Amongst the many other things that form a part of my bucket list, is the deep urge to travel far and wide by myself and before I need spectacles and a walking stick to ensure my safety while doing so. Of course that is besides the point that I get a wee bit nervous when on a vehicle alone that is not a car and if it does not move on a road. And the wish list item does not end there. But before reaching to the crux, how on earth can you be on this page and be saved from the backdrop? *mad witch grin*
I can almost count the occasions when I have got the opportunity to take a trip alone, not just on one hand but perhaps on one finger. Yup, I am a sort of dhabba on the face of independent, do-it-all modern women in some things! When little, we did most of the travelling with parents, as in on holidays or as brother and sister, as in my two and a half years younger brother accompanied me whenever we were allowed to go by ourselves. Now the age gap of 2 to 3 years between siblings is the worst kind of gaps possible. I know it is convenient for the poor parents to ensure production before the machinery goes through wear and tear or the process becomes taxing; and also for children who are born some 8-10 years later after the first born, as lesser eyebrows are raised at the commendable horniness of the parents.
Anyways, the younger-“especially two years younger” brothers are the worst of the lot as kids-they aren’t old enough to be all commanding or young enough to be all obliging. Somewhere in between they become hopelessly demanding, nosey and also threatening with the one and only weapon in their arsenal, “Sunoge nahi to mummy ko bata donga”. And you know that even if the crime is trivial the opposition bench is so bloody cunning that a hanging is imperative. So please welcome the personal, unsolicited bodyguard who wants to tag along everywhere and wants to know everything otherwise he jumps on the blackmail wagon. You can well imagine how those trips minus the parents but with dadi-ma type younger brother could be.
A couple of times I did manage to journey by train alone during college days and each time I would step onto the compartment floor, a silent prayer would adorn my lips- God, please let this be the mother of all trips that I have envisaged in my mind over and over again: I would get inside, look for my seat and manage to find it somehow but with an occupant already. There would be a magazine covering the better part of his face and I would say, “Excuse me, sir, I think you are on my seat?” And he would in slow motion remove the magazine to reveal his handsome ‘Mr Darcy’ like countenance and be so apologetic that you almost begin to apologise for having checked him. The rest as they say would be history, cutting to the next scene of us being encircled by a big group of friends, after our return from the honeymoon and telling them how we met! *Sigh!* -There, now you know the complete wish. But like half the things that get shot and processed in my little mind but never see the daylight of development, this also seem to be going in the same archive box.
On this first historic occasion, was an obnoxious aunty ji who was my fellow passenger and was travelling as it seemed after a more than generous lunch and refused to stop emitting its uncalled-for fragrance in the air that orbited me. I didn’t know what to pray for more: controlling the non-stop ranting coming from the top of her or the non- stop bombardment developing from her bottom. To top it all, the lady had the audacity to complain that someone in the compartment was “spilling gas” in the environment, to take suspicion from her. Ya, right, like I was born yesterday and as if smell from the “gas” travels like speed of light and fills remote corners first instead of the helpless corner of her adjacent seat. The non-stop firing continued till we reached Delhi despite me putting up my handkerchief as a white flag over my seat but fell on deaf ears or rather deaf butts till all its ammunition was exhausted and my sense of smell was damaged for a fortnight. I even considered going in for therapy to handle the trauma.
The next time the travel plan happened I allowed my parents to drop me earlier and settled on my seat. They stood at the window outside of the chair car compartment lingering around till the train budged so that they could give me the signatory “bye-bye” wave. I think this tradition emerged more from the fear of not wanting the jaane-waala to return than anything else. So now I also waited with baited breath for the seat beside me to be taken. I even bribed Bhagwan ji in my mind again with the promise of a prasad of Rs. 50 in his temple as soon as I returned back to the city and Rs 100, if things got a romantic twist. Terms and conditions must be clearly laid so that chances of follies are narrowed down and such a petty offering, because by my pocket money’s standard, it was a king’s ransom- okay, a stingy queen’s ransom may be. And with me whose solitary travelling possibility was even rarer than seeing a man give birth, I couldn’t allow it to be screwed, could I?
Aaaaand...in walked an Uncle ji who snored through the rest of the journey when he was not tearing the entrails of the food that was served and particles of the gravy on his plate also managed to find the white spaces of my dress. Why me God? Whyyyyyyyyyyy me?
It was revelation time again. I realised that all those things they show on screen or write in books are complete crap:
- You never meet a Greek god or even an Indian god on a train or plane-geek god-yes may be!
- There is never a hijack where you and yummy ‘dish’ get stranded in the luggage cabin for hours so that a mush story takes a pre-mature birth.
- There is never the train being missed so that you get to travel in a car instead, crossing beautiful locales and singing songs in valleys amidst "friendly" cattle. I know I have to see lesser movies but they also ought to make lesser movies like these-there’s a thing called social responsibility for heaven’s sake.
- You never fall asleep over a handsome shoulder and wake up all embarrassed on the surface and bursting with joy within.
What happens instead:
- There would be a good looking face though not at a seat next to yours but at a distance and with family or a super good looking wife and no matter how many times you pass him by to go the washroom, he won’t consider raising his eyes to you, while the rest of the co-passengers would stare at you suspiciously with raised eyebrows.
- The head on the shoulders would be of a little boy with a flowing nose or an aunty ji with flowing saliva or a whole brood of wailing babies with ice-creams or something equally smeary that almost every time would miss spilling on your clothes, till they eventually do!
After marriage I have travelled alone just twice without my husband. On the first occasion I was returning from Delhi and he had to tour further so he came to the station to see me off. As I boarded the train I expressed my anxiety that I was travelling alone after seven years-what if I keep sleeping and reach Lucknow ahead instead of getting down at Kanpur? Who would look after my luggage in case I would want to go to the wash room? What if I slept and the people around took my luggage and got down at some platform in between? And what did the gabru jawan of my husband do: he asked the aunty ji yes, aunty ji again-I think I have some magnetic connection to them-I seem to attract them all on the birth next, “Please take care of her, she’s travelling alone for the first time.” The aunty ji checked me out with one long look up and down my frame wondering if I was really in twenties or just looked so. He even gave me a call just before Kanpur Central was expected to arrive, with instructions to take my suitcase and stand near the door to avoid the rush. Okay-okay, now we didn’t have to take things this far!
The next time I was travelling alone was post my first ever going solo trip to meet up my ‘still single’ friends last year and really indulged in fun before motherhood called in. I had a fabulous time visiting lounges, meeting new people and going clubbing and four days just whisked past. On my return journey there was a pleasant seeming Sardar ji sitting next to me. My fun and fantasy quota had brimmed by then and anyways I had given up hope on ever writing a post on ‘Love Story on a train’. However, there did materialize a story of sorts.
Have you ever come across a child who has say never been to any fun park but just returned from Disneyland and thereby just can’t stop raving about it? I was a similar excited buffoon. All through the way I took phone calls from friends whom I had left as well as of those whom I was going to reach to, telling them animatedly the gist of all our little escapades. I came back to the arms of my beloved a very happy woman but later an embarrassed one for the Sardar ji turned out to be one of my husband’s business dealers. Needless to say he expressed his uncontrollable bliss on the fact that ‘bhabhiji’ seemed to have had so much fun and also pointing the details as though to prove what a good listener he could be!
I wished again like I have on so many occasions that my mouth should come with a zip lock or an inbuilt backspace key! Also was proved that no one listens to me unless I make a mistake. I had to explain to my beloved with never before conviction that how I am not totally useless-I can be used as a bad example. And since stupidity is not a crime, I manage to go scot-free every time. Now in the pipeline is an idea to take a break again soon and travel alone to Delhi, with Seeya of course. Let’s see how this one fares, though all my expectations generally leave me with lesser inclination to join the gym- for I get enough exercise just pushing my luck!