Monday, November 19, 2007

AC-3 or AC third class

DELHI (19 Nov) I bet you know I am pissed off because this post is being written after 1 am. I can't shake off the feeling that the Indian Railways with its offering of "the mo*^%&#-f$%^#ing AC-3 tier coach", along with my co-passengers, is out to screw me, have a smoke, then come back to screw me again. I present the following evidences:

1. The compartment, including the side berths, is meant to seat eight. However the passengers in my compartment have approximately 287 people to see them off. And they all squeeze in or stand in the aisle, leaving no room for genuine passengers. All of them wait till the last millisecond before getting off the train. This is accompanied by shrieks of "arey train chal padi!!", as if we paid all that money to go sit in a stationary claustrophobic cell.

2. Atleast one person attempts to swap seats. He offers a seat, usually a middle berth (Murphy's law) in a compartment 20 coaches away, or sometimes in the adjacent train. "Travelling together" is a big deal even in the night trains. If there is no such person, nocturnal predators with wait-listed tickets are usually on the prowl for confirmed ticket holders who can "adjust" for a few hours. Since I am a bachelor with the innocent face of a sucker, I can't escape being gang-adjusted repeatedly by a series of wait-listers. My medical results reveal that I may never recover from this severe trauma.

3. Atleast one of the co-passengers carries luggage that will put an Antarctic expedition to shame. Consequently, the entire floor space plus halves of two berths and the aisle become full, allowing only someone with the skill-level of Bob Beamon to make it across to the bathroom. Oh! and needless to say, all that hunk of luggage will not have a single book to read on the way, except "Stardust" which will be over by the time the train pulls out of the platform.

4. The presence of atleast one baby in my compartment is mandatory. And if the baby's bawling and howling is insufficient, the parents make repairs by throwing in some brain-dead baby talk. The baby talk comprises of atmost three sentences of the kind "Ale Ale Ale baby kyon lo laha hai...", "deko deko bahar doggie hai cow hai pigeon hai...aley waah aley waah" and "chalo mamma paas chalenge, abhi beta soyega, raaja beta soyega" and so forth. These three sentences will be repeated in an infinite loop until the mother dies of dehydration or I puncture my ear drums, whichever happens first. If the baby talk does not suffice, the dad usually initiates a suave and sophisticated game, like pulling a coin out of the baby's ass, thus cementing his skills as a magician, and the kid becomes all wonder-eyed thinking "Holy Shit! My ass did that ??" With all this talk of babies, I'm tempted to use the pun "berth control" here but I am sure it has been used a million times already.

5. The person on the lower berth feels "sleepy" at 8:30pm, just two seconds after s/he finishes dinner, forcing the others to retire. Unless I am the lower berth owner, in which case, I won't be allowed to sleep before 2:30am. Even then, a group of wait-listers will suddenly materialize to sleep in the aisle, thereby giving a new meaning to "sleepovers". (Question: Is throwing bread crumbs at the bums sleeping on the floor impolite? More importantly, should I use brown bread?)

6. The person on the middle berth will sleep the longest, turning the rest of us into Hunchbacks of Notre Dame. On being woken up, he/she will generally give an Oscar winning "oh am I causing any trouble" look. The rest of us have, ofcourse, already been woken up by the obnoxious tea seller at 5:45am, who usually passes on secret information of the kind "abhi Aligarh cross kiya hai" along with the freaking mud water that passes for tea.

7. All the bathrooms will be occupied till 2pm, so the elderly uncle will lose all pretense of good manners, and will let loose the dogs of hell, otherwise known as the farting guns of Navarone. While the more adventurous of us can start guessing which pickle did uncleji have with aalo and rajma last night, I prefer to lean outside the door, looking for the next electric pole to bang my head into.

8. Needless to say, a delay by a few hours is to be expected. For example, my "superfast express train" after Diwali took 21 instead of 14 hrs, and this was a good day I was told. The last 20 kms took more than two hours. Hell! I could have run faster than that. Shameless self-advertising ends here.

Next time, I am travelling in the cargo hold of the first airplane that I see.