The World On Wheels

Sitting by the window I looked at this desolated bench and wondered about the people who would have spent time on it while expecting their train to arrive, looking at the others pass by, bidding good bye to their dear ones or waiting for that someone special. And before I could imagine more, my train whooshed away! Every journey on a train is like making a new movie for ourselves, of the world and its people with nothing but our eyes. When we look through the rails of the window, in minutes a hundred frames pass by and each one of them is like a painter’s masterpiece. But very annoyingly before we can store them as beautiful memories, they apparate!

Kids waving their hands, thatched huts, coconut trees, smiling sunflowers, tall sugarcanes, dancing peacocks, mango grooves, egrets in paddy fields, ponds and lakes, forest fires during the nights, countless yellow boards with names of the towns beaming in bold black, red and green flags, restless platforms, fleeting trains from the opposite direction were a few pleasant and vivid sights which kept me occupied for most of the time.

The interiors of the train were not any less appealing. A mind boggling number of people from diverse backgrounds in the general, sleeper and air conditioned compartments were travelling in the same route to the same destination, this kind of amused me. A train is so much like life is what it made me feel. The chaiwallahs and food vendors crying out aloud, the stinking toilets, the blind beggars, the red shirted porters rushing near the doors as the train stopped at a station, special cuisines at every junction, the expectedly tasteless pantry food, the cockroaches, the bed bugs, the rats, the fear of losing luggage, the ticket collector, the cold, silent, funny, intrusive, over friendly and staring strangers and an intense desire to pull the red chain to try something adventurous were a few things that made my journey as chaotic as possible.

The old man rubbing his wrinkled forehead, the child crying for a chocolate, the woman serving dinner to her husband, the vendor selling water and biscuits, the uncle reading a newspaper, the boy listening to music and me the girl watching them; we all were fellow travellers. Each one of us in the train were with a problem of our own, a happiness of our own, a life of our own, a destination of our own but a journey that belonged to everyone. This thought gave me an amazingly weird feeling.

The best moment was while I was standing at the door and swaying in every ellipse and parabola possible. The air rushed in like a breather when I peeped outside to see the length of the train. It was nice to see a line of boggies trail ahead and behind mine. How wonderful it will be if all of us can see our past and future with such clear vision and perspective I thought. Life will then turn out to be a blessed ride for sure!

I have never found myself observing others and introspecting so much at the same time together. I felt this for the first time, that internalizing strain and stress from outside gives us a strange peace and harmony from within. There is so much to learn, to see and to feel while travelling in a train. And when we do that and alight at our station, this bizarrely out of the world experience brings us back to our real world, the world on wheels… with the right thing to take back home.

Raksha Bhatt