Sunday, 19 April 2015

A train journey delay I couldn't even howl about!

Originally posted as an answer to the Quora discussion What are some of the best train conversations?

Just a few months back I was onboard a Duronto express bound for Delhi. The train got somewhat late and people were jolted out of their slumber because of continued halts. I was on the side lower birth, there was a lady just above that of mine and there was another guy among the six tiers in front, and finally the other 5 tiers were occupied by a family full of termagants and rather loquacious children, so we three had to start some kind of a conversation to not feel very irksome. 

I tried introducing myself with a little bit of straggling because it seemed somewhat absurd to make an introduction during the last 40 odd minutes of an extended commute. I laid down all facts and concluded with a brief comment on my long cherished dream of seeing my crime fiction manuscript making it to a bound book on a book shelve of some creme de la creme high street book shop someday. And suddenly, I sensed ears all around me. 

These two compatriots, who were till now wondering why in the world I so desperately wanted a parley at the end of the journey, were now seemingly interested. Considering that maybe my ideas were a little too blithe, I puffed my chest in conceit and waited for them to comment. And what ensued became the most memorable experience of my life. 

This lady started her part asking a couple of questions about my book, the unnerving process of getting it published and about a publisher who has paid some heed to me. I thought it's all about "the book" after all. "My book" in fact. And I was pretty gleeful. And then like an epiphany, she says "Actually I too have got a manuscript ready. I'm a mountaineer and I was the youngest woman to have scaled the Everest till 2009. I was Tata Docomo's ambassador for one of their campaigns, and I've written this book with various pictures and accounts on how I scaled peaks all over the world. I just wish to inspire people and tell them that limits are only psychological"

I was a little too dumbfounded and flummoxed to reply. I was so agape, my mouth seemed like the outlet of a doughnut vending machine. I wanted to spurn her story and say "You gotta be kidding me!". But then she did carry this bag full of footwear and a closer inspection of that bag now revealed that they were certainly not stelatoes but some kind of hiking boots or gear. And before I could react, she takes out a big diary from her laptop bag, and puts an exhibit of an entire surfeit of pictures. I kind of felt embarrassed to have protruded my chest at the prospect of publishing a book which now seemed a mere speck in front of what this lady had to brag about. But I was happy I made a new friend, and an emphatic one rather. Our destination was now 20 minutes away and I wasn't sure if this lady had more stuff to talk about. 

And then suddenly, this guy in front, too engrossed in our conversations till now, leaps out of his seat and says, "Actually I've got a manuscript too! I've got an audience with a publisher as well, but it's kind of in the process for long now". And I now mentally prepared myself for yet another story that was to enfeeble the prominence of my own parable. 

"I'm a banker and a part time model and actor. " And then he mentioned a myriad of K soaps and all kinds of television serials where he enacted some character or the other. And then he too had a portfolio out of his bag, a neat collection of the various modelling assignments he undertook, and finally he took out his laptop and started playing Singham Returns, whose 3.5GB HD copy would have been pretty hard to get because who'd want to a have a 3.5GB version of a crappy movie like that? But still, he scrolls the movie to around the 10 minute mark, where a song starts playing and then turns the screen towards me and this lady and points out to himself on the screen and says "I'm the guy who plays guitar in this 5 minute song. 5 minutes dude, 5 minutes!"

Finally, the train entered the NDLS precinct and we just had about 2-3 minutes before it was to halt. By this time, the enigma all around me had disappeared, the lady had a rather desultory smile, and this newly emerged actor had a wide smirk and he seemed to reminisce the grandeur of having delivered another brilliant performance. And as we all moved out to the station and were all set to bid adieu, the lady initiated some kind of a protocol, She said that no matter where we'd go and whatever we do, the first one among the cohort who gets their book published, is going to see that the other two get published as well. It's be a little more than 2 months and our manuscripts are still stuck in pipelines at respective publishers. 

Meanwhile, I've written many more blogs and have started working on a second book, because writing is all I've to talk about in terms of doing something heretic. The lady scaled some other peak in north east, and the actor went on to feature in a couple of bike ads, print ads, and another TV serial. We're a pretty closed coven, and all this just because on that one fine day, the Duronto Express got late by 50 minutes. A delay we will never crib about!

It's pretty interesting how delays and other uncalled for situations can at times go on to give us some opportunities, or endow upon us some miracles which can kind of spur something entirely new in our lives. Indian railways sees to it that a population larger than than of the 20 least populated countries of the world, reaches its destination every single day. We've come across a multitude of instances when trains are responsible for some life changing acquaintances or for the occurrence of some event which transformed someone's very mindset. I just hope we continue getting more and more chances to truly relish the rapture of travelling with trains and allowing train journeys to keep unraveling their enigma. 

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