My frantic and tedious journey ended about two weeks back, but I had been either too tired or too busy with coding and gaming to take up blogging.
I got really pissed off in the mathematics camp I was attending (I would have written about that, but the place was ten kilometres away from civilisation in every direction and a computer with a decent internet connection was hard to find). I sent an SOS to Anshul, who said that I could finally come over and start my internship. I made a last minute booking and got on the first train available (it wasn’t actually available, but I got on it anyway, praying for a conformation).
My name was the last item in the final chart, thanks to the newly introduced AC coaches. They have beautiful wood panelling, thoughtfully provided reading lights for those who can’t sleep at night, and most importantly, three (as opposed to the conventional two) berths next to the corridor.
Being the incorrigible romantic that I am, I have always wished to be pleasantly surprised to find some pretty girl next to me. My journeys have always been so long, and it is a tough task to spend them by listening to the polite and content-less chatter of strangers. I am not very partial to talking myself, particularly in a group or to strangers, which are exactly what you get inside a train. So I have always wished for something to see rather than something to listen to. Besides, I have not yet grown out of liking pretty girls.
Anyway, what could be more romantic than being seated next to a girl, face to face, next to one of those corridor windows now skilfully designed to be crowded enough so that the people occupying the opposite seats can not help but feel like being on each other’s face. As the TTI was finally leading me to my finalised berth, I wondered if I was going to be placed next to that nice girl at the lonely end of the coach next to a corridor window. That was as much as I could wonder about before I had to say hello as she moved to make room for me.
She was nice, polite, non defensive and pretty. She looked like she had spent the day all by herself, lonely and bored. I liked her, but I was feeling pissed off at my prof at the mathematics camp and though I would have liked talking to her, because I haven’t grown out of feeling like talking to pretty girls either, I wasn’t sure if I could handle it with good humour if she threw something incredibly stupid at me. Pretty or not, I don’t like to be not nice to people, because that spares me getting involved with them. I shouldn’t have minded that, except that I hate people.
So we stayed awake deep into the night trying to completely ignore each other in spite of the close confinement, at which I think we succeeded admirably. The atmosphere was charged with the typical contrast between sexual tension (of the naive kind) and its social denunciation, and as Agatha Christie described in one of her better novels, atmospheres exactly like these provide with excellent opportunities for murder. But the prof at the mathematics camp was a long distance away, and it was hard to find another candidate for murder at such a sort notice.
One of my usual policies is to ignore the usual hints and subtleties which people engage in their hypocritical politeness. I do not read between the lines, and it has almost always spared me the necessity of meaningful interaction with human beings. That probably sounds awfully self congratulatory to the point of pretentiousness, but I am dead tired of meaningful conversations and relationships. I am tired of human beings. Sometimes I think Darwin was wrong. I can not conceive of a way in which I could have evolved from men.
Coming back to that night, well, I went on reading my book and resisting her indirect hints that I might want to go to sleep (I had the upper berth). In the end she had to just ask me right out. I slept on for the next 16 hours. I sleep an awful lot when I travel by trains (I also don’t take any solid food) to avoid having to talk to fellow passengers. My usual strategy is â€“ read through the night, sleep through the day.
The next evening, I got down at Dadar and after a short encounter with a paaji who wanted to rob me with thrice the usual taxi fare, I hired another taxi and went to Anshul’s place. Tired and messed up as I was, Anshul took me right away to a pub where most of us got dunk while I politely tried to look the part with a couple of Breezers for sometime, eventually falling back to good old Sprite. As night moved on, we danced (if you know me, you know that I didn’t dance), ate, drank, watched some uninteresting eurocup match, and in general sang at the top of our voices (if you know me, you know that I sang like a madman). Well, I didn’t sing like a madman, because I was nervous, but I tore my lungs apart nonetheless. The DJ played a lot of the usual classics towards the end, muting in between in order to let us fill up the smallish room with our songs of buoyant drunken uplift, where we all briefly thought we understood what the artist had wanted his music to meant.
Afterwards, it was a bit of a struggle and a bit of a fun to find auto-rickshaws in the incessant rain of Mumbai at two in the night and get drenched in spite of it all. It was my first rain this summer and I wanted to get wet, except that I had only one underwear left dry.
Then I slept.