Travel

Few groundnuts and more thoughts tossed.


Men traveling alone without any female companion in Indian train journeys can rejoice to be in best of the luckiest times if he is allowed to take the seat he is allotted to. “Dude.. can you take that seat instead of this, we are a family?”, “Brother, can you leave the window seat for ladies and take that seat? (which could be near to wash room)”. I haven’t said ‘No’ unless the replacement seat is in an unreachable compartment. It was one of those so many Train journeys where I was asked to take a seat other than the one I was allotted, as it happens most of the time. Compartment was full with people and baggage. No more space for my only luggage to be placed in a non-hindering space; except a fitting gap below the opposite seat. So, I thrusted mine into that and squeezed myself between two fluffy men.

Mister in the right tossing groundnut into mouth told me – “Thambi(Younger Brother), you have so much space in the luggage rack at the top, you are placing it here?!”. He wants to slack stretching his limbs.

While I was looking up there to see if there is any space at all, Mr. at my left said – “No, space there, buddy. Leave it as it is.”

One in right started surging up his volume – “Yes, you can. If you think you can, you can. Push those bags and make some space.” But mine was a trolley, it was so big to push bags and make space for it.

Gentleman at left laughed out loud saying, “don’t be joking”.

I was able to hear groundnut getting crushed harder. I was too weak to portray logic for him then. So, I moved mine to the way path.

Then I slipped into – Dostoevsky’s White nights.

Eventually, a transwoman came clapping; asking for money. Prodding each and every one. They weren’t rude as the ones I have experienced.

At once the transwoman left the place, a women opposite murmured, “Why can’t they go and earn, aren’t they ashamed to beg..” to another lady beside her.

Mr. at my left asked, “What was that?”

“I said, why can’t they go work somewhere and earn..” she repeated.

“Say, you have a shop. Would you give them a job?”

She made a grin, “It depends”

“Depends on what, mam?”, he chuckled mockingly, “They are socially disabled. Ofcourse they should live a life as us. But that depends more on us than themselves. It is your choice to help or not to. But, don’t jump to judgements.”, he told her in a tone to defeat her presumed tidiness.

She whipped her sweat beads of embarrassment. Didn’t talk anything after.

Mr. at my right leaned down from slacking and looked at the Mr. at my left. Perhaps, he couldn’t digest the thought that the one in the left spilled.

Perhaps to leave out of inconvenience created, Gentleman at left started talking to me.. initially asking my whereabouts; for which I answered him only half true. Then, he started talking on Russian literature and Dostoevsky, for half an hour and more.

“Try, Ivan Turgenev sometime”, he said as we shook hands to depart.

“Train commutes are a unique ‘being’ ”, once a friend said. How true!

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Fiction, Travel

He showed his palm at me.


Looking at my reflection on the rear-view mirror, “Where else do you want to visit, thambi (younger brother)?”, driver anna (Elder Brother) inquired.

I paused for a minute and asked him, “Is there any, you think, I should visit?”.

It was quarter past five already in Vedaranyam. My plan was to stop at Chidambaram next, which takes a 3 1/2 hours of bus travel. Then look for a room there to stay, for Vedaranyam didn’t really have a convenient place to halt for a night. I was getting late.

“There is a small Agaththiyar temple, on our way to the town, if you want to visit..” he said.

“A temple for Agaththiyar? I definitely want to visit.” I couldn’t resist.

“Okay”, he laughed, “lets see if it is open still; nevertheless, will ask people nearby to open it for few minutes”.

I thanked him, he was indeed very kind to me.

Tholkappiyam – written by Tholkaappiyar,  lays the grammar for Tamil. Tholkappiyam is the oldest available scripture of and for Tamil. Tholkappiyam is believed to be derived from Agathiyam – written by Agaththiyar; which was lost and gone forever. Agaththiyar is the father of the language Tamil; Word ‘father’ here is not honorary; but an actual.

Vedaranyam

A simplest of Castles for the father of a Grandest Language. Uneven and unpolished rock floor; peeling off limestone painted walls; a deity as dark as the electric lightless room; dull light from the only oil lantern simmering on a side of the face – of the bearded statue and the priest with just a dhoti that has long lost its life and charm. I felt pressed by unreasonable reasons.

I was watching all around the place until the priest called, “Thambi..”, and nodded at me asking to reverence Agaththiyar while he showed the flame towards the father himself. It was emotional. Reverence was all pure.

I prayed, “Say all you left unsaid to this world, through me” and smiled. He showed his palm at me.

“How do you travel all alone?”, asked driver anna sipping tea, “isn’t that boring?”

“No, it is not. I’m comfortable alone”, I told him and smiled.

“Strange! did anything happen for you, recently?, like.. “, he meant unfortunate life-events and smiled.

“no..”, I laughed out loud.

He shook up left out little tea in the glass to dissolve the sedimented sugar and turned it down into his mouth; until no more drop of tea was left in it.

With empty glasses, we just sat there on the wooden bench for a while: I – looking around, him – reading a newspaper and shaking his head, perhaps, in disappointment, angst, apprehension that the happenings he read could have caused.

“It doesn’t seem like you could earn enough from your taxi..”, I asked about his earnings other than this.

“True, my brother does salt farming”, he said, “we are a join family”.

‘oh..’, I nodded.

“So, how’s life here na.. Happy?” I smiled.

“Happy?!” driver anna laughed throwing his head back, “I don’t really know, thambi”

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t know..”, cuddling his grey beard he said, “sometime, even if I am happy, I doubt if that is what happiness is or is it like I’m faking myself about it, you know what I mean? For I can live, feel and perceive everything only from one life and body; I don’t have an approval, you see.. for many a things. And your feeling are nobody else’s. Sometimes, even the hard times, when I look back, I feel I enjoyed it; but does that mean happiness? I don’t know” he chuckled, twisting his wrist to show something is unknown, “like colors, ha ha.. you see, the green your eye balls may perceive may not be same as my eye balls do, they say. You can’t have an approval for it with just your eyes and brain. O! it is the same with the sadness, I may doubt sometime if I’m being too touchy. That is why I think, I really don’t know. Perhaps, I have allowed myself to analyze too much of a bare reality. Perhaps, we would be able to feel only ecstasy and despair as right as rain. uh?”

Leaning on the wooden bench, balancing my two arms over it, with my heads facing down, I smiled within, out of unexpected grander in his thoughts.

“what is that.. thambi”, he asked caressing my back.

“Nothing..” I tapped his thigh, “It is getting late for me, anna. I think, I must take a leave”

I settled up the money for his car rental and took a leave from him.

I don’t know if I’m right about it; but there wasn’t any want of an approval more assuring than that day has provided me for the kind of travel I wish to have.