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.

27 kindred spirits have swallowed my rambling:

Elendil said...

Haha.. Betrayer :P Very beautiful post. Loved the train descriptions. Very personal.

speedpost said...

I have conveyed message to said bathroom throw-up about your orange toothbrush. And I always wondered why you didn't write about trains earlier. Happy Malluing, nevertheless.

the soliloquist said...

You're going out on a trip!!

P.s. I fully appreciate the post.Trains give you that lovely feeling of notbelonging... of making the journey more imporatnat than the destination.

Have fun!

the soliloquist said...


new age scheherazade said...

I love trains too. and you HAVE to read The Great Railway Bazaar. that man is so beautifully obsessed.
Also, who was the person who stared in awe when your mum called-would this have happened in South City Mall? huh?? :)
(But you're right-I can surprise my friends with my Nepali here, but in Sikkim I'm laughed at.)

heh? ok said...

trains don't judge. you're right :)

little boxes said...

I loved this post.i really havent been much on trains...but i love the way u have described them.i could almost live the experience of trying to fix my eyes on a book when they longed to stare at world rushing past outside...have a safe trip.
P.S: we met in a train :)

Butterfly said...

Very beautiful post!:-)

I loved all the descriptions and your attitude. I could connect more with the post because I am a train-lover myself(although I don't fancy toy trains).I love trains because they always remind me of memorable holidays and give birth to new enthusiasms within me to go on more trips.

I hope your trip is wonderful. Enjoy!:-)

Ananth Subramanian said...


Space Oddity said...

Ah, fellow fraud mallu.
Have you realised they're EVERYwhere? Mallus I mean.
It's getting a bit unnerving.
Almost as if they're planning to take over the world and I wasn't let in on the plan.

dreamy said...

you're right.
There's nothing more beautiful than railway tracks.

Safdar -- veil-unmasked. said...


as a kid, i'd love to gaze out of the window of a train and notice the tracks, which keep intersecting with one another and wondered how on earth that happened.

i like the way u just anything an amazingly personal touch.

Macadamia The Nut said...

What a beautiful post!
beautiful because I'm with you 100% in every word!
"So I don’t really belong anywhere in particular, except on trains."
That was poetic! Sigh!

Fishy! said...

I like planes better than trains, somehow.
Yes, irrelevant, I know.
Lovely post, though. Very vibrant, somehow.

ad libber said...

I agree about Bertie. A very very unique character for a child in literature.
As usual, while I read the post, I found several points worth commenting on. I forgot them all the minute I started to comment.
You are a Mallu :O You never looked, spoke or were it. Kerala will disown you.

Opaline said...

I get trainsick.

if said...

so you're back??

Sahana said...

You're Mallu... always thought you were Tamil. =[
Ehh, Southie still.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ elendil: thankoo

@ speedpost: you could also distress him a little more by saying i will never forgive him, yada yada.

@ the soliloquist: your P.S. says it better than i could!

@ newage: when are you lending? :p

@ heh? ok: =)

@ little boxes: oh yes!! some journey it was, what with the lost suitcases and all. =)

@ butterfly: thanks a ton.

@ ananth: go on, laugh.

@ fellow fraud mallu: they're like an epidemic.

@ dreamy: thanks, and love the new dp.

@ safdar: you're the only one who's said rambling is good.

@ macadamia: i was poetic?!? :O

@ fishy: i expected you to like 'em better.

@ ad libber: oh. OH. someone else who reads scotland street! isn't the mother divenely annoying? and *indignant look* i wasn't EXPECTED to speak malayalam in ashok hall!

@ opaline: my sympathies.

@ if: i am. lurking around pretending to be away still, but i am.

@ sahana: half and half. half mallu, half tamil. have a little bit of both :)

29A said...

Do the trains derail and then blow up, or do they hit a dead end and then blow up?

the soliloquist said...

Lovely new kerala header, I presume?

Prince of Mirkwood said...

I hear Lalu's doing a god job at the train department! You should try Air Deccan though...almost the same experience! Throngs of people choking you to death, ominous jerks when it hits god knows what, if you;re lucky u might even see smoke!:)

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

29a: they don't. but if they had to, it would have to be because wily, dexterous, evilgenius scientist (read: me) places sophisticated explosives in them. preferably ones that give off mushroom clouds in rainbow colours.

@ sol: yes, but the post won't get written :(

@ prince of mirkwood: i have great respect for laluji.

Rahul Saha said...

Nice. Very nice. Here's to more journeys.

29A said...

You have to blow them up!!

That's the whole point!!

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ rahul saha: thanks.

@ 29a: that is not the point. the point is whether the blowing up gives you pleasure. if not, it's just another explosion. who'd want to blow up toy trains anyway? real trains, now. perfect explosion material.

29A said...

You have a point there.