Here’s a piece of gyaan: go on a long-distance train journey. In other words, spend at least 2 days on train. To gain maximum amount of wisdom/fun/solitude, make sure you are alone. And board the train with a waitlisted ticket which would guarantee you’d never get a fixed seat.
Yeah, it sounds horrible, and most people won’t do it even if it is the only option. I, too, was about to board 3rd AC- but had to enter sleeper coach since that ticket wasn’t confirmed. I boarded the train with great reluctance; the decision I have never regretted since.
Found some space sit on the corridor between bogies. Listened to music for some time; the space was too small to take out a novel. Glanced around, and saw a kid staring at my face.
“Kya hua yaar? Aise dekh kyon raha hai?” I ventured into a talk.
“kuch nai- ye kya hai?” the kid pointed to my earphones. I removed them, and put them onto his ears. There was a thousand- watt smile on his face.
“kya kar raha hai? Dusron ko tang kyon karta hai?” shouted his mother, who was half asleep, heard him sing loud. “maaf karma saab ji” some apology, directed towards me.
I said it was not a problem, and proceeded to interact with the kid- even after multiple protests from the mother. After a few tries, the woman quit trying; both me and chotu passed time in a grand manner- he asking multitude of questions, which his parents hardly answered, according to him- and me patiently replying. He slept on my lap after a while.
Fast fwd to 8 pm. since I had boarded the train around 3 o’clock, I wasn’t able to place an order with the pantry. And the train didn’t have any stops till 11 (which I didn’t know yet). It was real difficult- since I hadn’t had my lunch.
The family beside me opened the meal they had bought. I think the mother saw the hunger in my eyes, but refrained from making an offer. The kid entered the frame again. “bhaiyya aap ne khana nahi khaya na?”
I said that I’ll eat soon.
“ye lo mere saath kha lo.”
“nai chotu, tu kha. Mai agle station pe kha lunga.”
His father chipped in with the fact that we wouldn’t reach the next station till 11-1130pm, and added a sarcastic remark- which amounted to “why’d you eat with someone as lowly as us?”
Don’t know if it was hunger, or that man’s comment. I blurted out “theek hai ji. Do roti de do.”
They were cold alright, but I must say they were the best ones I had tasted in a long time.
Then the couple really opened up. The hardship they’ve gone through, their plans for their kid, the way they loved each other even when there were so many reasons to fight… I was looking at a whole new world. The general perception I had of the laborers had met an end. They too, are humans, and they, too have emotions. What we see- the fights, hitting each other… they are an aberration. We are informed of sporadic cases, and we think an entire class of people behaves the same. No, I’m not saying this based on my interaction with this family alone. I agree that these people are short tempered, but that is mainly because we treat them as something to be avoided. Treat them as your equals- and you’ll be astonished to see how much love you'll get back.
Sitting with these people, trying to understand what they have to say, understanding the way they behave… truly opens your eyes. I really am glad that I boarded the train.