Eight’o clock

I come from a middle class background. My father was in a transferable job and I am used to being asked to pack my bags once in three years or even less. Why all this?

It has more to do with my morning routine in Mumbai. The alarm on my cellular phone, the decision as to how long I can sleep without going shabby to office and then the trudge to the Andheri station amidst the vast expanse of humanity, so characteristic of Mumbai. I usually reach there by eight a.m. The usual would be a train with my fellow countrymen hanging on like there is no tomorrow. The unusual would be a passenger train, an express train to Ahmedabad or Someplace Else.

I would watch the train as it slowly passes by. Engines, clutching the air-conditioned coaches in iron clasps, which clutch the sleeper coaches and then the general compartments. There were no people hanging from it, just people sitting inside and looking forward to something, calm, confident and optimistic. People engaged in casual conversation, kids looking at me like they have never seen a guy with a moustache before and some more people who just don’t care.

Slowly I started looking forward to the express train and I used to notice that I felt happy each time I used to see this train in the morning. I used to feel the mood of the people in the express train rub on me. Life seemed good. But why?

What was I talking about?

Yes,…when I was in school, in some town or city in interior Tamilnadu, Madras was Mecca to me. I would go through the ordeal of school, homework, tests and exams just for those ten odd days of vacation. On the day my exams used to end, I would accompany my mother and sister to the station. The train was my window to freedom. For the next ten days there would be no more homework, no more getting up early, no more restrictions on playtime, no more rules….I got to see my cousins, play in the mud, skip a bath and get lost in the melee of my grand mother’s house where all of my mother’s brothers and sisters used to converge for the vacations. I used to wait for the monstrosity to chug it’s way onto the platform and I would just jump right in and book a seat for myself, before my sister can. It was a sort of deliverance for me. For the good days ahead. The train journey was something else. Snacks packed from home, skirmishes with my sister and of course counting stations before I am there. It was almost labour for nine hours before I would get to Madras (I hate Chennai,…whoever thought of it).

In other words, the train stands for the summum bonum of some of my most memorable childhood memories. Everytime I see the express train, I see myself somewhere else. I fall through the tunnel like Alice did. A tunnel, not about happiness or freedom or any other funny abstraction,….but something more personal, memories. I am not a philosopher, just a ordinary kid, who wants to get onto the blue train.

Every time I see it, I just forget myself and relive those memories. Times have changed, memories don’t.

Let me get back to my paper.


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