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Get this. There’s no unreserved/general dabba in the Indrayani. The train lands up at the platform a good 20 minutes before departure. Then pray, why is everyone in a great rush to get in? 

To play musical chairs! Case in point — me. 

“Would you mind swapping seats?” says the guy. Behind him his wife looks with similarly pleading eyes. Do I want to give my seat — a window seat! — to this couple with the fake ‘doggy want dinner eyes’? 

Why not? It’s the new year spirit and I am feeling gracious. So I play along. I notice others doing similarly. Good. 

Looks like the rake has gotten a makeover. Green-white geometric prints on seats and the exact reverse on the walls make the bogey look bright. Even the windows feel more spacious along with swanky mobile charging units above them. A steady stream of chai-coffee-chikki keep doing the rounds. I don’t think there’s plans for a pantry yet. The train starts off on time. Only to stop in 5 minutes. 

2 short whistles are followed by a long one. Someone’s pulled the chain. Delayed by 10 minutes. Blam!

Once it moves, there’s no stopping it. A muffled speaker system — the railway’s Alexa — gives out info mostly lost in the din. I visited the loo — the western one.  Commode, yaps, flush, all systems go, pleasantly clean. Each person is lost in their own world or cell phone — same thing for many. People seem calmer — I guess all their emotions are being vented out on Twitter. 

We reach Lonavala. Enter the Mafia — the regulars. We are graced with two. The older one eyes us, wondering whether we are worthy enough for them to sit next to, which they do, facing each other. The irritation begins. 

They play mobile Ludo. The mobile they play on rests on their bag, nestled on their knees, forcing the rest of us to stay put. They are loud, get a few people to switch seats, behaviour they keet up till they get off at Kalyan. Good riddance!

This ride seems pretty pleasant. The train keeps chasing the blood-red full moon that keeps us company throughout. I close my eyes — think of many things. The rumour about the railways doing away with the general dabbas are not good. The interiors and people’s behaviour in general are good, an 8 for the rest-room too. 

Khatta-meetha timepass,” the words make me open my eyes. A hawker’s selling packaged snacks and water. I decided to empty my bladder one final time. This time, I have to use the Indian loo. The latch is broken, the chain missing, the loo dirty. So much for an 8. 

I come out. For the first time, railway Alexa is audible and she says, “Next station, Thane”. I fetch my bag. As I say goodbye to Homi and get off the train, I take one last look inside. I see the hawker, he’s sitting at an empty window seat, just like any other passenger — his weary feet resting and letting the train take him home.


Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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