Southern Sojourn-1

The past midnight commotion inside A5 of 22692 Nizamuddin Bengaluru Rajdhani Express was unexpected, though not unique. Half a dozen educated women fought over space for their luggage, disturbing the tranquility of the packed compartment. They boarded at Gwalior, heading for Itarsi.

For 15 minutes, they brought the ceiling down, metaphorically speaking. “Remove your goods from space meant for my seat,” shouted one mid-forties lady. The target of the attack responded with, “do what you wish. Want to throw my stuff out? Let me see you do it.”

It was fun and irritating at the same time.

Another voice heard in the dark: “I am a media person. How dare you to take an eldery person like this? Call the police. Call the TTE.”

Soon better sense prevailed, with another voice chipping in, “Apologies for being a bit rude. We will find a solution. After all, we have to sleep for some time before getting down at Itarsi.”

Memories flooded of the fight at the common municipal tap in the gullies of my childhood Madras in the 1960s. Those days, drinking water tap was non-existent. There was no Narendra Modi to promote the “Har ghar mein nal” campaign. Paani, biiji aur sadak were not major electioneering slogans.

Households have to line up to fill their buckets and kudams (pots made of metal and mud before the advent of plastic cousins). Households meant the womenfolk. They fought with one another over accessing the tap. Many a time, there was a physical battle. Some mud pots got crushed. Somehow or other, the scuffle would end with loud muttering of abuses hurled at one another. The warring factions would remain foes permanently. Patch-up between them would be unlikely.

But in the episode of train no. 22692-midnight fracas, peace prevailed soon with no intervention from any third party.

Quarter to six, the passage was inaccessible as the Rajdhani reached Itarsi junction. Half a truckload of baggage blocked the route to the washroom. Barring a dozen passengers, the entire compartment was in evacuation mode.

That’s when I glanced at the warriors of the night. They came in all sizes. In all age groups. Including a six-year child demanding Chota Bheem!

No TTE came to diffuse the ugly situation. Subsequently, he ought to have come for verification of the new passengers boarding with his tablet. By then, all was hunky-dory.

We Indians fight and patch up, unlike Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Grow up, folks! No crisis is unresolvable.

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