Ticket


Bro-in-law and family had planned to travel to North-East India. Since the air travel was booked from a different city for some reason, and they had to travel by train to reach there. I thought an air-conditioned train that starts from Bangalore would make their travel more comfortable. My thought agenda included to ensure this European, Indian mix family talk about a changed India with a double decker, food served at your seat… etc. etc. kind of service in an Indian train. After all, I am a “would like to be” more proud Indian. And, this is family.

All my gimmicks started a couple of days before the travel date. Found some fancy train names and while explaining some details to them, I was ensuring my facial expressions are not giving them an idea that Indian railway calls me first to take my opinion about the trains. While secretly appreciating Mr. Sundar Pichai and team who empowers little lambs like me, ego was taking an equal amount of credit. Why not? In the last 10 years I might have used railways at least 4 to 5 magnified times! When bro-in-law finally announced the result of booking the Double Decker train from Bangalore to Chennai, I looked at my wife to receive that “thank you my darling” recognition which I felt like deteriorating the expected repetitiveness off late.

The D-day fell on a Saturday and the journey began. Somewhere my confidence was already taken a hike being stuck in the legendary KR Puram traffic. I squeezed my tiny hatchback in to the tail end of a supposed to be car parking space. The only wish I wanted to be granted at that moment was the train to come ASAP without these people noticing the limitations and lack of information all-around. Finally, the wish was granted. As if an Egyptian mummy getting ready for a new world of beauty pageant, a ghost-like figure of a train appeared at the platform, moving its hip in rhythm. All paint peeled off from its skin, it looked exhausted, but still someone is forcing to run nonstop for the next 5 hours. As soon as the train cried out loud and stopped, people paused taking selfies and started pushing their way forward to get in. Family somehow managed to get in without getting hurt.

Whatever, I am done with it. While walking back I felt relieved. Guess I was whistling an old song?

A good-looking lady’s waving hand woke me up and ha! she is very pleasantly asking for something. See, excellent things can happen in this place. All set to help, I walked closer to her. 1st question was “how many of you are here?” While calling out for him to stop and come back to where I am standing, I very politely responded “My brother and I”. “Ticket please”, she asked. What? I almost murmured. “Ticket, platform ticket” she said. The knowledge of not having one of that prestigious piece of paper tickled my wallet. To add more oil to the fire, an elderly man walked past us and she asked him for the ticket. He immediately presented the certificate to her by throwing an ugliest smirk I have ever seen at me. It was evident that it’s my turn to receive a lecture of depreciation. She said, “see, he is a senior citizen, even he knows to take a platform ticket. You have to pay Rs.300 each Rs.600 as a penalty”. I responded with the cutest smile I can mimic on my face and said “Please help, no money to go back home”. I was also ready with severe image damaging yet another final expression if this doesn’t work in my favour. Luckily she agreed to settle it with writing one penalty.

While driving back home I did not hear my brother asking why did I drag him into it. Moreover, he was busy on phone explaining the entire scene to my wife with added spices.

Pink bag


It’s been a month since she was asking me to get a new school bag. Of late the ‘Frozen’ has totally engulfed her dream world. Buy a new dress….. Frozen, a pair of new shoes…… Frozen! So, obviously she needed a Frozen school bag that would enhance her social status among classmates. I realized the severity of the situation only when she asked this morning to buy some frozen stickers to fix on her new lunch box and water bottle so that she is upbeat when she goes to school!

The home minister now totally awaken by the situation had come up with an analysis that I’ll be roaming the shops next weekend and she may have to take part in the most horrendous workout routine of her life…. Walking. Her radar signals are stronger than that of an Indian army at times. Since I’ve been shot down in several previous such events without mercy or handover me to myself policy, she was well aware that this surgical strike wouldn’t take too long for her to win. So, there was not much resistance when the proposal came to me of buying the bag online. Soon the epic search for a dream to reality has started online killing my dreams of a weekend evening sight seeing! 😜

Rest was all quick. I’ve received two photos on WhatsApp that would give me my right to choose as the head of the family. One blue and another pink frozen bags. Decided to fully utilise the opportunity, I have declared my strongest opinion for Blue. Immediately I received a ping back saying, ‘she’ likes pink. Instantaneously all my senses woke up detecting the possibility of being challenged, brutally overtaken and possibly a temporary dethronement. Totally decided to lie down the facts in front of my rivals, I responded. ‘Open frozen pics on your tab and show to her that it’s all blue. Also tell that her friends will make fun of her if she goes with a pink frozen bag’.

A discreet pleasure has taken over my consciousness with an assured win in the battle. I was thrilled with the knowledge I had from all the corporate training and years of experience that strengthened me in a manager role. Before I finished wishing had I stocked champagne bottles to celebrate such unexpected victories, the response beeped in my cell phone. ‘Friends will buy things they like, so I will buy my favourite colour’.

While responding with my credit card details, I was wondering where did I miss in all those training and experience! I might have definitely bunked some of those….. else……. NO WAY!

Villain


A week long weekend was giving me enough tiredness from the time I got up this morning. Last week at the same time I was feeling very thrilled knowing I will combine two midweek holidays, a couple of work from homes and the weekend in-between to make it a week-long vacation. And now all those 9 days are done like in a few hours!

Thoughts went back to those cold railway rakes where I was sitting by window most of the night. While cursing my struggling to keep up eyelids, I was gazing at the night sky as if I can see the entire world. It took time for me to realize that I have my 4 years old daughter sitting next to me sharing the same feeling from her 1st train experience. Has she grew up so fast to share my feelings or I went back to be a kid – ready to play with her! We were creating new unknown games and playing until both of us gave way to sleep to overpower us.

When the beach sands tickled my barefoot guiding me to the gray waves, my eyes were still searching for those cut mango pickle in vinegar. My childhood favorite from Calicut beach. Without paying much attention to the staring petty shop vendor, I filled a paper cup with mango pickles. May be he wanted to say ‘dude its soaked in salt and you might trigger a high blood pressure’. While Sharing a small portion with others, I was rushing to eat the remaining mangoes faster before anyone else could grab more from my cup.

The thought of my daughter, jumping up crying ‘ants’ when she first stepped in to the sand dunes burying her little foot, probably pocking her soft tissues, brought the smile back to me.

Besides, the smell of fresh fish curry, the aroma and taste of fried mussels, naturally fermented sour curd…… who wants to come out of those heavenly feelings? I was gazing at my wife, relishing some of her all-time favorite cuisines. I could feel what she was missing in life cause of me bringing her here to this city.

But today, here I am, back, getting ready for office. Lazy as ever and wanting to go back to that cold train and cover myself in the black woolen blanket.

Suddenly a divine thought struck my mind. What else can I do so that I don’t have to go to work? The very thought has given me goose bumps. What a heaven that would be. What else can I do? Can I write? Hmmm, need to set up the stage. As a first step, told my wife during our breakfast time about my past life experience in writing poems and the district level achievements. Peeped in to her face through the corners of my eyes to see the reaction. As of now, all look positive. Now I need to leave a gap before the next attempt 😉

After the breakfast, later in the morning mentioned to her about my intention to write. Was thrilled to see the excitement on her face in contradiction to my expectation of a lukewarm response. She said, “Yes, write. Write about anything you like”. Curious now, asked her if she can suggest a topic. “Sure, why don’t you write about *Dharwad pedha?” The earth stood still for a second around me! I hated the moment last night our neighbor brought a packet of dharwad pedha as a Diwali gift.

Few minutes later while walking to catch my office cab I was murmuring to myself, “Mr. dharwad pedha, if you are ever alive…. I want you to know that I hate you. You just scrambled my dreams!”.

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*Dharwad pedha is a sweet made from milk solids. The name comes from a place in the Indian state of Karnataka where it is made.