desi · random thoughts

Manzile apni jagah, raaste apni jagah

2 weeks away from my blog and I really missed adding a post!! Been busy with work and I decided enough is enough, I am going to scribble this down before other thoughts around Data warehousing or Regression testing begin to attack my wounded brain and take me back to client interactions and pitch for new business. New business – was that an oxymoron or am I a moron? Aaah!!

I drove from Wilmington, NC to Pittsburgh couple of Sundays ago and covered about 650 miles, i.e. close to a thousand kilometres in 12 hours. That included 3 hours of breaks cumulatively. How I wish I could do that in India and roads in India were as good as the roads here. There is no difference between roads in different states in the You Yes of Yay and whether I was in Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina or West Virginia, it just didn’t matter. Whether I was on an interstate freeway or a state high way, the roads were so good. Even night driving was not a pain due to the absence of high beam lights from opposite side or any such constraints. But was I satisfied that I got to do what I love – driving?

No!! The greedy man in me began to crib again and asked for Indian scenery. I was sick and tired of seeing similar topography on both sides of the roads – trees, same old road signs and nothing like good old India. I remember how I used to love the train trips from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu via Orissa and Andhra. The people, food, language, landscape – everything used to be so different and I wanted such diversity in my drive, but alas it wasn’t there to be. The crowd at Howrah station: despite having reserved berths, we would push our way into the train. I would be so thrilled if I had a window seat and as I began to get older, the first ritual was to check the reservation chart. That was a printout on a dot matrix printer that some guy would hurriedly paste with local glue on the compartment. A crowd would assemble around the chart and after confirming that I was indeed allowed to travel, I would run through the chart and see how many women were in the coach around my age and what their seat numbers were!! As if the train journey would be the beginning of a new love story or something.

Calcutta was followed by a stop at Kharagpur. It was a ritual to jump down and eat the puri aloo where the pooris were freshly fried or refried or fried again and a generous abhishekam of dum aloo would happen on the 8 small pooris and served on a plate made of carefully woven leaves. Then there would be the jhal muri made by a guy with a dirty red towel hanging from his pocket, chop singhara (samosa) covered in a red cloth in a basket served with some kind of tomato sauce and onions, innumerable chai breaks that would slowly become coffee breaks with the shift from Bengal to Orissa to Andhra. During the hot summer days, we could hear the cool drinks seller from a distance as he announced himself with a sound that he would generate by running through the cold drink bottles with the bottle opener. Meals, coffees, Dinner, coffee, throwing 10 paise or 25 paise coins into Mahanadi, Krishna and Godavari, wondering if we were going back to Howrah after we would start moving in the opposite direction at Vizag, arguing with a gult mama on why a reserved seat meant a reserved seat and did not just mean reservation at night – endless stories and how could I forget the rose milk at Rajamundry! Butter milk pouches, cold drinks, teas, coffees – wonder if I can try that now without falling sick. Oh, I forgot to mention the idlis armed with gun powder, tamarind rice with chips and smashed appalams & curd rice packets packed at home. The large tiffin dabba with 6 small containers that would accompany us on all train journeys is now dusty and old, sitting in one corner of the attic, hoping to undertake one more journey before it is thrown away. Next time I am in India, I sure hope to realize its dream and relive my memories in the process.

Election fever is once again back in India and I am thinking if we use the word ‘fever’ because of politicians who are nothing more than bacteria or viruses for our country. I hope that roads in India, and road / driving sense in India can undergo a transformation very soon. Each political candidate should be asked to drive in front of the nation on busy roads and only if they pass a driving test, he / she should be allowed to contest elections. Politicians need to be self driven 😉 Imagine Rabri Devi or Mayawati driving in Aminabad in Lucknow or Ranganathan Street in Chennai!! Only if they promise and sign a bond in front of the nation on live TV that they will build smooth roads, should they be considered for our votes. Then, my dream will come true one day! We will have rest areas in Kharagpur serving samosas and pooris, rest areas at Rajamundry, Cuttack, Vijayawada … Chennai. I felt like I was driving a Rajdhani or a Shatabdi from Wilmington to Pittsburgh and want to have that experience whenever I drive from Kanyakumari to Kashmir or Kolkata to Ahmedabad.

But frankly I did miss cows crossing the road and hey, what to do? Mera road hain amreeki, gaadi hain Korean, par dil phir bhi hain Hindustani!

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4 thoughts on “Manzile apni jagah, raaste apni jagah

  1. Hey jiju! slight diff between you n us – you travelled east to south – we travelled west to south!

    Me n ti love the train journeys.. we would create a whole lot of ruckus !! Since we travelled in 2-tier, we never had a problem with seats or with someone someone encroaching our privacy. Parents now don’t comprehend how much or why we loved trains so much.

    Nothing beats the sudden changes in attire you observe – one night you are watching men in panchagajam type of wear, pagadi and women in colorful saree n pallu, and the next day, you see men with veshti tied high enough to show their chaddi and women with flowers in their oiled hair!!

    But of course, the climax of our journey was a sight of the krishna river.. it used to come late at night.. 11 am and thereabouts.. one of us would stay awake invariably to watch it, and wake others too!
    Nice days those.

    Ranga:
    Absolutely agree – nice days those 🙂 wish we can all go to some place with bommi also – i know its unpleasant but it is sleeper class during summer that helps you to smell India … nee periya aalu baa 😉
    btw, i had also travelled from east, west, north, south but regular was Coromandal express 🙂

  2. 😀 you should drive in Alabama. Its like India, you will see people in churches 😉

    And – the dabbas remind me of my husband and his train journeys 🙂 – here – http://reluctantchefs.blogspot.com/2009/03/theplas-perfect-when-on-go.html

    And – I’m not writing from this ID to show this but too lazy to change.

    – Nandini

    Ranga: Soopper post that! I could relate a lot to that post – engineering college student life ay thani 😀
    interesting – i would really look fwd to driving in alabama and maybe request theplas for the drive 🙂

  3. You have missed the transwomen from Andhra and their hearty blessings.

    Ranga: Thanks for reminding … how could I miss that?! They would sing one line from a bollywood song and demand money. one uncle gave a one rupee coin and was shouted at for being so cheap etc!

  4. Magnificent description of Indian rail journey . Made me nostalgic. First used that route when going from Imphal to Chennai for vacation , when I was 8 . Also reminds me of the Delhi-Chennai route. In fact, my first rail journey was from N.Delhi to Chennai, when I was perhaps 6.
    Btw, just went to BAngalore and back, on the Shatabdi. My son njoyed it .

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