Travelling alone in an off season train was something new. The kind of crowd was totally different from that of the vacation season. The trains then are filled fully with either people travelling with anticipation about some holiday trip or people coming back from one. And hence the mood inside is always very upbeat. This time the train had an older population (there was only one person younger than me in the whole boogie). There were businessmen travelling home, grandmothers visiting their kids and others who had specific reasons for their travels.
In my compartment there was one woman who looked like my grandmother and another woman who looked like her mother ( i mean quiet old) though she looked beautiful( looked like a character directly taken out from the malgudi days). First the older lady stares at my reader’s digest which i was reading. I thought of offering her another copy of reader’s digest that i had, for her to go through the pictures in that but thought it might sound humiliating. Then this older lady tries striking a conversation with me but realises it fast that telugu is not my thing. Then she tries asking me in her broken Hindi about what i do and stuff. She looked very amused when i told her that i was studying engineering. It was really great to be able to converse with her.
Then there was another old lady who was having a seat along with me in the side births and i happened to have the lower birth. As soon as i entered, i started to feel sleepy and i didn’t have anything else to do. So i offered to take that lady’s upper birth and went to sleep. Little did i realise then that the selfish offer of taking the upper birth would be so revered by her (i guess she was planning to ask me to take the upper birth herself some time later). The rest of the night, the lady and her son(must have been in early 30s) did all they could to show their gratitude. From enquiring about my dinner arrangements to offering a banana which they bought from a station, i was more of a guest to them than a co-passenger. Finally they were about to get down at Kalyan Jn. (Mumbai) at 4:30early morning. It was raining. My sleep broke and i offered to carry their luggage till the gate( it included all sorts of stuff... clothes, oil cans, utensils fruits etc.). Just before they were to alight in kalyan, the guy gave me his phone number and asked me to give him a call whenever i come to Mumbai. My sarcasm and laziness to save the number compelled me to tell him “Dude!!! Do you think i am going to give you a call”. Though i realised that it was the only way he could thank me for helping with the luggage. I just waved him and his mother goodbye and came back to my compartment. Now was it was a time of rendezvous with a Marwari businessman.
By the time i came back to my compartment it was 5:30 and i had enough of sleep and i thought of taking a cup of tea. When i asked a chai wala to give a cup of tea ( on trains its an immiscible mixture of milk, water, sugar syrup and tea powder) the guy on the upper birth asked for one too. I gave the tea guy 10 bucks and he thought it was for both of us and so he went away. Now a wave stuck this Marwari chap. After giving me 5 bucks we got into some gen conversation. He was my only co-passenger till the end of the journey.
By the time i reached Ahmedabad i was really bored. Off season train journeys are no fun.