Disclaimer: This series is not a blow by blow account of what I did on my recent vacation nor is it a quick perusal for getaways and rates for hotels and sight-seeing. This series is the reflection of what was on top of my mind when I was travelling. It was written in real-time, at the end of each day reminiscing what stayed with me most or what I took away from life on that day. Also, I am not a photographer, but I have posted pictures all the same.
In a rather uneventful start to the journey, I write this because I promised my friends I would. When I told my friends I was travelling down South and asked what they wanted as souvenirs, one of them categorically said to me, “Write more”. Another one said, “Tum bhaari likhna.” So, this is my attempt.
I’ve never known a train compartment to be so quiet. Surprisingly, the fact that there are no children running around seems like an anti-climax. I had prepared myself for the noisiness of strangers who I had decided to hate even before I boarded the train. As I looked out of the window, nature didn’t provide much inspiration too. Vendors were conspicuous by their absence and the peanuts that I wished to buy weren’t available. But then again, they are available when I travel north from Mumbai when the train approaches Bharuch. I am travelling South this time, and to stereotype I will say that this train compartment has been very mellow and subdued.
The noteworthy things, therefore, require some looking beyond the surface. At Ukshi, the train stopped so I got down like everyone else did. We were in a place surrounded by jagged rocks, red earth, and green foliage. It was peaceful to say the least. On either side you could see the track entering and leaving a narrow exit like a thread enters a needle eye. There were well-behaved gravel lying on the tracks and we were nestled between two hillocks and the evening sun had just started to set.
Also, on this train journey, I have acquired a whole new meaning of the time and distance math sums that we did in school. Remember those “How long will a train take to cross a tunnel?” or “How many marks will you lose if you don’t double the length of the train and use it as your distance?” Yes, those. The number of tunnels that this train has gone through has been increasing alarmingly, and it is mighty irritating. All that ever happened for a long time was that the train passed through a grey arch and people howled like they’d be leaving a part of themselves behind. So much for immortality.
For want of beauty, I had to snatch. Careless observation offered a chance to write about colours. (There has to be something nice, after all it’s a vacation.) So, when we reached Ratnagiri I had to sit up and take notice of how red the earth was. It looked like nature dipped its brush in red paint and poured it all over Ratnagiri. The scene was Instagrammed crimson. And then slowly, the landscape changed to green. We passed beside valleys and valleys of green cover which were like dents in the Earth’s crust and we watched from an altitude. Land was absent, and all we could see down below were treetops. By now, the sun had descended into hiding, and my favourite part of any train journey – passing through India at night – was starting. I spaced out and paid full attention to see how all the green would turn black in a few minutes. But something was different. It didn’t turn black for so long. I waited for the light to fade out but with its fading, the colour was anything but black. It was somewhere between indigo and darkest blue and I couldn’t make up my mind. In fact, I struggled to place the colour. How horribly had this whole day been everything that I didn’t expect. There was no noise, no peanuts, no vendors, no strangers to hate and now no black? Surely that’s not what I anticipated. At that instance, I had to suspend all notions of what this trip was going to be. I just sat there going through tunnel after tunnel and watching the world around me deprive me of my most favourite part of a long-distance train journey.
Finally, when the world was black around me I was disinterested. Like a crossed lover I indicated to it, “You’re late!” I looked out plainly, not thinking, not seeking for a poem nor a painting that I could muse about. And as if to make up for what I was denied, I saw tiny lights twinkling from the midst of the blackness like glow-worms. White and orange lights winked at me at irregular intervals from far away and I watched them without winking back. (I was cross after all.) To complete this play, when the train passed beside what the black outline suggested were two hillocks, a car with bright orange lights that shone out into the future travelled in the opposite direction as if to say good bye. That was making up.
While the rest of the night passes as it pleases, I am reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson and having my mind sufficiently boggled because I have no idea what’s happening to me on his trip. Atkinson does that to you. Too.
P.S.: It confounds me how India, the country with a “rich culture and varied heritage”, does not have cleanliness as a part of its “culture”. It’s just plain pitiful.
Next Post: Day 2: Going Away