As usual, I was early to reach the Madras Central Station. This was something that was not unusual. So much so, it was a talking point with the family and friends. I had the onerous duty of sweeping the station, said one. He has to inspect the tracks, said another.
Divine retribution came in the form of a missed train when the spouse, one of the pack leaders of the tar and feather Nanda campaign, was incharge of the departure time and arrangements for travel from home to the station. The destination was Mangalore and then on to the Mookambika temple. We did not make it in time for the train. The red lights of the last van just disappeared from sight. I could have sworn that the waving guard was smiling, but that must have been my imagination.
The Ganga-Cauvery Express was just being shunted into platform 13A. platform there, she would gather into her innards, hordes of people, a plethora of baggage and leaky fish which would finally end up on a so many plates, cooked and spiced. Bags of mail carrying the hopes and despair of millions; my head was reeling with all these statistics.
An obnoxiously rude porter brought me to my senses by yelling out that I was impersonating a steel girder holding up the massive roof of the station. Rude, but imaginative, I thought!
I travel first-class, if I can help it. Anyone who is over 6ft tall and overweight and stiff at the joints will understand and appreciate the agony and the pain to get on to one of those upper berths of the 2nd class compartment. Not to mention the series of cramps after the strain. And not to mention the sound and the dust and the heat and the bleating vendors... the list just goes on.
But I was not so lucky and had to settle for a 2nd class air-conditioned coach. Kept the noise out but nicely hermetically sealed odors, food and all.
My seat was 36A and being a window seat I settled nicely, my suitcase under the seat, bottle of water into the cup holder by the window, and magazines in hand.
My co-passengers started trickling in. As usual, they were a motley crowd of medical representatives, traders, and since this train was going to Varanasi, several old couples who felt that their salvation lay in the sacred waters of the Ganga.
Sacred waters? To them, definitely yes but to me it was a river that was murky and polluted. Some tried to bring in a scientific explanation of the holiness saying that the waters of the Ganga had a particular species of phagocytes that ate up disease causing bacteria and so on. I am not a disbeliever but a practical spiritualist. I am not willing to go by hand-me down theories. It would have been easier for me to accept the pure pristine waters of the Ganga as holy water but not in this state the river was in.