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Tuesday, June 10

Trainspitting

This is a cleverly crafted, detailed, 'do-it-yourself' instruction booklet that teaches one the finesse of hurling beautiful and wholesome balls of spit, right out of moving trains.
Also included is a detailed guide on how to carefully structure the spittle into an aero-dynamical figure so as to let it fly effortlessly against the wind.



I know you fell for that, and yes, I disgusted myself while I typed all that...
Read on, I promise you the rest of the post is 'spit-free'. That's a sentence I might never say again!

Alright, so I have already complained about the
awesome bus journeys one can take in Chennai and the awesomeness of our national aircraft carriers. I guess there's just one thing left to do...

The following article (I'm calling it an article because it sounds professional, and awesome!) is based on a man's journey through the vast sea of bodies nestled so closely together, much like;
1. Pollen on a bee's bottom.
2. An unemployment office.
3. A jar of Amla, homemade by my grandmother (Yuck!)

I hadn't ever given public transport any thought till I started college.
I suddenly came to realise that the bicycle simply would not cut it and that I was way too undeserving to be able to coax my father into buying me a motorcycle.
And during my short tryst with the lovable chaps who have cursed me, have gotten cursed at, have drawn blood, and at one point of time, even jumped out a moving train, I must say that my attempt at traveling by the local train to college and back was an experience to reckon with.

Once upon a time (which is how all stories usually start), we gathered outside the college to catch the usual bus home. In the distance we noticed a mangled pile of bodies heading our way. It looked like the most complex human pyramid ever. Much like the Rubik's cube of human pyramids. The sheer number of bodies topped by yet another sea of bodies cleverly hid the bus that bore the brunt of all that weight. It almost appeared to seem that, if another person set foot on that bus, it would have groaned (like a human being) and collapsed (like a human being).
Exaggeration aside, the bus was not fit for travel.
Which was how I came about experiencing the wondrous joys of traveling in a train. Mainly because it was better than a bus...
Or was it!

Daredevils?
Being men, we have a penchant for living life on the dangerous side. This would involve several life threatening adventures of sorts like;
1. Walking on a ledge several feet high
2. Trying to attempt a wheelie
3. Flirting with an attractive woman, already in a relationship with someone else, preferably a guy obsessed with visiting the gym twice a day.
4. Sitting through an episode of Sex and the City
... And the likes...
Anyway, since I'm digressing and would very much like to talk about what I originally intended to talk about, I must tell you that the train offered enough and more scope to be young, spirited and driven loco! (Loco is a clever usage of the word because of the association it has with the word locomotive, which is featured predominantly in this 'article'. You might be skeptical, but I actually try very hard.)

A person traveling by the local train has two options;
1. Stand (Never sit! Because you can't anyway) inside the train, amongst fishmongers, people who detest having to take baths, people who desperately need baths and various escapees from the local zoo. Oh, and also, one must be prepared to witness the variety of body parts that are likely to go numb because of the constricted blood flow.
2. Hang (by a hand, leg, finger, wisp of hair) from the side of the train, which is very perilous and involves great expertise. Of course, when you want to trade with Dr. Death, you will be rewarded with fresh air and a funky new hairstyle (a.k.a messed up, rearranged hair).
This part of the compartment, where many hands grasp the thick iron bar (am I the only one who finds this sentence lewd?), where I spent almost all of my traveling time, would forever be known as the Bridge of Fear (or Freedom as the case may be).
BOF - Because suddenly I like saying the word 'Bof'. It sounds childishly amusing.
Anyway, about this Bof, man! It's like so totally awesome that when I'm on it, I'm like... Woohoo!

Isn't the change of writing style totally annoying?
I know! I feel the rage too. I honestly can't imagine why people would want to talk like that.

Anyway, when I'm not enjoying the thickly polluted wind on my face, I am busy grappling for space on the Bof which is barely 4 centimeters wide (I'm lucky if I get a toe in). I'm also trying to dodge flecks of spit that a careless passenger in front would have let loose. I'm also trying to avoid getting thwacked by some of the electric poles that run alongside the train. I'm also trying to mentally train my palms to not sweat profusely.
Have you ever seen a fat person's fabric ripping apart? Well, a crowded train is symbolically similar. The people hanging off the Bof look like that excess fat that has caused a tear at the seams.
Another clever association here is that I don't fit into any of my clothes now, and by typing this I suddenly feel so motivated to lose weight and eat nutritious food!
NOT!

Anyway, this place on a train is unbelievably territorial. There are several unwritten rules in the imaginary book of Railway Bof Travel Guidelines that state that;
1. One must not try to uproot one's existing premium position as the leader of the Bof (the front part of the bridge), unless he/she(yeah right!) is willing to encounter greater risk. This should be aptly demonstrated by running alongside the train for a far greater time (before boarding), than the reigning champion, to state your claim as leader of the Bof.
2. As a collective, you must look out for your Bof Brothers when they are about to lose their grip. If you are too busy trying to save yourself to notice, you shall be pardoned.
3. If a fellow Bof aspirant is trying way too hard and risking all odds to claim a rightful place, he must be saluted and helped up. Such rare people should be respected, especially if they fail to board and get terribly injured.
4. If a person manages to get on the Bof by committing adultery or by classic betrayal, he ought to be stripped off his brotherhood. But since the policing patrons are also imaginary, nothing of significance can be done, apart from giving looks that say, 'I Hope You Die!'.

On one fateful day (which is how all sad stories usually start, but don't worry. Nobody dies here), while we waited patiently for a train in the overly busy platform (why are these people 'busy' if they're on their way back home?!?), a train arrived, ridiculously full of people. It reminded me (John Dorian style) of the Indian way of transporting cattle to slaughter houses. Unfortunately for us, instead of two trains plying on two sets of railway tracks, one was closed for maintenance and everyone had to travel by that single train. Even while we stood there, debating whether it was worth the risk or not, we found ourselves getting pushed into the train (Yay, for automated decision making!). When the train reached the next station, we tumbled out like drunken overweight acrobats, gasping and wheezing for breath. When we turned around, we witnessed this;
1. People wanting to get out couldn't, because of people wanting to get in.
2. People wanting to get in couldn't, because of people wanting to get out.
3. There were people who actually swung their arms around windows, securely latching their bodies (and also their fates). In case they did manage to slip, their shoulders would get dislocated, but hell! They would stay glued to the train by that stretch of skin, mind you.

Anyway, I think that was the day of solidarity, when we swore as a collaborative that we would find alternative ways to reach college. Also, I got caught for ticketless travel once (I totally bluffed my way out... Suckers!)
Thereafter, I got a motorcycle, which was stolen later, which is a long story.

Large Drunk Angry Man:
One unusually bright morning (which is how weird cheery stories start, unlike this one), when the train was relatively less crowded (which meant I could stand and breathe), a large angry drunk man (henceforth known as LAD) came ambling about. I could smell the cheap whiskey in his breath and his clothes from a mile away. And he decided to pick on me and abuse me in a language I hadn't ever heard (let us call this language 'angry drunk babble'). I heard a lot of rrrrr's and assumed it might be French after all.
Anyway, LAD's next move was an attempt to push me out of the moving train, which I took to with great alarm. Not because he was angry or drunk, but because he was large.
As people held their breaths, as I whimpered, as he glared with those glazed eyes, and as I continue with this melodrama, he charged at me. I side-stepped with ease, mainly because of the fact that he was staggering in slow-motion and moreover, he fell off the train as it was slowing down at the station. I don't think he was bruised much, but I didn't wait to find out.

I had a tee that had an album cover of 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd that I wore to death, till it ripped in various places. And then I played basketball with it, until it became so useless that sweat would just flow down it, instead of getting absorbed. And then I planned to frame it on my wall when it mysteriously disappeared to begin its career as a wash-cloth.
One fine day (it actually wasn't, but I like starting my sentences so), while I wore the tee for the umpteenth time to college, a guy peered at it in the station and said; "Haha... You're wearing pink!"
"Dude! Read! It says Pink Floyd, and it's a black tee. And it's awesome!"
Of course, I knew the cretin would never really be able to understand that even if I had said it, and I walked away with my nose in the air, as if to ridicule the man's ignorance.

Poles of Death (PoD):
Yes, abbreviations, many! Poles of Death, otherwise known as the PoD, were a force to reckon with, because we all got well acquainted while we flew swiftly over the land on the Bof. At times when the train would get overly crowded (which was almost always), as people would spill out of the entrance-way, the PoDs would stand as watchmen to make sure we remained safely within their reach as the trains barreled their way to the next station. The PoDs were basically electricity poles that would run alongside the railway tracks, without which the train could not function. As we approached yet another PoD, it was the duty of the Bof Brother way up ahead in the front to warn the others to stay out of harms way. This is normally done by screaming 'Pole!' so that people know when to completely suck their breath and compress themselves inside the train for a brief second. Due to a constant repetition of this routine, the train itself looked like a living, breathing organism. Only it looked ugly as hell.

Yes, my experiences were many. But they were also juvenile and hopefully will remain strictly memoirs of my past.
As a conclusion, I would like to salute all those brave comrades who have fallen (literally?) to the inviting bliss of the BoF, even if it was their fault they were drunk or stupid.
I really don't know the difference between joking and joking about something solemn, like death. To me, everything is humour.

But someday in the near future (which is how most stories usually end), I would like to be that guy again.
To stand on that ledge, uncaring, free, with the thickly polluted wind rushing past my face...

8 Comments:

Blogger Karthik Murali said...

great post dude.
and a long one tooo

Tue Jun 10, 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Da Rodent said...

I remember standing near the door in the train. I have always seen those rules being followed, but first time I see it defined :P It is fun definitely, but is dangerous.

If someone did not know about pink floyd, he should be hanged.

Wed Jun 11, 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Mehnaz the pixie who lived in a shoe said...

one of my favourite posts..I don't know which lines I liked best..the fact you had a john dorian moment..the abbreviations,,,the pink floyd t shirt who preferred being a wash rag, or your once upon a times that seemed to happend in varied phases at the same place...brilliantly written old chap, I am glad you are whole with all parts intact although one can fear a little about the condition of the brain.

Wed Jun 11, 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Macadamia The Nut said...

At the beginning of thy post I had to take the train, struggle on the BoF and ride through till the end of thy not-so-long tale. Heh heh heh

But worth every bit of the ticket fare ;)

I like, you know, like, I mean, you know.. totally man, you know, kinda like digged it man! You know, like totally funny? You know..
*evil laugh*

"Not because he was angry or drunk, but because he was large.As people held their breaths, as I whimpered, "
ROTFL!! Yeah sure! :D

Much as I hate to say this, this is one of the more brilliantly written posts I've read in a long while.
Now let me go wash my mouth with dettol
:|
:D:D

Thu Jun 12, 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Rambling Man said...

Fuck!!! Hahahahah! That was funny as hell man :) My favorite line henceforth in prose :
"And then I planned to frame it on my wall when it mysteriously disappeared.... to begin its career as a wash-cloth." (Notice how I added the dots for dramatic effect)

Im much inspired (again) to write a blog, esp after ydays radiohead concert. I need ur opion. Start altogether new blog , if so is there a site better than blogspot, cos this sux... or continue with my excuse for a blog..?
Eagerly awaiting ur esteemed reply..

Fri Jun 13, 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Arvind said...

-+> Karthik

Thanks man! For stressing on the 'long' bit. I know I can't shut up. :P
It's a condition! And no, I'm not having it checked..



-+> Da Rodent

Yes uncle. :P
I am completely aware of the perils of traveling on the BoF. Please don't tell my parents.
And Amen to the Floyd bit...


-+> Mehnaz

Yes, I love myself a little bit too..
Sometimes I feel I have to simply let go and numb my brain to conjure up ridiculous stuff out of the blue!

Sun Jun 15, 01:21:00 AM  
Blogger Arvind said...

-+> Macademia (Whatever your real name is...)

First of, thank you for that excruciatingly long comment! :)
It makes me feel very indebted. Very deserving, your comment is..
& please don't tell me you really talk, you know, like, THAT! In Tennessee!!

Second of all, why is it hard for you to imagine a guy whimpering? But thank you for helping me maintain a macho image on the web where I don't really give a damn about what people think of me.. (although secretly, I do!)

Now before you rush off to rinse your mouth thoroughly with dettol, let me tell you it does not taste nice.. At all!



-+> Rambling Man
Thanks man!
I don't need dots for dramatic effect.
I have incorrect grammar and bad punctuation on my side to do my bidding!
Maybe you could create another blog with the same blogger account, much like I have one for my shoddy poetry..
Or if this (Blogspot) really sucks, you could migrate to 'Wordpress' or get your own 'Myspace' page and put up your bass playing videos and become really really famous and then buy us all a year's supply of weed!

Yay!

Sun Jun 15, 01:31:00 AM  
Blogger Anil said...

Someday we will both sit, you and I, in the empty space between two successive train bogeys and practice this time-honoured art.

Till then, thanks for making me stop and ponder.

Sun Jun 15, 02:45:00 AM  

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