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Just Another Travel Story

His mustache looked weird, too wiry on the edges and too brushy with a stashed-in feel about it every where else, should I ask him if it is a fake one? like some sort of a wig. Fake hair on the head is called a wig, what about the fake hair on the face (read mustache, period) be called? mig? no, not good enough ummm, uh oh, don't divert, shall I ask him if it is a fake one? It wouldn't seem polite, but then, maybe, it might seem to come across a friendly jibe and change that topic of his, now what were we talking about? He had been blabbering along for quite some time now, Gosh! he doesn’t have any idea that I am neither listening nor in the least interested in what he is talking about! I had been half-smiling and half-nodding for the past 15 minutes with periodic "oh"'s and "ahaan"'s with some "hmmm?"'s generously interspersed in between.

He does look like a teddy bear with a beer belly and hair-fall issues. Did Theodore Roosevelt also look really like a teddy bear? or was it just because of his name, that he was called Teddy Roosevelt? I’m diverting again! his physique does look like a teddy bear though, one that we had when we were kids, I got possession of the family teddy bear from my sister who is four years old and I used to sleep with it until one day Tommy decided to make the teddy his breakfast, meal and dinner, long time ago, feels like in another century, another era, like one of those black and white movies. Funny, how I recollected this fact, I think this is the first time that I have recollected this particularly fateful scene from the corners of my rather dusty memory, like they say, time is a great healer of wounds and I shut out this rather ghastly incident from my still infantile memory then. I saw his mannerisms as I was thinking this, but instead of seeing him, I was looking at my old tattered red teddy with a double breasted black suit-like dress, I wiped my eyes to come back to reality and I blurted out an inadvertent laugh and tried to cough and cover it up. He looked up at me questioningly, uh-oh, but instead he assumed that I didn’t get what he was saying and so repeated more slowly
Yes, I have been traveling in this line (Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani) since 1997! (wow! I should suggest his name, next time I meet Mamata, should start a new award for this guy, if only that can shut him up)
A train host passed along our cabin, my seat number is 71 and so I was sitting right near the entrance door to the coach. The poor guy was carrying many food packs on his tray and while trying to balance it was also struggling to open the door to carry them out. Everyone who were chattering, blabbering, puckering, talking, whispering, snoring (okay, I am taking this a bit too far) stopped their chattering,  blabbering, puckering, talking, whispering, snoring and looked upon the acrobatics the poor guy was embarking on in order to pull open the door and hold it while at the same time take the tray outside right-side up.
As Murphy always says, a pack of dal (lentils) fell out of the tray, the train host let out a audible sigh and pushed on ahead with his hand-held tray.
You could rather have asked us to open up the door for you to pass. (I thought of saying to him, but rather did the right thing in keeping these thoughts to myself and made a mental note to help the other guys with trays when they pass through again.)
Three pairs of eyes followed the great mishap that had ensued. Mishaps are something which shouldn’t have happened, but once it happened we cannot exactly get around to call it an accident because there is some amount of a lingering possibility all along that events might take such a course, which doesn’t make it exactly an accident. 
Indians that we are, we proudly are, we knew the reason for our extra-ordinary resistance to diseases. Call it the Indian Paradox if you want, but if you are not Indian and you see yourself nodding your head in the wrong direction after reading this, then ask anyone who has been to India
Did you ever fall ill during your stay in India? If not, how many antibiotics have you taken while in India?
Well we do eat outside, at the street vendors, where the hygiene is more often than not literally gone to the dogs, our drinking water isn’t as clean as for it to be labelled as “drinkable” in any of the other three quarters of the planet. But still we are a million and still going strong.
Well Indians that we are, the three pairs of eyes followed the train host as he placed his tray on a wall-hanging support outside the doors and came back in to lift the leaking dal pack. So far so fine, but we hung on watching him, because if you are any Indian either you would do that or you had already accepted the laid-back nature of our people. But the three pairs of eyes held on for different agendas of their own. Me out of amusement, the teddy sitting opposite me, for that “I told you so moment” he had been having aplenty with me deciding to be polite with another human being in at least this journey and the elderly man sitting across the aisle who along with his wife is going to the USofA with his daughter and grandson to have a chance at some final potshots at the country that he was born in and grown up (I hoped) rather ungrudgingly. What the train host did then put the leaking dal pack back on the tray and carry it on into the next coach to provide it to some unsuspecting passenger with a smile in order to get some chai-paani karcha (tip) later on when that unsuspecting passenger is about to disembark the train. Yes, horror of horrors! well actually we were all expecting just this thing but still held on hoping against hope that he might drop the dal pack in the trash-bin that was very near to the support where he had earlier placed his food-tray upon.
I chuckled in a what I presumed to be an intelligent yet understanding sort of way, while the old man lamnted
Ye kya Rajdhani hai! yahan par bhi wahi halat! (!What kind of Rajdhani is this? Even here it is the same!)

I chuckled on thinking about the lackadaisical attitude of ours towards basic hygiene, yet being proud of the acquired immunity as a result of our habits. Just because we boarded the Rajdhani, we haven’t been transported immediately to some remote land that hasn’t ever heard of us Indians. I thought on, We are Indians, we are like that only! By now all three of us notice that my seemingly innocuous chuckle had turned into some sort of dry throated croaking and so I quickly stopped.
Mr. Teddy started going on again with whatever he was telling me earlier after a snide y remark about the “happening” and I went on to interject some intelligent remarks and a few insightful observations in our one sided conversations to fight boredom and also to get a chance at properly watching his teddy-like mannerisms with amusement!
This went on for some time and I was getting tired by being bored when suddenly I heard the booming voice of the old man above the general din that generally accompanies any Indian railway coach. I turned around to see the head waiter host for the bogey standing in the aisle.
Old man. The Dal pack fell, why are you giving that to us again!
Old man’s wife. We are three people here, how come you gave only two dinner trays to us?
Head Host.  We are getting you another dinner tray Madam.
Teddy. When are you going to get it?
Old Man. We have already been waiting for a long time now!
Head Host. We are getting you the tray right now, immediately Sir!
Old Man’s Daughter. I don’t want this water bottle, I need boiled water.
Old Man’s Wife. Please get our tray quickly.
Old Man. Why are you serving us food that has been picked from the ground after it fell off?
Head Host. What? Sir?
Teddy. These guys, I know them, they are like that only!
Head Host. Please Sir, we are not serving you any bad food.
Old Man’s Daughter. Brother! Please get me the boiled water quickly.
Old Man. One of your boys had earlier picked up a dal pack that fell of his tray and started leaking and put it back in the tray to serve us people.
Train Host 2. What happened?
Head Host. Someone picked up a fallen dal pack from the ground in front of these people and put it back
Teddy. These people are like this only! They serve food which contains cockroaches and fallen down dal packs and when one asks them for the complaint register, it vanishes into thin air!
Train Host 2. (murmurs something to the Head Host.)
Head Host. Please go to the pantry car immediately and get an extra dinner tray.
Head Host. Madam, sorry, we are getting your dinner tray and I will get you boiled water immediately.
Old Man sniggers.

Teddy. Please get me the complaint register.
The Head Host looks at him uncomfortably and wobbles his head in an unintelligible sort of way and then he was off in a jiffy. He supplied the dinner tray to the old lady and the hot water to the woman, so that she can feed to her infant, all the while conspicuously trying to ignore our side of the compartment on the other side of the aisle while Teddy continued in top gear to bore me further. It was during this time that I found the wonderful company of easily accessible internet through mobile which I didn’t know was possible through my piece. Like they say, necessity is the mother of innovation.
Then enter shady character who had earlier been supplying with clean linen and bed sheets to our berths. He comes over, again in true black and white film style of a bygone era and bends sightly between us too and offers free daru (alcohol). Teddy bites his lip, unable to decide and finally deciding otherwise. Mr. Shady then goes on to apologize for any inconvenience and says that if any of us cannot fight off the urge to drink anytime in the night, he is always available just on the other side of the door! Metaphorical that it did sound (crossing the door, getting onto the other side to reach him, who with alcohol, you either got it by now, or not), he put up a straight face, rather a very solemn face and apologized again and again and asked Teddy to not complain against them. Teddy who by now was floating a few visible millimeters above the ground due to the new-found superiority and power to bend the poor rascals to his will was smirking left right and center and couldn’t control it. He said no and when the shady character had understood the package that our dear Mr. Teddy really is, he left feeling secure for himself and his fellow train hosts.
Teddy. That guy was offering daru. I said no. (wide grin on his face)
Me. ahaan!
Teddy. They will do anything to protect their complaint register.
Me. ahaaan! hmmmmm.......

I then went on to brood over other worldly matters like how we are teaching the art of bribery to our children. This was because, my bogey was unfortunately full of pocket-sized demons and I tamed one of the lesser unruly ones by offering it some candy. Where is my cell phone for my new-found love in tweeting......

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8 comments to “ Just Another Travel Story ”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Murali,
    After a long time. Enjoyed reading the post.
    ANd I completely accept the fact that we Indians have a rocking immune system :)
    Hehe you seemed to have a great time travelling ;~) ..
    Inb/w do you really have demons in you pocket?? DO they have a arrow tipped tails??? :~P

    Travel more..write more...

    Hey why don't you post some photos too? Sure you must have had clicked some interesting ones :)

    Hoping to see more and more of your posts!!
    Take care,

  1. Lunatic says:

    You digressed too much. Good one otherwise.

  1. Mural! says:

    @Archana thanks-a-ton! Yes I did think about that, but first I am watermarking the pictures before uploading them, I hope I can share them in a couple of days :)

    @Sisodia digressing? So what did you think was my main focus in this write up?

  1. M S says:

    What about sending me the watermarking stuff....murli..??

  1. Mural! says:

    Lol.. That was funny, Murali. Long time, huh?
    After watching "Road Trip" I've stopped arguing and fighting with people who serve bad food. It's better bad than worse. :D
    Enjoyed the post.

  1. Mural! says:

    @Karthik Road trip great movie!! but what's with road trip and bad food? can't remember it..... glad you enjoyed the post, will try to keep posting more regularly :)

    @Seenubava ofcourse! U r the reason I started watermarking!!

  1. Mural! says:

    Dont remember that scene? The four of them go to a restaurant and order breakfast. When it is brought, one of them tells the waiter that he doesn't need sugar in his sandwich. So the waiter smilingly takes it back to the kitchen, licks it clean, rubs it against his private parts and brings it back to the table. The guy eats happily. :D So that's a lesson to be learned. Never take panga with waiters/servers of food. ;)

    P.S. This scene is included only in unedited version, I guess.

  1. Mural! says:

    oh yes, I do remember that!
    that and some other similar scenes, ;)

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