Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Hop on the train!

Train journeys are perfect to introspect, let your mind wander aimlessly and generally, unwind. They are so much more preferable, than driving out of the city to find a plane to fly in. All the paranoia surrounding flights, makes the security check a nightmare. Baggage size, weight and shape rules are as unpredictable as the English weather. More importantly, who wants to be touched all over, with what I believe is a metal detector, have one's clothes and toiletries checked for anything suspicious, like more than 100ml of foot cream.... my foot!

On the train, the blossoms on the trees, pansies on the railway platforms and daffodils in the countryside were announcing the much awaited arrival of spring. Most of the trees were still leafless, their bare profiles silhouetted against the horizon. The rolling green fields dotted with fluffy sheep and giant rolls of hay, whizzing past my window was refreshing to watch. Horses, ponies and cows, all leisurely grazing in the afternoon sun made me almost envious.

The waterways had ducks, geese and swans cruising along in various directions. I saw a field full of semicircular metal pig homes and lots of pigs and piglets gallivanting around, outside. Rabbits, the little brown furry creaturs sometimes sitting still meditatively or hopping away, are a pleasant sight. Some farms had colourful pheasants on an inspection round.

While I was busy appreciating all this, most of my co passengers were on their mobile phones, talking to friends and relatives. One Chinese woman beside me was talking constantly for more than an hour, but the irritating thing was that she would say some crucial things in English and leave me wishing I could understand the whole conversation, like, "I don't want to be a housewife" or some such interesting tit bit and I would start guessing what her occupation was, who she was talking to etc etc.

Then there was the woman who was admonishing her ex-husband for not having made an effort to get her kids to talk to her on mother's day. She then asked to speak to her older eight year old and proceeded to explain to him that even if she gets in after his bed time, she will get him home and,..and then, she would hopefully get a Mother's day card. I found myself feeling sorry for the boy, who had, I hope, for his own sake got the hint, and had started looking for a card.

I was nearly falling off to sleep when this young man's conversation woke me up simply because it sounded so alarming. Something about going down at 45 degrees and keeping on turning in spite of a burning sensation or did I hear wrong? Thank God, I remembered that I had heard him ask the person he was talking to about skydiving. I was definitely put off skydiving, not that I was ever interested.

Most people's phones start ringing and most start calling others, at the approach of a station. Nobody likes to speak to the person sitting next to them, but there are plenty, who are happy to be discussing redundancies, house hunts, salaries, mortgages in nice normal voices which are crystal clear in the confines of a railway carriage, while on the phone to their dear ones. No wonder then, there are areas where the mobile phone is not allowed. I wonder if you pay more to get into that cabin.

Then suddenly,it began to get dark, the sun seemed to peep out like a beacon, from behind a band of dark cloud at the horizon and then, as it descended, the cloud acquired a golden lining. Soon, it was dark and the approach of a village or town was announced by a gathering of twinkling lights, in a distance. There were the usual lighted signs of Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Argos and the famous ToysRUs, which has the toys and us watch, as R looks in the mirror.

There is something very warm and inviting about stranger's homes, when you look into the interiors in the diffuse light of a lamp, from the impersonal comfort of a train. When we arrived into Birmingham, I felt like the country mouse who had been thrown into the city. Life is relative and so the multi storied buildings in Birmingham looked like skyscrapers, whereas in New York, one tended to look over anything lower than the big landmarks like the Empire State Building.

1 comment:

Saras said...

indian railways by far is the most extreme experience as far as i know. it maintains its uniqueness due to the teeming populations still not hooked to mobiles.