the middle, right under Ravi. Ravi guessed that they must have switched berths among themselves. The older couple occupied the lower births. They were both snoring, each to his or her own rhythm and tempo. The young man next to Ravi kept checking on his girl below. Soon things quietened down except for the snores.


visithra said...

ah very nice one ;)

Balaji said...

nice description of a train journey. typically eclectic bunch of people.

but i don't get who the narrator is. started off in 3rd person about ravi but a couple of lines towards the end("The young lady had the middle right under me", "The young man next to me...") seemed to be in first person?

noticed a couple of typos too :-)

Munimma said...

Balaji, thanks. I seemed to be switching between Ravi as the narrator and as the observer. Will edit.

Dubukku said...

Nice n interesting. :)

Anonymous said...

Waiting to read on...


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Harish said...

aaah.. niice.. seekiram continue pannunga

thennavan said...

"Rayil Sneham" - part deux?


Me too said...

Ya, ya, when is part II releasing?

Arvind said...

mmmm...part-1 train has not crossed basin-bridge yet, but dinner is over ! ;)

delhi :-) many more parts to come i see :P

JB ! said...

Good narration..Keep it up..

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Padmasani said...

Narration is a skill, natural and language is the art to flow it perfectly. You do it like a fish swimming in water.

Anonymous said...

Raa Ki Rangarajan has stated in vikatan (about short stories) the story should have a beginning , midle and end. I some how have a feeling that the story does seem to end.