Listen with all thy heart to the advice of Sa’di. Such is the way; be a man and travel on.
These are words from Sa’di for whose verses I always pay my reverence. If time allows I shall put a separate column on Sa’di and Gulistan. Soon you shall expect for that.
It was in my childhood, I thought that travel requires immense sum of money. That’s what I had observed. But it was my father who taught me the art of travel. Yes, I call travel an art like many before had said. It’s not matter of money to make out journeys but courage, writes Paulo Coelho in his novel Aleph. I realized this just before certain years. May be around 5 years.
Each travel perfects itself like an art being practiced, I promise. Travel has many variants. Travel with purpose is the usual thing we make out. But there is also travels paved without any purpose. The purpose of such travel is simply to travel. Traveling itself has a purpose rooted deep inside. Travelers could sense it well.
We went to Agra. That was my second time to step foot on its soil. First time, I traveled there last January with first jolt of experiencing chillness of North Indian Winter for the first time. It was accidentally planned trip. I covered city and its surroundings (Especially Tajmahal’s opposite bank) thoroughly on foot, sparing three days. My observation is always target less. Every subject that befalls my path become my targets. Everything becomes inevitable in such travels.
This time I was to accompany my friends. Euphoric sense caught me, to travel again with no great purpose except to espouse. By reiteration I convinced my friends to travel by train in cheap, unreserved class. I yearned this journey to be rustic in all means.
That was noon, we brought ourselves out with great effort from New Delhi to H.Nizamuddin railway station after tiresome night spent at Gem Bar (No hot contributions from my side on Drinks) of Paharganj , the Los Vegas of New Delhi. The train was already over flowing with thin fleshes wrapped in heavy modern pseudo branded cloaks. We positioned our self near entrance wash basin of the compartment standing to suffice our self with good air and space rather than suffocating inside in pursuit of finding a seat. There existed boorish surrounding smelling paan.
Train took 3 solid hours to reach Agra. Real India was exhibited there. Enthralling shades of Poverty. After visiting Taj and Fort we returned again to railway station. I stood in lengthy lane to issue unreserved ticket to head towards New Delhi.
We tried our best to insert ourselves inside the coaches one after the other. Our try went vain as we encountered brute explosion of people packing themselves tight to survive the coach. Survival of the fittest. As usual we were misfits. Two hours we waited with patience expecting a train with enough space to be our savior. And at last a train came in twilight.
To our surprise no souls crept in. Train had more than ten unreserved compartments chained together. Every seat was pre-occupied yet there stood a plenty of space to stand at-least. But an inner voice whispered ‘The crowdlessness portend something”. Ignoring the portend, we entered inside. We always risk.
“Did you hear that?”
“The language? … of Whom?”
“The gang sitting inside. It’s Tamil” he said pointing to the gang of people seated inside.
I paid attention to the folks. It was like Tamil. Kannu, Kaathu, Nuvvu, Naanu. It resembled Tamil. But it had components from Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. I got it. It was Tulu. Mother tongue of Aishwarya Rai.
Last year, I had chance to travel with a Tulu speaking family from Delhi to Coimbatore. During the travel I managed myself to grab the language through children of that family. I can understand ‘Tulu’ with ease but cannot reply abruptly.
The train started its journey. My friend informed me after surfing internet that this train takes 7 hours to reach Nizamuddin. I resisted. Will there be a train to cover 200 kilometeres for 7 hours? The debate had not even begun, the train halted. Halts followed halt with a few kilometers run. To reach Mathura it took three and a half an hour. This was the reason behind the passengers to skip this train. We were unaware. Well, when time goes prodigious mind enters quiescence.
Our carriage carried tribal people speaking Tulu from mountains of Karnataka who were on their way to Kashi, Varanasi the holy city of Hindus. They have planned first to reach Delhi and from there to Varanasi. I received this information from an elder who headed the family. State of ecstasy caught me instantly.
It’s absurd to gaze lurk of night. The circumstance paved way. We were carried away by the folks in train. We started noticing their lives in detail, much closer. Time elapsed.
They treated their unreserved compartment as their own. There hanged web of saris nesting children. Filthy metal floors were covered with even filthy flat card-boards to sleep on. The voices were high soaring. Soon, the tribals got ready for their dinner.
An irregular plate was filled with Chili powder looking bright red, bunch of sprouts and some spoon full of yogurt. They cracked a piece of the plate itself and ate it straight after dipping it in above mixtures. The puzzled mind relaxed only after finding that plate was really dried chapati. That’s their opted cuisine for the travel. It was unimaginable to even think of its taste. Dry chapati dipped in hot red chili powder along with sour curd and mincy sprouts. It might have tasted cruel. They ate it with full concentration tasting every bits and bobs.
One of those person in the gang, frail wearing traditional south Indian outfit came along his plate chapati and sat before us to continue his dinner as there was no space to sit inside.
‘Kahaan se aap lok?’, another Rajastani man who was seated next to him started the conversation.
‘Kiyaa?’, the Hindi was heavily south.
‘Kahaan se aap lok?’ he hinted by indication meaning where they are all from.
‘Karnatak’ the frail one replied.
‘What’s this?’he pointed the plate chapati.
‘Oh. Ok. Where you are up to?’
‘Karnatak. No I’m asking were you are up to?’ he used his hand to mean his words.
‘Tumaara Naam, your name?’
‘Kya aap paagal hogi? Are you crazy?’
‘Karnatak. Bhaai Karnatak’. The frail one said in hesitation offering his plate to the Rajastani.
Rajastani became anxious with karnatak reply and unpalatable dish. He declined promptly his invitation to have a hand in dinner. And soon after dinner the frail on dismissed to sleep. Windows and doors were tightly closed. The train slept soon. We stood there for hours after witnessing events which might have not been possible for us if gone luxurious. That’s always unreserved class. The train reached station late in the midnight.