Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Farewell Post Gone Awry

I leave for Kerala in two hours. The reason I’m typing this out now is because the past one week I have been subjected to, in no particular order, a lot of shopping (which I detest), a lot of eating (which isn’t too bad), a lot of dancing (which I didn’t know I was capable of), a lot of socialising and goodbyes to people who are leaving (I malfunction in such situations), and the crowning glory – an underaged hulk of a boy throwing up all over my bathroom.

I cannot explain any of the above, I’m simply not in the mood. I’ve had to pack like a maniac, scamper all over the city and clean a smelly toilet, and now, finally, I get to run away for three weeks. On a train. It’s unhealthy the amount I like trains – not the cold, sleek Japanese variety, but the smokey grey kind, heavy with dust and passengers. I love the feeling of sitting on a swaying berth by a window, reading a book that will eventually drop into my lap, overshadowed by something outside – a field, a river, a long line of half-built houses. I love the fact that Kolkata to Chennai Central is a two-day journey in the belly of a giant centipede that crawls its way along, without realizing that inside it things are being shared. Food. Business cards. Stories. Memories.

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted was one of those large toy train tracks that you could assemble in your living room and watch a model train go round and round. Instead, I got jigsaw puzzles and Barbies and other fluffy things, with the result that I still visit sites dedicated to model trains. I drool over expensive Lionel train sets. I know they cost well over $1700 but I still dream of sitting in the middle of a big room, a huge remote control with shiny knobs in my hand, laughing insanely as a beautiful little train runs up and down sinous little tracks. I do not usually blow up the train at the end of the dream, so maybe I’m not that big a megalomaniac, or whatever the term is. I just want a train. And I love little Bertie Pollock in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series – he’s such a brilliantly written character. And he loves trains too.

I set out to write a post about Kerala, but somewhere along the trains came in and now they won’t leave. Did I mention railway tracks? They are the most beautiful things on the planet. Imagine yourself walking along one, slowly and aimlessly, right into the horizon where they converge. There is a mad precision to their symmetry. There is a purpose to their angles and lines. There is imperfection and ugliness in trains – they lurch, the bellow, they creak, they throw out nuts and bolts and other bric-a-brac, but they still manage to stay together. They’re a mad scientist’s dream. I can’t wait to get on one of them.

I know I’ve gushed all over this post, and am very unapologetic about it. My posts never turn out the way they should. Comfort yourself with the fact that I shall soon be in Kerala, being laughed at for my hideously colloquial Malayalam, the same Malayalam which in Calcutta makes my friends’ mouths fall open in a beautifully synchronized motion every time my mother calls. Here in Calcutta I’m a Southie. There in Kerala I’m a Southie betrayer because I speak better Bengali than Malayalam. So I don’t really belong anywhere in particular, except on trains. There you’re just another traveller, and that suits me perfectly.