The proud father waves goodbye to his tearing daughter. The train pulls slowly but surely out of Chennai Central. It could be the first time she isn’t spending Onam at home. The father doesn’t seem sad. Guess he is happy to leave the sweltering sauna behind and return home to the last big drops of monsoon.
He is heading to Kollam (Quilon). So I shall be seeing his rather innocent grin for 10/12th of my journey. I reduce it to 5/6th just when the rather big lady in the coupe next to mine lets off a shriek and climbs on to her seat. That was pretty quick for someone so big. The reason for her excitement - a small mouse the size of my palm innocently nibbling on some tidbit - only adds to the humour of the situation. The lady’s husband seems rather indifferent to it all. Nothing, not the screams of his wife or the hungry mouse, seems to distract him from the film magazine with the voluptuous scantily clad actress on the cover.
After a long enough glance of the cover I decide to spend the rest of the night looking out the window. In a couple of hours the black night seems to have settled down across the vast stretch and the lights of civilization are few and far between. Sleep soon gets the better of me and I climb up to my blue leather bed with a nice even coat of dust for a mattress and enter a deep state of slumber.
This isn't the first time I have taken this journey. This is the first time in the month of September though. Nostalgia is filled with memories of summer and I wake up to a view that is not familiar. The rains have painted the trees green and the ground brown and the sky grey. The painting of a landscape without any still life. The backwaters are a darker reflection of the sky above. I look out from my side lower berth window wondering if my mom has ever washed this one. She had to come around to washing the window sills on trains when she realised her two sons did not inherit her paranoia for germs and spittle and all the other bad things that seemed to live on the window sills of Indian trains.
The side lower berth window provides a nice frame to the pretty picture. The dark grey backwater. The lime green lorry riding along the brown sandbar between rows of green coconut trees. The light grey sea beyond the sand bar stretching out to the horizon. The yellow boards listing out the names of familiar stations - Trichur, Angamaly, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Tiruvalla, Mavelikara, Kayankulam, Kollam and the father wears a black leather cap and bids me farewell, Varkala, Trivandrum. This journey ends.