‘Jhalak Dikla Jaa, Jhalak Dikla Jaa, Ek Baar Aaja.” I woke up from the slumber as the Deccan Queen whooshes past the crowded Dadar Station during the night. The coarse voice of the street urchin woke me up from the deep slumber. I tender the innocent face five bucks to get rid of her. It took me quite some time to recover from the deep slumber. I checked the time. It’s 10.30 p.m. Oh! My God! We still at Dadar. I realize that I fell asleep on the berth and it took the child to ape Himesh Reshammiya’s voice to wake me up after 30 minutes.
I order for tea and Vada Pav in the train and admire the scenery unfurling itself, yellow and black cabs on the highway, as the train slowly rattles away from Mumbai as we leave Panvel to head towards Pune. It’s three hours journey yet it feels it’s gonna be a long and eventful journey. Train journeys are always like that. I love the feeling of wind brushing past my face and hair. It’s bliss sitting at the window seat, observing kids jumping with joy and waving hands from their modest huts. It makes me wonder what it’s like to live in a humble shanty. I plug on the ear phone, listening to the latest Hindi chart busters on Radio Mirchi to whine away my time and enjoying the breeze. AC coaches never work for me like traveling in trains does. And, I bought the seat for 10 bucks from some guys cleaning up the train since I didn’t book the ticket. Lucky! You bet!
What can someone do in a train when you are facing a beautiful girl whose eyes is buried in a Sydney Sheldon book? Attempting a conversation over book and train? Nah! I don’t have the guts to do so. I am happy enjoying my journey and nobody shall come between us. Mein aur mere Deccan Queen. The train alighted at Lonavla and I had time to buy Chikki from the seller who passed to me through the window. Suddenly, it started raining heavily. The beautiful girl was over-enthusiastic to shield herself from the rain and pulled the window. She smiled at me, telling, I am gonna deprive you of the joy of the rain. How wicked can someone be! I shudder at this thought. I pretend to close my eyes.
I order another cup of steaming hot tea to enjoy the weather and the urge to smoke is hitting me like tornado. I walk towards the door and look furtively around to see if nobody is watching. I sit on the stair and lit the Classic Mild cigarette. I’ve just done an unlawful act inside the chugging train, surrounded by the hill at Khandala. The best feeling is that you took a risk and didn’t get caught by the railway guys.
Finally, Deccan Queen reaches Pune station. It’s time to pick up my luggage and move off the train, my life line and love. We’ve been together for six years, swearing allegiance to each other and jumped at the sight of each other. It’s past midnight and walk off the platform to hunt for a rickshaw, ever ready to fork out the double. After all, those guys charge half meter after midnight, meaning that I’ll pay 75 bucks. Anything, for an awesome Mumbai-Pune train ride.
This post is written for my love of trains and the journeys undertaken between Mumbai and Pune in the second class compartment. It’s influenced after I read Anupama Sharma’s anthology Railonama. It’s the first of many and decided to share my rail experiences with all of you.