Monday, October 24, 2005

Side Upper and Lower

We arrived in Bikaner city on the evening of 8th October, 2005 after a long journey of more than 48 hours. Our routing was Hyderabad-Mumbai-Bikaner. We left home for Mumbai late evening on 6th October. S and I always make it a point to book side upper and side lower seats in any train. It gives a certain sense of privacy. One can recline any time one wants and also gives good protection to our luggage.

The holiday began once we baorded the train though it took some time to unwind from the various work schedules. I was silent and withdrawn when we boarded the tain to Mumbai as I was tense and keyed up. Everytime I begin my jouney I have this premonition that I will fall sick. In my case my premonitions about my health are always true. However, despite my sickness I travel alomst once in six months to the corners of this wonderful country. I should confess that the excitement of travel has been an important part of my bonding with S.

Unfortunately for us our seats (though side upper and lower) were adjacent to the toilet. Whenever the train stopped or someone left the toilet door open, one would be assaulted by the odours. We could do nothing about it. I became an expert at clenching and unclenching my nose through the journey. S had as usual packed his bottle of lime and vodka which he was sipping calmly, sitting by the window as the train rushed into the darkness of various towns and villages. We were occasionally delving into our 'food bag' for tid bits. Our dinner was rotis and brinjal curry plus the various goodies of our food bag. A word about our food bag. Whenever we are making these long journey we have a separate bag allocated for food stuffs and medicines which will contain nuts, dry rotis, pickles, sweets, digestives and so on and so forth weighing atleast a couple of kilos.

We reached Mumbai at half past twelve. By now the holiday mood had set in. I felt light and good. We had a three hour halt at Mumbai. We decided to inaugurate our holiday formally by splurging at a good resturant with some chilled beer. Found a small Chinese restuarant and parked ourselves for the next two hours. Shared a bottle of beer and a plate of noodles. Since the price tag was heavy decided to limit our beer and food. Since I was holding the purse strings I made a note not to enter into expensive hotels. Yeah...The other thing was that I would handle the expenses of the trip. So I was paying for everything. S would have only have about ten rupees in his pocket, enough to buy some cigarettes or a bottle of water. This was a reflection of my new found status of the being the breadwinner for the family.

Following this minor splurge we reached bustling Bandra station and boarded the hot and stuffy Ranakpur Express to Bikaner. Our tickets were confirmed only at the last minute. To our horror we again found our Side upper and lower berths adjacent to to the toilets. Between the two us us I am the snob, being sensitive to ammonic odours. S is cool about stuff like this. I got reconciled to ammonia and told myslef that this will not spoil the fun. Our compartment was packed to the brim with not only the regular passengers but also wait listed passengers. Marwadi men, women and children, beggars, bearers serving coffee, cool drinks, tea, tiffins jostled with each other in that tiny compartment. Very soon the marwadi tiffin carriers were opened and the endless tream of serving food began. S and myself were perched at our window seats trying to be oblivious of all the high voices around us, at the same time trying to catch snippets of conversations, curious to know their subjects of conversation.

For me it was a new route. The train was chugging through Gujarat. So we encountered Ahemedabad, Surat, Anand, Vadodra and many other important towns of Gujarat. In all this melee we forgot to buy our dinner and were left only with dry chappatis and pickle which was also fun. It is strange how one feels hungry by 9pm and then sleeps by 10pm on the train. Even S who is used to eating and sleeping late turned in by 10pm. The lights are switched off and one cant even read. So the only alternative is to sleep. And promptly sleep catches up. Our marital practice is that I take the uuper berth while he takes the lower. I feel safe on the upper berth and tos ome extent not be an object of voyeuristic pleasure. I woke up occasionally to the strong odours of ammonia and promptly pulled the sheet all over my face. As if that would be any preventive. It was a cold night. We were forced to pull out our sleeping bags to stay warm. Since I was sleeping on the upper berth I woke up S to pull out the sleeping bags and jackets. With the sleeping bag under me, I felt so warm that I went off for another bout of good sleep.

The next day dawned quite early with the tea wallahs making their rounds since 5.30 in the morning. We refused to wake up. Finally we had to wake up by 8am as the noise levels around was so deafeningly high tthat there was no way one could sleep.We woke up to the station of Pali Marwad which arrived at about 8.30 am in the morning. Many passengers were getting off these stations. Our compartment, much to our relief was geeting empty. By 10.30 am we reached Jodhpur. The ticket collector informed us to get some food at Jodhpur itself as otherwise we would not get any food on the way after Jodhpur. He further advised us that we should go outside the railway station to buy food. S was deputed to look after the luggage while I marched out to get the food. Jodhpur station was deserted and the sun was fierce. The train would halt there for about 30 minutes. There were many dhabas outside the railway station. I selected one dhaba and ordered jeera rice, dal and bhendi curry. I was already craving for rice. Within no time the food was ready and I rushed back with the parcel of food to the train. We loaded ourselves with food and water as we were warned that we will get neither ont he way. Bikaner was toa rrive at 4.30 in the evening. The train pulled out of Jodhpur and then began the best part of the journey. Since the food was hot we decided to have a brunch and gobbled the rice and dal as if we were starving for the last few days. The time was just 11am. The blue and pink buildings of Jodhpur rolled by. Jodhpur is considered to be the first halt ont he desert circuit of Rajasthan. The desert part of Rajasthan had begun. A certain excitement was building.

Monday, October 17, 2005


We returned yesterday from our travel: an experience that can be rated as one of my best. It was about 48 hours by train to return from Bikaner. the north western part of Rajasthan. I feel good having travelled to such extreme points on our functional map. I felt very groggy and disoriented yesterday as if I had a hangover. It was a mixture of feelings. A longing to stay back in the desert, the irritation of travelling 48 hours in the stench of dirty toilets, the impending work and routines that are round the corner. Peculiar to this confusion is a desire to make plans for travel all over again. I was hunched at my computer trying to look for other organsied tours in the desert. It is surely madness but it is also one way of coming to terms with the end of a holiday.

We are now waiting for the pictures to arrive. The pictures have turned into a serious business, not just an exercise in nostalgia since our objective is to write our travel diary and post our pictures in it. There is also music to go along. We recorded some great local rjasthani songs. I have to now pull myself together to begin writing the 'desert notes'.

I woke up this morning early to get into shape. After a holiday I tend to plan fresh for the next six months. My priority is to go to a gymn to exercise. Otherwise I find my body unfit and loose. The swimming session was buried unceremoniously quite early in its career. I am still not in the mood to learn swimming afresh and to come to terms with a new medium. I would rather go to a gym. Have to find a gym immediately.

There is lot of work pending. Cases, writing, publishing the travel diary and so on and so forth. Since Diwali is round the corner, I also have to buy clothes for everyone in our complex. This is one festival that I like. So much of lights and bonhomie.

Oops. I am really drifting. But thats how morning thoughts always are. In a sense taking stock of the situation. I feel I have been away for a long time. A good holiday gives a solid break from the routine. MAybe that is the way to measure the quality of a holiday.

Readers, very soon u will find Bikaner unfolding before your eyes in prose and pictures. I am making a public announcement so that I have an accountability to write.

The coffee tastes bitter this morning. My tongue is now used to the sweetened tea and coffee that I was drinking the last ten days.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

prelude to the travel

I will be travelling the next one week, almost ten days. How bland it seems as I am writing it out here. I have been so excited, so looking forward to this trip and yet it sounds so insipid. Unless you are careful with words they can truly screw up one's life.

Maybe the words are deserting me. I will try and put it as simple as possible. I am travelling to the desert town of Bikaner which is more than 1700 kiklometers from where I stay. It will be a two day train journey. Afetr reaching Bikaner we are planning to go into the surrounding villages, camel riding and so on.

We are armed with a radio, lots of boks. i am taking five books with me which is a bit too much for a week long holiday. I always dread that i will run out of books.
Looks like I am not in the mood to write anything today. I hope to write more when I return.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I miss my melancholy

I feel sad that I stopped writing my blog so abruptly. I was writing almost two pieces everyday. And then I stopped. I know why I stopped. I was no longer lonely. i was busy. Busy having another person around, my man. It sounds sexy to have your man around. But my bane is that i relax and get rusty. My creativity stops. I need an atmosphere of bleakness, melancholy and loneliness to write. I cant write about happy moments. I like being happy but they are not great stuff to write about.

Coming to my man. He came home and I stopepd writing. I hate to confess it. I dont want to go into the reasons too. Some are obvious. some are not. Maybe I dont wish to reveal them all. Some day i should write about my man. An extremely important person in my life not merely because I am wedded to him. Thats the least of the parameters. But I also dont want to be predictable about it. I realise I have some hangups about it.

Anyway the last few days have been good in terms of work and discipline. I went through a severe pre menstrual stress where I was almost ill as my hormones were dancing aroud coming to their preordained balances. It was bad. If I were alone my blog would have been replete with the experiences of PMS. My readers missed it. But I am sure I will write later as I still have to go through many more years of PMS. It is a long way to go.

Today I am rid of all the blood flowing out. Feel quite clean and proper. Despite being a feminist, I am yet to overcome the sense of dirt associated with my menstrual cycle. Maybe because it stinks and it hurts. So why should I like it?

I am glad that i got back to my blog.