Monthly Archives: September 2014

Just another Indian Railways employee

I sensed it, before I heard it. There I was standing on Platform No. 1 of Nagpur Railway Station. Checking out which newspaper to buy. I glanced sideways. The train was moving! Bloody hell! I had not heard any announcement. Nor the normally loud horn of the diesel engine pulling my train. The superfast Tamil Nadu Express.

I turned and ran. Straight into a man carrying a steel trunk. It hit me on the shin. But, now was not the time to think about the pain. Now, was the time to run. And to catch the train. “Don’t get down from the train, before it reaches Madras” my dad had warned me last night, before the train left New Delhi at 10 PM. And here I was, running after a train that was accelerating out of Nagpur.

Well, now was the time to put all the skills learnt catching those DTC buses to school and back. I had been using the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses for the last 2 years. Initially, I would patiently wait for an opportunity to push others in, or get pushed myself into the narrow doors at the rear of the bus. That was when I was 13. Things had changed in the last one year. Running behind a bus that had started and jumping onto it had become the norm.  It was all a matter of timing. Yeah. That and the girls to impress. Were they? I will never know!

Back to the TN express. The Pantry car was going past me now. Run man! Run faster! I heard someone yell “Jaane do!” (Let it go!). Nopes. Not an option. I was now almost at the same speed as the train. As I reached for the handle of the door at the end of the pantry car, I realised that the door was closed. No time to wait. I had to grab the handle and jump on to the top step. Just as my right foot hit the step, I realised I had made a mistake. The step was wet. And I was wearing flip flops. Net result – poor grip. Just as my mind said “Oh oh”, the door was yanked open from inside, a pair of strong arms lifted me in. It was one of the pantry guys.

And then started the tirade. To my good luck, my knowledge of Tamil was not all that great. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to open the door and jump out again. In between the many unmentionable, unprintable words hurled at me, I was told in no uncertain terms of how I was a maniac who deserved to be admitted to the nearest mental hospital. I tried to say thanks. Thanks for saving my life. But it only caused him to flare up even more. Perhaps one of his colleagues felt sorry for me, and pulled him back into one of the resting areas meant for staff.

As my compartment was ahead of the pantry car, my walk across the entire length of it was one of the longest in my life. Silent they may have been, as I was limped past them – the other staff and fellow passengers in the pantry car- but I could feel the collective term they were using in their minds – Irresponsible Idiot.

The pain where my leg had been hit by the steel trunk now hurt badly. I dragged myself back to my seat 3 compartments away. As I collapsed into my seat, I understood how lucky I was. It hit me now. I struggled to keep my emotions in control. Not to cry in front of my fellow passengers. I decided to climb to my top berth in the sleeper II class and lie down for some time. The summer heat made it almost impossible to lie down there. But, I must have been tired. Overwhelmed. Because, the next thing I remember is being woken up by someone shaking my leg. Right where I had been hit earlier! I was ready to curse whoever it was. It was him. We recognised each other. I swallowed the curses. “Saapad” he said. And left the steel tray and it’s cover at one end of the berth.

He had taken the food order earlier this morning while I was still in my berth. Without my prescription glasses on, he was just a blur, from my bunk. I tried to catch his attention to try and thank him again, but he had other customers to attend to. I was hesitant because I did not want him to flare up again.

Later, after the night meal, as we were speeding through Andhra Pradesh, he came to collect the dues. I paid him. As he was collecting from others in my seating area, I hesitantly asked him “Ungal per?” (Your name?). “Muthu” he said. And he smiled at me. “Thanks Muthu” was all I was able to say.

Muthu. Just another Indian Railways employee.

 

Advertisements

Values to Cherish

“Garage ka chaabi de jara” said my brother (Give me the keys to the garage). He normally does not keep anything there, so as I gave him the key I asked him what he wanted to keep inside. “Nahin. Plastic chairs nikal na hai andar se” (No. I have to remove the plastic chairs from inside).

Apparently a family was taking shelter under the solid shade of the Honge tree in front of our home, and there was an elderly lady and gent among them, and he wanted to offer the chairs to them.

The tree and the pavement

The tree, the shade, the pavement

I have mentioned earlier about the Hospital that is virtually next door to us. These folks were visiting the hospital to be with a loved one. They had brought packed lunch with them, and in the absence of a canteen in the hospital, needed a place to sit and have their meal in peace. I noticed that they had brought their food in steel containers. They were having their meals in disposable plates.

Later in the afternoon, when I went out, I noticed that the chairs had been kept back on our verandah, and there was no food or disposable plates at the base of the tree. Yes, there was traces of water at the base of the tree where they had possibly washed their hands. My heart swelled with pride for my fellow Bangaloreans actions. In spite of their personal situation, they had made sure that there was no litter left behind. Along with it came a sense of shame that I had expected them to litter the place, if nothing else, at least with the disposable plates. They hadn’t.

My thinking was based on an incident a few days back. An early morning, when I had seen a number of disposable plates that had been littered by the roadside in front of our home. I felt that it was a Ganesha immersion party that had done the deed. I had heard several processions go past our home the previous night. And then there are the many smartly dressed youngsters who often come to the store next door, pick up ice cream or chocolates, and think nothing of dropping the sticks or the covers on the pavement in front of our home. Naturally, I wished Bangalore had more people like that family, and less of the latter.

Also, is there not a common thread between my brother’s and the family’s actions? A mind (or is it heart?) that cares for entire strangers. One which thinks about not inconveniencing others. This to me , is a value that is to be cherished. A value that anyone has to be thankful to one’s parents and teachers for inculcating in us. A common refrain is “It is not easy to practice this value in this age. Everyone cares only about themselves first.”. Do try. The more you do, the better you will get at it. And the world will be a better place for it. Agree?

Token of gratitude

For a moment, I was transported back in time. To a time when I fought with a book shop owner in Gandhi Bazaar. He had chosen to put a stamp of his bookshop on a photograph of a miniature painting in the book I had just purchased, to forcibly advertise the fact that I had purchased the book from his store. I made him replace it and give me a copy without his customary stamp! He did mutter that no one other than me had a problem with his shop’s stamp on the first page of their books. In true Bangalorean spirit (when it still existed), all mutual cursing n cussing was done silently, under the respective breaths taken through inflated nostrils!

The letter below is what took me back to that event of a decade ago.

image

While cleaning up old snail mail, I found this letter from the Chief General Manager, Circulation for The Week magazine.

I had recently renewed my subscription for the next 5 years and as a token of gratitude, here he was…offering me the unique privilege of pasting a sticker to my car that read “I read The Week. Do you?”.

Thanks Mr. Nair, but I just cannot accept this magnanimous honour that you have bestowed upon me. I am overwhelmed! How can my small, little car, carry the huge responsibility of advertising freely for your esteemed magazine?

Sarcasm apart, I do wonder whose brainwave this “gratitude=car sticker” idea was? Going by Peter’s principle, he or she needs no further promotion…they have already arrived at their level of incompetence.

Meanwhile, I eagerly await the next “Dear valued subscriber” letter from them …a long wait… 5 years from now… if i subscribe once again. Maybe by then, they will send me a new car instead of just a “sticker”! 😀