“The inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.”

I’ve just arrived in Mumbai from Varanasi, awaiting my later train for Calicut.  My feeling is it would be inappropriate to call it a connecting train, though of the several major Mumbai railway stations, it leaves from the one I arrived at.  The train I arrived on, in Sleeper class, was one of those not very well supervised, that organized itself socially in an accommodating, organic fashion.  It, along with my reservation, originated up the line at Muzaffarpur, but by the time it arrived at Varanasi, more than an hour late, amid a welter of train-delay announcements, there was someone sleeping on my lower berth, and a couple more passengers accumulated than the spaces officially available.  I managed to claim most of my space – the encroacher maybe more considerate than usual because his claim was more tenuous – and the mother and 2-or-3-year-old son slept on the floor while the grandmother of the trio had a berth.  The ticket examiners, when they came along, seemed more concerned to sell tickets to the extras than rationalize the existing spaces.  There were no lights in the washrooms – a hazard when you think of it, they are predictable places but the users are less so.  And there seemed to be a water leak spreading puddles in the corridor.  The next day, no one appeared to avail of formal meal service, but there was a stream of chai and snack sellers plying the aisles.
It was interesting to speculate on the difference in socializing of toddlers that I’ve sat with on all of my last three train journeys – the first two were girls, being coddled by their young fathers captive for the duration of the train trip, while their young mothers just seemed to be there, less connected, receiving less acknowledgement – or maybe enjoying time off-duty.  The bemused enjoyment of the fathers was probably more of an exception from their work-a-day or peer-group reality.  The boy, a little older, was more self-possessed and demanding, though in a situation less typical – Christians, with the mother earnestly studying her Bible, and leading prayers.  She was stern with her child as mothers might well grow to be, and in the theatre of those moments it seemed that God was staying her hand from slapping him.  I hope He’s ever-vigilant.  For the most part, these children were happy, boundlessly energetic, leery of strangers, and some of them often piercingly loud.
With mother and son camped on the floor, my suitcase was guarded but inaccessible until the last flurry of our arrival at LTT Mumbai.  I slept long in the second night, starting early with nothing else to do, and the assurance that we would be late-arriving in the morning, but not by much more than before – all that time standing on sidings waiting for traffic going the other way, must already be factored in, between the rattling, full-throttle transits.  I surfaced during the night to find us stopped at Igatpuri, one of the stations in Nasik area that I wondered if I could change trains at.
But I don’t think the Netravati Express retraces that route out of Mumbai.  Somehow, having time to depressurize and organize to embark on this train gave me a bit more serenity and confidence.  I was first aboard when the carriage doors were unlatched, helped to shoe-horn the following mountain of baggage around my innocent suitcase, refrained from trying to corner the window seat from another FT traveler when my entitlement was only for the elastic space of middle seat and the middle berth of official bedtime.  By the time we were nearing Calicut less than 24 hours later, the train was running a couple of hours late, leading me to wonder if it’s that mere fact of running late, unplugged from the schedule, that contributes the most frustration even if it has no consequence for my plans.


~ by Peter Harris on 08/02/2015.

One Response to ““The inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.””

  1. I have enjoyed reading your train adventure and your earlier entries. Hope to see you in India in 2016.

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