If you have not traveled by train in India, you haven’t travelled!!!
Well, so we decided to take the train from Cochin to Thrissur, a one and half-hour journey. The girls were overly excited. Sitting in a rickshaw or a train are things they looked forwarded to when they come to India.
The evening train is mainly for students, daily commuters. At South station where we got in, it was relatively empty, so we plonked ourselves- bags and all, very comfortably- Rs. 60 for 4 of us against a taxi which would cost us Rs. 2500! The railway network is India’s lifeline and rightly so.
As the train chugged Northwards, it slowly got filled. People got into our compartment and seated themselves beside us. Soon the bags were on our laps and we were rubbing shoulders (literally) with the others. Well, that’s part of the experience!!! (You can go by car if that’s not your idea of an experience.) Anyways daily commuters don’t look out of the window, enjoy the scenery or get excited when a hawker comes selling tea, banana fritters, cutlets, roasted peanuts, comic books and key-chains. So, you may find them dozing off even on a seat that’s shared between 6 people or reading a crumpled newspaper or these days with an ear phone on, listening to music or watching you tube. No eye contact is maintained or conversation held…it’s the end of another day and this is just another journey. The attitude of commuters is generally the same anywhere in the world and probably varies slightly depending on the distance of travel and age of the commuter, gender of the commuter and other commuters. Many of our famous Bollywood movies have centered around trains and railway platforms- From Dharmendra in The Burning Train to the Angry young Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie to the romantic Shahrukh Khan in DDLJ to Salman Khan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The list is endless and the themes too…love, action, drama, the Indian Railway platform provides immense possibilities and Indian viewers love it because they can relate to it. It’s simply life!
For us, it was a short trip, a to-do on our holiday list (travel by train). While I would have loved to eat a little of everything that was being sold, I couldn’t trust my stomach. It could play havoc at the slightest offensive. So we stuck to roasted peanuts, packaged tapioca chips and a bar of 5 star which we had picked up from the station.
Passing by paddy fields, coconut trees, rivers that were overgrown with water plants because of insufficient rain, we reached the little station a km away from home. Getting off at the station, it was dark, pitch black, the kind of black night you only see in little towns and villages where city lights do not break the darkness…. Heading home, satisfied with another memory added to our kitty…I couldn’t help but remember that this was the same train in which a lady had been raped by a disabled man while she sat in the ladies compartment. Same train, same time, a few stations after our station on 1/2/2011, on such a pitch black night. A lot was promised then to increase security on trains…a lot of channels covered it…a lot of media attention and then ‘Nothing’.
However, unlike media would have you believe with news on rapes splashing over the cover page of every leading newspaper, India is just as safe or unsafe as any other country. The rule remains the same for women, like it is in all countries in the world- stay away from deserted places, don’t venture out in the dark and be alert. The only real issue is that justice in India takes forever, there are a lot of lobbies with their own agendas, who try to use it for their own gains and human rights groups who take to the streets to protect the so- called rights of hard core criminals. Like the guys who fought for Afzal Guru (the man who attacked the Indian Parliament in 2001) or the guys who interviewed the rapist in the now so famous Nirbhaya case. Where are these groups you wonder when there are ‘real’ issues? There are a million forgotten stories which deserve attention and follow-up because a lot of people have been busy cashing in on a titillating story and after it’s chewed and squeezed, it’s just a story and nothing more. A Democracy is good as long as Freedom is used; not misused.It is at times like these, you wish the law was like it is in a communist regime or in a dictatorship or in a monarchy-like it happens in Saudi Arabia, when man behaves like a beast he simply should be treated like one. THAT would be a message to future offenders. I know a lot of people feel like me on this issue. I wonder what valid reason, those who feel otherwise, have.
A drizzle brought me back to the present as we scrambled to open our umbrellas. Other than a sense of helplessness and despair, there was nothing else that I could do. We, as a country have a long way to go…somewhere the bright lights and the noise have dimmed our sights and our conscience.
We now hear but fail to listen (to our hearts and our minds), we look but do not see (where we are heading), we talk but have no voice and we FORGET easily! We blame the country, the media, the government, the various groups in the comfort of our homes, we talk about it at social get-togethers’ with passion, we discuss about these issues with eloquence because we are a knowledgeable race and then like everything else, we forget!