Thursday, February 05, 2004

Chennai 2 Trichy

For many of us bachelors who work in Chennai or Bangalore, the weekend journey to Trichy is a ritual. How frequent the journey is varies from induhvidual to induhvidual. For some, its every weekend (just finished college, feeling home sick always or girlfriend(s) at Trichy), every fortnight (got many friends still at Trichy), every month (guys who don't fall in the above 2 categories & go for say, to see their parents) and very occassionally. (guys who have got accustomed to Chennai/Bangalore life, have girl friend(s) in Chennai or are just too lazy to travel).

The means of travel varies too. For the regular weekender/fortnighters, its the good old RockFort Express - start Friday night and be back Monday morning. In this case, the first step in the ritual would involve going to one of the crowded Train Ticket Reservation Counters and booking for the to-and-fro journey. The buying of tickets may be a long drawn out, boring affair. The brilliant few ask their friends or travel agents to book the tickets for 'em. Once this is done, its a long wait till its Friday evening.

Pack off from office and off you go with that dreamy thinking of Trichy - the Cauvery, the RockFort, the Srirangam temple etc etc. 2200 hours and you are at Egmore, seeing all the regulars who have made it like you. Its the same chit-chat asking about work and after the customary 'see-you-morning-daa', you troop to your favourite S5 or S7 top berth. Sleep welcomes you, as the train starts singing its trademark chug-chug lullaby. (the lullaby has become a lot more pleasant, now that its broad gauge)

Sometimes you are lucky and wake up at Villupuram and have that sweet, nourishing, hot milk. Usually you sleep the whole journey off and due to the regular timing, you wake up in time as the train slows down into the Srirangam Station. Its yet another thing remembering that favourite 'dhidum-dhidum' on the old Collidum bridge. Its absent nowadays in the new bridge which is sans those steel girders. Your hands come together 2 pray automatically as you see the towering RajaGopuram pass by and The Girls High School comes next. If you are a TBHSS guy, you are encountered with that nostalgic feeling of the good old school days gone by. You have by now completely forgotten Chennai, as you plan how to spend (read sleep) the weekend off.

Speaking of train journeys, for the Chennai folks, there is the other option of making it by another old-timer, the Pallavan Express. This option, when you are lucky enough to get the Friday afternoon off too. The journey by Pallavan is completely different from that by RockFort. One simple reason, its a Day train, you are mostly awake the whole journey and you can enjoy the experiences offerred by the Second Class Chair Car.

Your co-passengers play an important role in such day journeys. They can make your journey more pleasant or real bad. Let us limit ourselves with pleasantliness. Its really a god-send to have some sweet city girl in the age group 16-25 sit before you. Its an added benefit if the mom accompanies her! (remember Rajnikanth in "Nakeeran"!) The second best thing that can happen are children. It can be a chubby infant with its toothless grins or some school kids, (preferably brother & sister of stds ranging from 1 to 5) going for vacation. Try talking with these kids and you will know the world.

There are other co-passengers who may interest you. The big burly mama in the 'veshti-jippa' and 'vethala-paaku' mouth, the lean 35ish guy who sleeps slanting his head on the next guy's shoulders, the 'window-beku' (like our very own Mani) who keeps staring thru' the window for no particular reason, the newly married couple with their meaningless whispers & smiles in a world of their own, the unassuming thatha with the shrewd-looking paati with that shining 'mookuthi', a big village party full of 'sandhanam-thadaviya-mottais' (returning of course from their trip to Tirupathi), the list is endless.

Another interesing thing about Pallavan is its never-ending beeline of hawkers & vendors. As soon as the train leaves Egmore, they start coming. These illegal hawkers sell cucumber, groundnut, guava, mango, jack fruit or any seasonal fruit for that matter . The 'official' ones from the pantry car come and go with their high-pitched 'Sir, tea-OO' or 'kaaaa-pea'. The other items from pantry include vadai, bajji, cutlet, omlette and nearer to 1730 hours, 'masal dhosai'. Nowadays, they have that watery readymade noodles too. The man to watch out is the one who usually comes with the tomato soup. This guy is a real entertainer with his sing-song voice and unusual sales pitch. Whenever I go by Pallavan, my wish is that this guy be on duty.

Those who haven't planned the trip are left with no option but to travel by bus. Now that we belong to the upper-middle class, we guys prefer the 'Hi-Tech' (whatever that means) Air Buses run by private operators. If you are lucky enough, they play the pirated CD version of some new hit movie. Its better that they don't show any movies at all than you being forced to watch some flop. Mostly, the bus ride is uneventful. The stop-over at some road-side hotel with its tell tale urine smell may provide some entertainment in the form of some Vivek comedy or 'dindugul' Leoni's 'pattimandram' which invariably is on old-vs-new Tamil cinema.

Guys, if have any interesting traveling experiences, please do share them. Especially the Bangalore 2 Trichy episode remains to be written.

(Apr 22, 2003)