The one with the Train to Mumbai



There are a lot of scenes that come to my mind when I think of Trains…

A girl of 13-14 running behind a goods train that now carries the child she bore…  A guy proposing to a girl in a train whom he meets at a random marriage function… A girl running to the outstretched hand of her beloved after the father allows her to be with him… and Moondrampirai/Sadma.

But as an ardent movie buff all of 23 I feel more connected with the guitar toting, music loving ‘kiddo’ who falls in love at first sight.

Let alone fall in love, I’ve never come across a girl who didn’t have someone like ‘Samarasimma Reddy’ or ‘Sornakka’ as part of her entourage. Shawshank Redemption had taught me all I needed to know about hope and that was all I had when I left from home for the maximum city thinking I would be part of yet another Maniratnam/GVM type romantic setting…

Looking back at the whole trip I can surely say that I was part of a filmi milieu but it certainly didn’t cater to the urban/town/’cookgraamam’ romance genre.

  I went into the station and checked the platform… I walked fighting my way through the crowd that had to seal its places in the unreserved coaches. A feat not even matched by the Jallikattu or the superstar movie FDFS ticket frenzy of yore.

Battling my way through all of this, I finally reached my coach and I rushed to lodge the luggage under my seat before someone unceremoniously claimed the spot that was rightfully mine. It was a night train and finishing the usual good bye happy journey chats on phone and whatsapp, I dozed off…

It is not every day that you wake up to the sounds of Idly-vada… Dosa-vada… Chai… Coffee… I looked around to see if there were any valuable additions to the berths around me and when I found none, I knew this was going to be one long day…

In this whole trip I realized how overestimated Silence is and that music is probably the best companion ever… The longest conversation I had in this entire trip was with a transgender who was very persuasive in her attempts to extort money from me and I was no less persuasive in asking her back the change of forty rupees when I gave her fifty. I realized that people(including me) were ready to fend them off by giving them money but were reluctant to give alms to an old person or a handicapped one. It was the first time I realized that disgust, irritation and in some cases hatred won over kindness and compassion.

Movies are made with many a utopian theme, so why not show the transgender in a positive light. Why should they always be shown as beggars/prostitutes/titillating ‘items’?  Why not show them contesting an election, studying in schools/colleges, being in offices of power?? If the audience can accept a hero bashing up 100’s of people, a rich gal falling in love with a good-for-nothing boy, a scheming terrorist reforming just by the words of a hero, I am pretty sure such ideas would be accepted too…

There were people cramping up in one single berth without really caring for the consent of the person who had reserved it. There were no ‘thank-you’s’ or ‘May I’s’ . . . It was said and acknowledged without any words spelt out. People were sleeping in the walkways, crowding near the doors and some in the toilets too. Here was an India that existed everyday but not really encountered by the people to whom the greatest discomfort is to wait for the traffic signal to turn green or the absence of Wi-Fi in a swanky mall or an airport.

A night earlier, I was just outside the station fidgeting with my phone when a kid came and tapped my hand. He was carrying a bunch of tea glasses… I looked at him and he handed me a Rs 100 note that might have fallen from my pocket when I was taking my mobile out. Before I could muster a thank you or even an acknowledgement he just smiled and left… I saw many such kids running around selling paper/ice-cream/water/tea/food and the like… I was so used to seeing kids being denied their right to learn and given the duty to earn that I said NO to a kid handing out Vada-Pav through the window to his mom who was sitting next to me. I didn’t know whether it was funny or deeply saddening.

I wasn’t from any first-world country; I was from the ‘developed’ part of a still ‘developing’ nation where the majority is still finding its foothold in an ‘under-developed’ society. I felt like a heavier ‘Mohan Bhargava’ with a less sexy profession but it was a gradual realization that Aal izz certainly not Well with my country. There is no immediate solution to all the problems but acceptance is the first step towards change. Lets not falsely claim that we rock the way we do but realise that we are awesome enough to know what should be done to proclaim to the world that ‘We do rock’…

P.S. Screw you Gautam Vasudev Menon for spoiling all my train trips!!!!


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