Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Slow train through central India…

Burhanpur.  A small town with a railway station.  Out train – the venerable Tulsi Express from Allahabad is just pulling out.   A sign informs us to ‘alight here for Dargah al Hakami’ – people sit in small clusters on the platform in the shade of the awning.

As the train moves out into the town we see the sadly normal shanty huts clustered around.  What looks like a new mosque towers over the huts.  Then we pass the pylons of an under-constuction over bridge, the Y-shapes looming up, hands outstretched to accept the coming burden of an elevated road.  Below it an orange dome and a fluttering saffron flag announce a Hindu shrine.  A few men are crossing the track, white Gandhi-topis are the vogue in Burhanpur it seems.  A red tractor rumbles in the same direction our train is slipping along – pulling two concrete railway ties.

The noon-day sun outside pours down on fields and country roads.   Burhanpur is not big.  The land surrounding seems fertile and well-watered.  Standing crops of wheat are being harvested – or have just been, their bare prickled stalked fields testifying to happy farmers having gathered in the sheaves.  Here are green blocks of banana plantations.  There are what seems to be maize – but looks more like jowar.

Black soil – mainly cultivated - flits by.  Are we still in Madhya Pradesh or are we in Maharashtra yet?

My phone beeps and I see that the good folks of Vodaphone are welcoming us to Maharashtra.  “Samosa garam” calls the man walking down the isles.  The smell of hot samosas trails behind him as he finds no takers in our train.  We are a subdued lot in this 3rd AC coupe.  Most adults are slumped over in sleep or near-slumber.  It’s the toddlers who are keeping decibel levels up – especially one little girl whose voice box is stuck on loud and temper trantrums…

Mr. Samosa is back.  Should I or should I not.  Decision to stick to my tried-and-true biscuits which I have brought along.  Sadly, knowing personal friends who have been drugged by apparently hospitable strangers has elicited a promise from me to Sheba that I will not eat food or drink what others offer ‘no matter how nice they are.’   The loss of innocence due to the rapacious cruelty of the few.

The train clatters on.  We are being shunted across the country in muffled luxury.

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