Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Cosmopolitan Lunch

Its a very unusual post-independence day morning, with no sun and un-relenting rains, it doesn't make a good day for a holiday like saturday. As I sit here in my home-office with the large glass wall in front of me, I see a gray unending sky. It helps to look far and beyond when you are on 8th floor, its not really gloomy gloomy but its definitely not sunny. I need to step-out and visit the other corner of Delhi on preferably a public transport and I needed some motivation to sustain that, so here I am sharing with you a lunch conversation, a cosmopolitan one, I had the other day.

It was a usual office lunch, the table occupied by young and daring engineers as well as some of the old and daring ones like myself. Only the other day, on one of the train stories by my friend Karthik (read here), I commented about my only-big-train-achievement of my numerous routine train travels, the one where I took a bath on a station mid-way i.e. while the train re-filled and re-rejuvenated to get enough power to take us further 500 Km of the total 1400 odd KM journey, I sneaked to the waiting room, took a shower and was back. As luck would have it or rather as Paulo said that the whole world conspires to make it happen, there was a train conversation on the table.

C asked me on how far Darbhanga is from Varanasi, since she would be taking a train which goes till Darbhanga. Being from Darbhanga, my curious question was about the train name. It was to be 'Swatantara Sainani Express', a real tongue twister name for the IAS aspirants who horde from numerous North Bihar towns and villages and come looking for that dream and stay put in dingy, poorly list Katwaria-Sarai holes. Anyway, I told her and its not one of the best trains to take since its mostly running late and the conversation carried on.

I did't want to be looked down as someone who would use the zeroth opportunity to flaunt so I waited for the train conversation to mature. I was trying to time my best line at the best juncture, the point where the audience could just feel the tension growing and make the most of as I said before, the only-big-train-achievement. Its one of those things we were taught while doing endless theater workshops, its called timing, you need to deliver at the best time.

So the conversation went from trains to personal experiences. As expected the experiences were around failed engines, flooded rail lines and delayed trains. C shared that she and her family were once stuck at Guwahati for 2 days since the Brahamputra decided to play high. I also addded some of my lesser-achievement experience so as to help to conversation to gain mass and momentum. A shared that how some villagers-farmers blocked the traffic while he was coming from Aligarh. While all this happened, V had to tell us that how they, a group of 9 young engineers, were really lucky and brave to make a long journey with having just 5 confirmed tickets. This was booed down by all so-called non-Delhi wallahs, lead my your truly (which is so bad, really) and ably supported by A and C. After all having 5 confirmed tickets is a luxury on which an average Samastipur-ia or a Gorahpur-i would take his whole of family of 20, 9 is like a free ride.

While all this was happening, I did find time to share my bomb which got a lukewarm response. But thats not the intent of writing this. The intent was the sheer divide between the rail-traveled and locals, in current case Dilli-wallahs. One of my close friend who stayed all his life in Delhi, has never traveled overnight on train till he started working. There are so many of them. In all the train conversations, this outside group tries to look and sound smart. I think I just realized that I am the biggest of those smart-alecs. Not that I really repent it but thats what been these train conversation been going. This group of smart-alec would know things like how to release the vaccuum to stop a train, what is shunting, what is crossing, how you can just take a platform ticket and board a train and then ask for a ticket, and so on.

Having stayed in Delhi for last three decades, I fail to acknowledge being a Dilliwallah when train conversations happen because every year, my mother with her two young kids would take us to this real long ride, while our friends would either head for Nainital in UP State Transport Bus or would rather spend the summer doing nothing. But probably that would halt for a while, if not stop, after this so called awakening. :)

Coming back to cosmopolitan lunch, A C V and myself are from different places and we had our own stories while we all ate typical north Indian meal of Roti, separated boiled rice (khilay khilay chawal), daal, sabji and so on.

Another of those interesting lunch notes. I now need to get up and head for the other corner of the city where my wife and 3 year old are waiting for me. My biggest motivation to do this is that I would be able to buy some good beer pints on the way back, as I drive back to our home in this sub-urb in her car.