Well the last journey I had back to chennai was a sort-of planned one; so there wasn't a lot of things happening. Just the usual stuff, and the usual “small” things. Else this post would have had to run into an even bigger mega series again. But I guess the length of this post kind of compensates the need for running this into a series. Like before this post is again not related to the actual site. The characters in this post are real, just like any ordinary passengers you'd meet while on a long journey. I don't know the names of the passengers involved in this narration, nor do I have that strange policy of just getting to know all the passengers in the train just for the heck of it. Reality check: I was a passenger too!
By writing this post I don't mean to mock what other people (I am familiar with or otherwise) firmly believe in. I also want to let my readers know that I don't usually judge other people this way.
Train No. 2696. The most arduous thing I recall about the last journey was the chilly night. I just wore a tshirt. Somewhere in the night I had to wake up, pull out a used shirt out of my bag, and wear it over my tshirt. And in spite of doing so I have contracted an elegant cold.
The next morning I was quite lazy to wake up. But I did anyway. Couldn't go back to sleep anyhow. So I sat with my legs crossed in the upper berth and began to read. Below in the side berth a cute girl, probably in her early twenties or something, was playing with what seemed like her nephew; or it could even have been her little cousin. I didn't care. There was a slightly elder looking woman sitting opposite to her and the kid; this would have to obviously be the kid's mother. After reading for some time, I decided to brush my teeth and opened my bag to take the brush and paste out. I noticed a lean woman wearing a blue churidar, again probably in her twenties, reading a book. She looked as though she was of some late Maharashtrian descent. I was searching for the damn tooth brush and looked into my bag. And on finding it, I looked below again; this time she was reading another smaller book. It probably had something written in sanskrith or hindi. But from the upper berth it looked like chinese. It really didn't matter.
After freshening up a bit, I returned to my place. I decided I'd sit in the berth like how passengers normally do on a day-time journey. On the lower berth, below which I had rested for the prev night, were seated three men. One looked slightly elderly than the other two. The other two were probably in their mid 30s. There was a fair & slightly plump bespectacled lady wearing a yellow churidar; she sat in the same berth the lean lady had, on the opposite berth; so the men and these two ladies were facing each other. The stout lady was sitting at the edge of the seat; the lean lady was seated next to the window. There was space for one person to sit in between. I reached for my bag, put the brush back into it, and kinda expected the stout lady to huddle close to the lean one - you know the saying birds of the same feather huddle together. The stout one looked stone cold. She didn't budge. I thought: Well, this one must have evolved. And so I had to occupy the space in between.
I looked over to the side berth to catch the cute girl and the kid playing. Was even expecting the girl to be even more naughtier than the kid. But she was quiet, calm, cute, yet playful, and damn good looking! I envied the kid for a while. That little chap was so lucky I guess. But I thought she'd probably already be in a relationship. Why else should she be so radiant and good looking?! And even if I were in some strange fantasy relationship with the girl I can't imagine the length of horror scenes I'd have to face. And if God directed a movie based on this relationship he'd probably want to give it another silly lunar title: Black Moon. And then the makers of the Scary Movie series would eventually mock it and probably even call it Funny Moon.
Then I seemed to notice a conversation was going on beside me. Eaves dropping would not be the technical term to call it; I was being subjected to listen to it. Each time I look the other way the conversation goes another way. Apparently the first book the lean one was reading was written by Sri Mata Amritananadamayi (aka Amma). I noticed her photo on the book. The person the lean lady was having conversation with was the old man, eldest of the three men seated opposite beside the window. He spoke highly of the book and what was written in it. What caught my attention was the topic: these people were discussing about farming. I didn't get the connection.
The old man went on to explain how modern methods of agriculture actually degrade the quality of our fruits and vegetables. The lean lady seemed to be intently engrossed with this topic. I was wondering why would Amma write about farming; I thought she was a spiritual leader. She should talk more about spirituality. Then the old man went on to explain that the use of pesticides and fertilizers destroys the natural order of things; the earth is bound to react one day to this. The lady seemed to concord; she even tried giving a corroboration. She said, the earth is already reacting! Every month you can see some calamity somewhere on earth. This conversation was getting highly illogical to follow.
The lean one was a conversationist. The old man had told her that he owned a piece of land and cultivates some crops there. He only uses cow dung and bone powder for manure. No pesticides. No artificial fertilizers. The poor man's flow of English was broken, but his points were coercive; convincing. The lady beside me asked him about crops the old man cultivated on his stretch of land. He said a lot of things. His dialog suddenly changed into fruits he cultivated. The lady also intently joined in saying she always had problems eating fruits like mangoes or pineapples which she purchased from the shops because of the pesticides. The conversation went on and on. I was getting a little tired; the allergy pangs were rising and falling. I was holding the hanky to my nose and trying to breathe through it.
I noticed the kid was playing quietly now. He was totally external to this conversation. The people next to me also showed gestures at times as they found parts of the conversation interesting. Suddenly as the old man was talking about his cultivation he said loudly and defiantly, I don't sell my crops to any one. If they want my crops they'd have to pay me high. I cannot give you quantity, but I'll give you quality, but at no point I'd give you poison!
Everyone's attention was focused at him for a while. Even the cute girl who was shuffling in her seat and who was totally disengaged from this conversation looked at him. The two other men sitting in front of me looked at each other. Their eyes kept rolling around in their sockets as if the part of their berth in which the old man was seated was about to get violently torn off or something. I noticed the stout lady beside me was holding her mobile phone; she kept staring at it from time to time. Wanted to ask the stout lady if she had some music in her phone, and headsets to accompany with it. For me, it didn't even matter the choice of music she might have had. I would have listened to Carnatic music too if that was the only go.
It was quiet for a little while. The lean lady offered to ask the publishers to send the old man a copy in his regional language. It seems she had connections with many swamijis and all. The lean lady and the man got to know each other better. This was when I learned that the old man was a professor. The lean lady worked in Citi Bank. Her name was Minu, I think. She claims she was settled in Chennai. But her lineage doesn't seem to suggest it however. The old man talks about his wife and son. He says the wife is staying in Idukki. She always had health problems because of eating fish and meat. The son too followed his mother's suit. However this old man kept to his ways; he was a staunch vegetarian who got his vegetables from his own land. He kept saying all these things about our teeth, intestines, etc were not designed to eat meat. He later went on to saying that we don't need Veterinary hospitals. We domesticate the animals. Had they been in the wild they'd know what to do if they fell sick. Now they don't know what to do. Time and again he had some valid points we could all debate about. But time and again he'd conclude it with some stupid pompous remark.
The train was nearing the Chennai central railway station. I think at the time we halted at basin bridge junction. And now the train slowly started to move forward. The kid grew more active all of a sudden. His entertainer was on the phone. He happily and boisterously kept repeating whatever she said over the phone. She was probably talking to her uncle. She couldn't stop with her laughter, and the kid's antics. The little kid stood on the seat, stooped near to her face and shouted everything the girl said into the phone. She was trying to shield the kid, but he stood pretty strong and shouted happily. And then finally she hung up on the call, and started to fight with the kid.
The train was a few kilometers away from the Central Station. The lean lady beside me started getting ready for the arrival. She took out her only bag from underneath. The old man asks, only one bag?! This woman was travelling alone. It was as if the old man was expecting a whole family of baggages, and instead found only one. He then pats his own baggage. It was a linen bag (we traditionally call sanji), and it was packed. He said, do you know whats in my bag? He seemed to be very excited about telling this. I am carrying 1 kg pepper, and 3 kg of green tea!
I instantly looked at the kid dispassionately. I envied him deeply now. The professor has 1 kg of pepper, and 3 kgs of green tea; you are lucky kid, 'cause you don't even give a damn and finally happen to listen to this.
I don't want to dampen the old man's spirit. In fact I respect his ideologies. I would have even chipped in a few points had there been a few more people who willingly sort to participate in this conversation. It was not just farming they talked about. They talked about history, the Spice Route, how pepper was discovered, how the egyptians actually built the pyramids; they touched a lot of things like this. At one point of time I did want to relate to all of this. Heck, imagine if everyone were talking, and then the kid suddenly spoke about global warming, wouldn't you want to say something too?!