It was the season of journeys in my life – the time when I was running around to get admission into a university for my Masters’. For that I had to attend numerous entrance exams conducted in various far off centers in the country. And of course for travelling I had no other option but to choose the travelling means of common man-the train. However getting reservation at such short notice to other states is very difficult. One such unreserved journey to Hyderabad made me aware of the pathetic condition of the “General class” travelling people and indeed was an eye opener!
It was peak summer. The loud cries of the water boy in a station woke me up from my afternoon nap. “Water, cool drinks….. Water…..” My throat was dry and I felt weak and dehydrated. Water bottles were available on the platform. But I couldn’t even think of getting up from my “seat”.
The compartment was tightly packed with passengers who were on a constant look out for a place to sit. All of them were tired, standing for such a long time. I was afraid to get up as I knew someone would occupy my seat. Moreover I had to travel at least thirteen hours or so-precisely half a day more to go. So the last thing I wanted was to lose the only place I got to sit. So, I sat back and drank a sip of water in the water bottle I was carrying. I drank half of my fast depleting stock and kept the rest for the remaining journey.
It was a journey of revelations. My “seat” was just beside the wash basin and the toilets facing the door. Foul air mixed with hot humid breeze brushed past me occasionally. Even then I felt it was blessing to get a “seat” as even stretching out one’s leg was a dream in there as there was no space.
As an attempt to divert my attention from this frustrating situation I began to watch a film. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as my cell phone warned me about the low battery level. Obviously the general compartments didn’t have any plug-ins for chargers like the upper class compartments.
So switching off the mobile was my only option. Such situations truly open our eyes to the beauty of nature that surrounds us. Beautiful evening sky clad in its reddish gown helped me to forget all my discomforts.
If the cell phone had enough charge in it, it would have certainly captured the mesmerizing moment.By then I was totally tired and sleepy. I was slowly slipping into a deep sleep when I was disturbed by some passengers’ quarrels.
Yes.! This is a general compartment. One can’t expect any luxuries in here. In here is the common man’s life- raw and real – devoid of all the extravagances which their fellow passengers of the next compartments might be enjoying.
A unique feature of Indian Railways not found anywhere in the world, providing to the passengers an experience of journying in a ‘Pushpak Viman’ because every general compartment will have space for one more !