Local train affairs, Kolkata, India

Date : Circa 2009, Summers

The best thing I enjoy about my consultant’s life is that I get to visit new places and explore it.

Have you ever travelled in a local train in kolkata? Agreed it isn’t as popular a commuting medium as the Mumbai local train network – where in the peak hours there is a train every 2 mins I believe – but still the travelling from/to Howrah has its own charms. First of all I am thankful that I had the good fortune of travelling in the opposite direction of the rush traffic, so that basically gives me a leisure to observe the surroundings instead of worrying about getting a vacant seat (yes it is hugely packed during peak hours) or the safety of the heavy laptop (evidence of my consulting profession). The most overwhelming feeling that you have when travelling in public transport is that it is so alive. It is brimming with life. It is a cacophony with the passengers discussing their lives, vendors marketing their wares, the occasional beggar singing, the unkempt kids who claim to clean the floors. Local trains also have an entertainment factor thanks to the vendors. So from oranges to safety pins..from books telling how to run a smoother household to a medicine claiming to get rid of your Sexual problems..you find it all – right here right now.

Then let’s talk of the snacks ; merely to satiate your whim rather than your appetite. You could choose from a variety of fried stuff to fresh fruits. Homemade cookies to the ubiquitous jhal muri (a mix of puffed rice with onions, nuts, spices to make your mouths water, your tongues wag, your lips smack). So you could never go hungry in a local train commute and that too at a very minimal cost !!

Then there are the people themselves. Watching them closely yet from a distance you discover the finer nuances of human life. The mother and son sitting by the window side – on their way to her ‘baper bari’ (maternal home) – the obvious happiness reflects. The young college kid sitting by the aisle constantly chatting away on the mobile with his sweetheart, how he manages to hear her past this din is a wonder ! The middle aged man strained by the struggles of life catches up on his sleep with a quick nap. The two men discussing the prospects of their client whom they are on their way to meet. Another day it could be a bunch of college kids working on some of their lab work while sharing the gossips of the good looking and current heartthrob of their class. An elderly man probably on his way to pick up the pension cheque. The man and wife who are on their way to the temple, maybe the wife is expecting some good news. The lonely man at the corner with this faraway look on his face he is quite removed from the surroundings, probably reminiscing the past or worrying about the uncertainties of the future. It was quite fun to guess about their lives as I see it from outside and the rest is of course my own imagination finding its way

I had to travel for about a month in these trains at my last work assignment. It was about 30 minute or so ride every morning and again in the evening. Shuffling between my own thoughts and reading into others thoughts made for quite an experience.

Image from the Internet

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