Monday, January 7, 2013

Mahananda Ka Suffer

Almost a hundred hours long journey deserves to be recorded. Now, before your imagination travels to a round trip of the world over, twice, let me tell you, this wasn't a world tour by a fishing boat. The journey was from Delhi to Kishanganj, a short 10 days winter vacation break and a return journey back to Delhi, all by Mahananda Express.

Well, the journey started with a 15 hour long wait at Old Delhi Railway Station. The wait would not have been much of a trouble, had I not been travelling alone and human beings were not supposed to pee. Each time you have to pee, it would cost you Rs. 2/-. Men's urinals in most places in India is a public affair. Its not that I mind it, but when you pay a couple of bucks, you do expect some privacy. So, each time I bought a coke, I thought of the additional Rs. 2/- as Pee-tax.

You come across people of 4 states in Mahananda Express; UP, Bihar, Bengal and North Eastern State (Spare me for the 4th one; my geography is poor). With 10 years of experience of travelling in that train, I have developed my own way to recognize these people from their respective states.

UP'ites...err...sorry...UP-waale are the disturbances that you encounter, when you want to stretch your legs in your reserved berth. Okay...okay...this is too narrow a definition for the entire population of a state. Let me generalize* this definition (* this generalization excludes one person from Lucknow).

'If you are waiting at any queue, the very person, who slips in the queue somewhere in the middle, is a UP-wallah. The person who tries to stop him is a Bihari. And the person, who silently watches the Bihari and the UP-wallah make a heated argument over this, is a Bengali.'

Didn't get him? Okay...let me give you another example.

'If you come across a person who says, ' neither you help me, nor will I help you', he is a Bengali. Likewise, if a person says, ‘you help me and I will help you too’, he is a Bihari. And if you find (unfortunately) a person who says, ‘you please help me, but I will NOT help you’, is sure a UP-wallah’.

If you ever wondered, who are the people who do not run the flush after using the toilet, the people who spit gutkha at all the places and the people who steal miscellaneous household things from railway coaches; the answer to all your questions is UP-waale. In fact, you could tell about them, with the sheer smell of these people. ‘If shit could shit, fart and pee; it would smell just like a UP-wallah (For one of my nagging friends – this one has been copied and modified from The Dreamers). They have pee in their name too. You see…You-Pee.

I didn’t develop any special technique to recognize the people from North Eastern states, as I could always recognize them straightway. They are lovely people though.

Few things you must know before you start a journey in Mahananda Express. Take extra care of your luggage while you are still travelling in UP. Pay attention to your footwear too, if you are at Aligarh or Kanpur junctions. Any guy might just walk in, get into your shoes or slippers and move out. Protect your hand bag, chains, mobile phones etc at Allahabad junction. And in case, you are travelling via Rampur, protect your chastity as well. Don’t get down at Mughal Sarai junction. It’s a very treacherous station. You might just miss your train.

The best lassi and peda is served at Patna junction. The best tea is served at Barauni junction. You will come across a chai-walla at Katihar junction, who will shout, ‘sab-se-kharab-chai’. Don’t miss a cup of tea from him. He serves nice tea. You will start getting fish a meal at Barsoi junction. The cheapest banana is sold at Naugachhia junction.

Apart from the food items, Mahananda Express is a running shopping mall in itself; if you planned your travel in urgency and forgot to buy gifts. Clothes: Suit piece, shirts, trousers, saris, under garments, shoes; Household items: Torch, table-fan, table-cloth, table-lamp (and in some cases the table itself); Electronic items: Walkman, camera, watches, audio cassettes, VCDs, DVDs, pen drives, charger, memory card and what not, Books, Magazines etc. There’s everything for all kind if shoppers. My recommendation – don’t bring your wife along.

And apart from all these, the kind of friendship you develop with people from Bihar, Bengal and North East, is priceless. You come across so many innocent people. They share their life with you. Their problems, dreams, hopes, fears, apprehensions, faiths and trust are all so pure. The soul of India travels in the sleeper class of Indian trains.

Hussain bhai sells 100 kg of paddy at Rs. 1000/-, which he is going to earn after 4 days of work at a factory in Delhi. He is going to leave his job of cultivation. Mahesh jee used to grow vegetables, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes etc. He would sell cauliflower at Rs. 3/kg, cabbage at Rs. 3.5/kg and tomatoes at Rs. 2.5/kg. He is working at a construction site in Haryana since past one and a half year. He has 6 daughters to be married off, and he needs money badly for their dowry. His final remarks were, ‘kaun pardes ja ke rehna chahta hai babu?’ There are many more similar stories. They seem like dialogues of Bollywood movies from sixties. We are in 2013 and they still exist.

Mahananda gives you ample time to bond with people. People who would pass their time cursing the train being late, people who don’t like the politics in the country, people who don’t like the corruption in India, people who do not like the climate of Delhi, people who are extra protective of their belongings, people who would like to borrow your sleepers and return them wet, people who would be dying to tell you about their salary or designation, people who would want to see all the images in your phone, people who would be dying to give you all of their gyaan, people who would share their love/sex story at the drop of a hat, people who would just not let you speak your turn and people who would sit at the upper berths and watch everyone else.

This is what Mahananda does. It brings you among people. All kinds of people. And if you are like me, someone who loves to be among people, you will never mind the train being late.

PS: Just now, I have been cheated by a Magazine seller at Kanpur junction of UP (saale ne 2011 ka magazine pakda diya 2012 ka bol ke) and I decided to write a travelogue.

Dated: January the 5th, 2013 at 10:10 P.M.