It had been quite a while since I last made a train journey. I love trains. What puts me off, though, are the people who take them. They have no sense of hygiene-induced righteousness, even when travelling in air-conditioned coaches. And to someone like me who prefers to dispose off the pair of socks he wears on a train to reusing them after having them washed, this lack of civil virtue in his fellow beings is as painful as a piece of skin hanging from the roof of his mouth.

The journeys are something else. Enough has been written and said about the romance of train rides. It is all useless for no one who has never been on a train will ever appreciate it. Those who have been on a train have no desire to read someone else’s account of it. Hence this post is not about a train journey. It would not have been about a train journey even if no one else had ever written about it for although my posts have been exercises in pointlessness, they have never been an exercise in futility.

The first leg of the journey culminated in Kolkata. I do not know why people crib so much about the city, unless the Kolkata I went to is different from the Kolkata they visit. To set the record straight, I went to the capital of West Bengal, a city that has been a communist stronghold for a good thirty years. The city is gorgeous. Only a horse’s arse would not fall in love with it. It is a city that has not given up its tradition or culture in the name of development.

It was Patna next, the only city that could bear the burden of my birth. De-training at Patna at 2:15 in the morning in winter is not a pleasant experience. Finding out that the foot over bridges have ramps (in addition to stairs) that enable you to make use of the wheels in your luggage definitely is. Only Biharis can fully appreciate the needlessness of more work than necessary for one’s emotional and physical well-being. That this appreciation stems from a Bihari’s desire to shun work of any kind is purely incidental.

I did not expect anything of Lucknow. I got more than I could bargain for. The Lucknow CM was pasted all over the city. If it were in her power, she could outlaw billboards that do not feature her. Strike that. She has the power to do this, and this post might just give her that idea. Other than that, the city is just what it has always been – stuck in a time warp of its own making.

Shahjahanpur is a small town along the Lucknow-Delhi highway. My mother hails from it. Were it not for the joys of air-conditioning in cars, I would never have undertaken that road journey. It is not the heat that gets to me on Uttar Pradesh highways. It is the dust, dust so fine that it could be used to lubricate engines. They probably lubricate their tractors this way anyway.

The fact of the matter is India has not changed. We might rant and rave about the economy (at least we could rant and rave about the economy), we might sing paens of its liberalisation policies, we might even espouse the qualities of a PM who managed to keep his heart surgery less high-profile than SRK’s shoulder operation though I am not sure that is a good thing. But the fact remains. India lives on.

Current Mood: Gloomy
Current Music: Laakhon Taare...