Ever since I can remember, I have been travelling on the 12779 Goa Express train. For me it was like second home considering that it took -- and still takes – all of 40 hours to cover the 2000 km. from Vasco to Delhi. Most of my journeys were alone coming to Goa for that brief weekend and that oh so short spell of holidays I used to take during Christmas or Easter. The blue tiers of the sleeper class used to be my constant companion as I used to write my poems, nose pressed against the iron grills of the windows, to feel as many sensations as I could.
Travelling from the South West coast to the hinterland of the North was a many-splendoured journey. Apart from meandering through the many states of India, the Goa Express was a foodie’s delight affording you the opportunity of tucking into all the savouries enroute. Unike the Mangala Express or the Rajdhani both of which emanate from Kerala, the Goa Express which starts its journey from Vasco, Goa has a more leisured pace.
As the Goa Express ambles along, numerous people spill out or are swept in of its heaving sides enroute. This was India on the move. There were so many friends waiting to be made, so many stories to be shared. At Pune station I used to be greeted by Rajan my colleague at Poona University and my sister who has settled down there. At Bhopal I remembered Keswani who had invited me there and set up a visit to view the Bhimbetka cave paintings. Sanjay was from Agra – he always referred to the lunatic asylum there.
But that was when I was single. Last week when I travelled on the Goa Express with my family I noticed our son pressing his nose to the window grills in S6. Where did he learn that from! Now I wasn’t desperate to make conversation, even if it was small talk. For me just a smile from Queenie was enough fulfillment. After Dwayne pranced on all three of the upper berths, while I chased him around to sleep, he finally called it a day and slept on the bottom berth cuddling up next to mama. So much for my efforts.
The lone signal man waving the green light in the darkness on the porch of a signal room past Belgaum station reminded me of Uttara – a movie I viewed at the last IFFI. Uttara/ The Wrestlers (Bengali, 2000) is a chilling film by Buddhadev Dasgupta, on the lives of two railway signal men who pass their time wrestling ignoring the mayhem around them.
The train clatters into Miraj junction at 10 p.m. We used to change trains here from the metre guage track to the broad guage line when the train was first introduced in 1987.
Trains unify people. I need to call up Gaikwad to see if he will meet the 12780 Goa Express at 7.15 p.m. when it passes through Satara, where he lives, when I return on the same train to Vasco.
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 2 March 2014. Pix source irfca(dot)org