‘Har Ek Friend zaroori hotha hai’ is a tagline whereas ‘Paaysam sapdunga , Friend’ is an emotion. So brace yourself, for this is going to be an emotional post about all the friends who have offered paaysam (kheer) to me. There can be many categories of friends:- School friends, college friends, lunch friends, office friends, saadha-Friends, special-saadha-friends etc. In that, a very special and mostly less-focussed category is travel-friends. The ones who are strangers at 8.31 pm when the train starts, will all of a sudden at 9.31pm say ‘Paaysam sapdunga friend’ and would benevolently offer his food. After eating, at 11 pm whether you are lying unconsciously with no signs of bags or boasting to him about how you managed to get that extra Rs 2000 during demonetization would be the climax of the story(we can cover that in part 2 if I write). So what are we going to talk about? (1 mark question ).
Assuming that you have all gained that 1 mark, (If not read the first para again as imposition) let me deep dive into the topic. We people are wired as talkative. How on earth can we sit quietly for hours? As soon as we enter the train (ignore the checking who is sitting next to you part and getting disappointed that all are senior citizens around you), we mark our areas by filling in bags in all empty space and waiting like you own not just the compartment but the entire train…As soon as people arrive, you judge how friendly are they by first sight. The second step is passing a smile. Meanwhile, if they are asking you to take your bags, dismissed. No second step, no friendly treaties will be signed at least for a while. So based on their reply smile, we’ll decide to be a conversation starter or main course or dessert (main course- listening, dessert- taking out your air-pillow and claiming your be(i)rth right). Whoever decides to be a conversation starter, this will be the question… “ So… Going to ?”. Then you know where it goes. If I write the entire conversation, I will be asking for additional sheets. So if we fast fwd the convo… ‘last stop…work…climate…work…TN politics…national politics… international politics….I have got puliogare and curd rice. Will you share?’ This, in travel terms, is equivalent to ‘Will you be my friend forever (read as 8hrs/Nhrs)’! Irrespective of whether to reply is ‘No no…I have brought chappathi’ or ‘Sure… Give me little to taste…Tiger is my favourite animal…That’s why *sheepish/tigerish smile*’, the strangers become close. The bond is so strong (without fevicol dabba on top ) that TTR will assume all are from the same family. If there are two families in the compartment you’ll have various topics going on. Males will be busy recreating The Hindu, TOI, NDTV, Times Now etc. Women will also be busy, ‘I was asking him to book train after 10 pm. I could have at least seen who is eliminated this week from bigg boss.’ Aunty2: ‘Don’t worry. I’ve asked my friend to text me. I’ll update you immediately. Do you think Oviya will be back?’ The kids will be busy with their virtual humans in their virtual world.
When you are single and you are sharing a compartment with family (elder couple), it is an altogether a different experience. They would try hard to be in your good books and try to make you comfortable. One such experience is as follows (be glad that out of habit I didn’t say PFB the scenario. PFA the picture. Please let me know in case of questions).
I was returning in a day train from my friend’s engagement (I think so!) and had 8 hrs to kill. Elderly couple directly went to step 2 of passing a broad smile as I didn’t have any luggage…just a backpack! As the train started, again, uncle smiled…Aunty smiled…I smiled! Then I looked out of the window, staring at everything that’s moving away from us. Here, they were the conversation starters
Uncle *again smile session repeat* – Meeru telugu-ah?
Me- No uncle… Tamil! *1st ball- bowled* I starred outside again at the nothing in particular
Aunty*covering up*- We are in Chennai for the past 2 years. Nobody believes that we are from Andhra-andi’ *laughs*
Me- Cool! Totally shows! *suppressing all the sarcastic comments I get at that comment*
Aunty- “So do you study or work?”
Me- “Just joined work”
Few regular questions whether you know this guy’s son’s neighbor’s cousin who works in the same company
Then uncle started showing off in front of Aunty about his IT knowledge. Within few hours they started consulting me about all their phone problems. I felt like Tim Cook unveiling iPhone X with the amazement and eagerness with which I was looked upon when I downloaded an app to fix their phone-slowdown issue. (chinna fix but beddha build up ..errr I didn’t take a dig at iPhone 😛 ) In recognition of my good work, I was offered thattai, murukku and seedai (which I declined cos I didn’t want to lose my backpack..But on second thoughts whether it is seedai or backpack…I chose the obvious…Seedai…duh). Now that we have officially signed the friendship treaty of travel, they started enquiring about the reason for travel, how alone, why alone, will anyone come station to pick up..for every correct answer I got a murukku. I had to excuse myself for some urgent reasons (water…murukku…water…more water) and when I came back there was a mini-war happening. TTR was on his way to my compartment. I followed him, anticipating a missing backpack and elderly couple. To my surprise, uncle was talking animatedly to few men…’No no no…You cannot do this’. As soon as TTR and I entered, he looked at us and said, ‘Sir! Good, you came. These people got in here instead of the unreserved compartment and started claiming the seats in our compartment ( the area has been marked dude!) Our girl (pointing towards me) is sitting here. This is unacceptable!’ Soon the crowd was dispersed, uncle sat at the corner like guarding the entire compartment while the aunty was offering me more murukku. *laaalaaa…laaaalaa…any bgm*
Not just in the train, recently I was traveling to San Jose and my flight was delayed due to bad weather. The flight that was to leave by 5.30 p.m. finally left by 9pm . So during the wait time, I was just scrolling through my FB newsfeed without paying much attention to what am I reading. That’s when I heard a clearing of throat beside me…There was this middle-aged lady sitting beside. I saw her a few minutes back in 2 rows front of me. She was trying step 2 (smiling). Now she sat beside me, ready to keep herself occupied for next few hours. *Smile session repeat* Going to San Jose? (I wanted to say …No..bought ticket to jump in the sea on the way but held back…Hunger-cranky-me). ‘Yes!’ followed by a brief smile. She continued.’ I’m also going there. My daughter is there. She is here for 5 years. How long have you been here.’ Me- ‘7 months’. She- ‘Ohh! You are new to the US. *welcome to US speech* followed by *tips and tricks to survive* followed by *Venkatesh Bhatt cooking recipes* . Then she formally started the inquiry session. After a while, again, excused myself, this time just to escape. It is only when I leave, people will gather to create excitement in the air…when I returned, as usual, there was a gathering. I realized snacks and drinks are provided. Hence, the long queue. I went and stood in the mini Tirupathi queue sans the jarugandhi person, for my turn to arrive. That’s when I saw Lord Balaji’s wife waving at me with prasad(That lady’s name was Lakshmi…you get the connection right? No bad words). I went to her like Kamal in partha vizhi partha padi poothu irukka (Video link here– Watch after work hrs.Can’t be blamed for productivity loss :P) Just imagine me as Kamal and that lady as Abirami in video. Instead of 2 ladoos, she gave me snacks and water bottle 😛 Now I have signed the international-travel-friendship treaty. There was no looking back! Soon, history, geography, civics, everything was discussed in length.
Travel friendship reminds me of Anbe Sivam. A film starring Kamal and Madhavan who get introduced during travel and the story evolves from there about their travel to the destination. One of my most favourite movies. It captures the journey very aptly, bring out the initial apprehension while meeting a weird stranger, that nallavana-ketavana dilema, random act of kindness and finally a bond forever! Recommended watch (if you haven’t till now) for sure!
You may ask me why am I posting zentangle of auto while I spoke about train and flight. The explanation is simple…I have this pic which denotes a means of transport= travel..So I will use it 😛
Moral of the story…errr…non-story
You may have chapters about people who play an important role but there are also few pages about such random people with such random memories in your book called life 😉