Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Girl on the Train

    The girl was fair, good-looking and wearing a casual blue tee shirt and green three fourths, same as everyone who called themselves cool in metros these days. She unrolled a newspaper as soon as got into the compartment.  'Interesting', I thought. Any girl who whips out a newspaper to read, notwithstanding that it is Times of India, in a train is one who's gotten her priorities right (or woefully wrong depending on how you look at it).

     Unfortunately this one had something else in mind. She spread out the newspaper below the seat and pushed a sleek yellow coloured travel bag on it after removing her iPad and a small napkin. I avoided looking at the dirty 30-litre sack I had thrown below my seat, something that had served me well in hikes across the country but had not been washed for around a year. She delicately placed the napkin on her lap and the iPad on the napkin and proceeded to play a brick game, making clucks, wringing her hands and muttering 'gone' in disappointment when she lost, with a look as though she had just lost her first born.

    A germophobic or a “clean freak” on an Indian train!? What irony. Such folks are understandably rare in India, especially on Indian trains where "Swalpa adjust maadi" (Please adjust) is the usual refrain when it comes to hygiene. Soon a stream of railway caterers overran the coach with screams of biryani and chapatti. The girl of course did not bother with such hawkers, even though they were approved by the Indian Railways. I half-expected her to dig into her bag for her curd rice but that did not happen either. A woman managing her brawling kid noticed this and offered her a pack of chips but the girl waved it away. Apparently she never eats chips for dinner.

     Clearly she had rules set in stone and not eating chips for dinner was among the unbreakable ones. She probably had rules for her boyfriend as well and would give him an earful for slurping coffee on a date. I imagined her repeating her edicts regarding hygiene and life aloud every night, just like princess Arya from game of thrones reciting the names of enemies she wanted dead before hitting the bed. I laughed aloud at the thought, noticed folks in my compartment staring at me and unsuccessfully tried to convert it into a cough. Needless to say that never works like in the movies. The girl looked at me and through some feminine appendage that science is yet to discover, understood that it was a private joke about her and gave me a look that would have curdled milk.

     And as it inevitably happens in Indian trains, an old couple in the compartment started quizzing the girl - what's her Father's name? Which city is she from? Where is she working and for how long? Is she married? Does she have any siblings and are they married? The girl responded to the inquisition patiently. By the time the couple was done, they had uncovered that the old man knew the girl's grandfather though he did not delve into details. I, on the other hand, was convinced that the couple had an unmarried son and were throwing a net wide and far to find him a bride.

     The couple backed off having sated their curiosity. I tentatively asked her a question regarding the turmoil in her company (having overheard the company name). She admitted that she was looking for greener pastures because that. Hmm! My shot in the dark seemed to have touched a rather sore nerve. Admittedly misery loves company. We ended up chatting for the next half an hour regarding the gloomy situation in Information Technology sector in general. That night I was under the impression that perhaps I could take this forward the next morning and ask for her phone number.

     Come morning, the train reached its destination on time and I was yet to make my move. A tall burly guy in jeans, too well dressed to be a porter, stepped into the compartment to carry the girl's luggage.  He saw me talking to the girl and gave me a look that I recognize from one of the many National Geographic animal specials - "Back off. This one's mine". *sigh* Another battle lost to another over-attached boyfriend. Anyways the odds were too high and involved 'hygiene'.

P.S: c'est une œuvre de fiction. Vérité...

1 comment:

gt said...

Hard to believe it is a fiction with all the details given. Well written. Many of the stereotypes of a train journey put together.