There are just two things I am going to tell you:
1. Never board the compartment for unreserved passengers on Shalimar Express during February/March.
2. Even if you do, never, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NEVER speak a word in Hindi!
Read on, and you’ll see why…
‘Pack light and travel efficiently!’
This is a code I never lived by until this fateful night.
08/03/2011, Club Mahindra Holiday Resort, Munnar : 1100 hours
Being a right old slob, I had a big travel bag randomly dumped with my stuff. With this lot, I had an equally pesky friend Deepesh who decided to fix up an interview with a national television channel on our world cup song Jeet ka Junoon for which I had exactly 24 hours to make my way down to chennai! Took a bus to Alua. Fly baby fly!
08/03/2011, Alua Railway Station, Kerala : 2100 hours
The night dusked (my personal rebellion against discrimination – how can ‘dawned’ alone be allowed? x-() bright (there were a LOT of lights, duhhh) and clear (my wallet i mean :P) and it was time for me to board the train (obviously unreserved) that would supposedly take me from Alua in Kerala, to Chennai in Tamilnadu. I looked up at the old grand time-piece at the station. Made it with time to spare… The platform was unusually crowded.
Now I already had to use my seriously limited Malayalam Tongue (mindadhirukku and a few words more) to get myself from Munnar to Alua and was quite tired. To add to that now I find the platform super-crowded! And not just the ordinary crowd of the usual families with annoying kids wailing and bawling away mind you. No. This is a totally different level I am talking about right now – a whole sea of Orriyan labourers!
08/03/2011, Alua Railway Station, Kerala : 2230 hours
And along came the train. Now, me being a soft natured and well-mannered person, I just could not find it in me to match their brutal expertise in bagging all the right places to squat up inside an already filled train compartment (the floor spaces between doors, seats, upper bunk edges, and even the portable berths that a few of these gentlemen enlightened me about – a saree-like material tied in between a berth and another!)
So here I was, banished to Stand-land, with over 12 hours of travel to endure before reaching my sweet city, all the while cursing Deepesh straight to the burning pits of Hades!
09/03/2011, Arakkonam Railway Station : 1100 hours
I thought I had seen the worst by now. How wrong I was! Bang! The compartment doors open and a hoard of new people get in. “hey aavo aavo andhar aavo” a group of eunuchs! Now, I’m no racist and am a firm believer that it is the human being within who needs to be respected. But believe me, this bunch was CRAZY! They not only demanded money but also went about acquiring the same in a very violent manner.
I was shellshocked because I am I bitch! You see, these people were demanding no less than a 100 bucks from each of us and all I had inside my wallet was a tattered tenner. I believe in plastic money but I doubt if they’d have a accepted my debit card.
Around the time these thoughts played merry-go-round inside my head, one giant of an eunuch winked at me and came closer! Cold sweat broke out of my forehead…
Until this point, I was totally agnostic. But now, I turned theist so fast that… “God please get me safely out if this mess and I’ll transfer to your account/collection box half my salary” “I’ll look at every girl in this world with nothing more than brotherly affection” “I’ll never download pirated software ever again… ”
Shaking with fright the first few words out of my mouth were in Tamil! What a stroke of luck that happened to be for me!!! The eunuch smiled and said it was okay and that they never harmed Tamilians, introduced me to her comrades who soon crowded around us took look at me with cries of “heyyyy mera gaoon ka mera gaoon ka” (belongs to my village)
Now they moved on to the guy sitting next to me. This dude started pleading them with his arms folded in reverence saying he had no money on him. Now he did it quite well and even they might’ve fallen for it, but for one little detail that he either overlooked or couldn’t help. He spoke in Hindi! The giant slapped him hard on his face and banged his head on the seat-wall behind him. Another one spit on his face while the giant stamped on his chest. When he still didn’t budge and started crying, they decided to strip him naked and look for money. Well you can imagine the rest…
In the midst of all this drama, one of them pinches my cheeks and says, “Tamil naattu singam paaru di inga… Nalla bumblimaas maari irukka raasa!” (lionhearted guy from Tamil nadu. You look sooooooo chubby and lolly-polly)
Well was I in any position to disagree?