Published in The Times Of India, June 21, 2010.
Those who plan to travel by train during the forthcoming summer holidays should be prepared to behold the 2010 waiting-room experience.
On a recent trip I found myself at the New Delhi station with time to spare, pleased at being in that situation, as opposed to running after a departing train, normally the case with me.
On entering the waiting hall and walking in, I found that occupying the edge of one of the crowded benches was my only option, and I exercised it.
Looking around, I found that there were about two hundred travelers in a room that was obviously meant to house just one third of that number. I also realized that for some reason Airport lounges are never as interesting as are waiting rooms at Railway Stations, of whatever class they may be.
I thought of reading an engrossing book, but I soon learnt that one could do several things while awaiting one’s train in the midst of such frenzied activity, and that reading a book was not one of them!
There were dozens of couples, old and young, numerous families with several children in tow, many young men and some single young women. All states of the country were represented in that one hall, it seemed. Some were chatting, others shouting and still others, staring at neighbours. The number of dialects being used in the room at the same time was probably in excess of twenty.
What distracted the people in the room from their respective pursuits was the advent of a gentleman wearing a formal suit who began to disrobe in full view. Having achieved a suitable state of undress, the man sat on the floor and adopted a meditative stance. He shut his eyes tightly and shortly proceeded to perform exaggerated versions of yogic exercises that were clearly the secret for his impressive fitness. The crowd around him could only gape. Once he was done, he slipped into his suit quickly, and walked out of the hall without any further ado.
A foreign looking young lady walked into the hall at that moment and made her way towards the waiting area’s common rest-room. Unfortunately for her, the facility was occupied by about a dozen men wrapped only in their towels, and she had to beat a hasty retreat.
The fact that the current era inextricably involves the use of technology at its most intrusive was also demonstrated in no uncertain terms that day. Desi looking ladies in synthetic saris were yapping away into their designer cell phones. A few youngsters were engaged in a battle of wits with a swanky looking digital game-device that kept emanating fearful sounds.
As if all this was not enough, one was further treated to the spectacle of a trendy young man who seemed to be in the most tearing of all hurries. He walked into the hall at a brisk pace with one cell phone glued to his right ear, the other bulging out of his rear pocket, and his laptop bag half-open, ready for action.
Finding that there was no space for him to set up his temporary work-station; he sat on the floor next to an available portion of the wall and proceeded to type furiously into the machine while mouthing instructions at the top of his voice into one of his mobiles. The sense of urgency that he displayed made it clear to us onlookers that he was engaged in something of do-or-die significance.
Unluckily for him, a toddler with a glass of mango juice in hand stumbled while running away from his mother, and spilled the liquid all over the man’s keyboard, resulting in an abrupt end to his pursuit of whatever was so important. The argument that followed between him and the child’s mother was really entertaining.
In fact it was so much fun that I missed the announcement of my train’s departure. Before I knew it, there I was, engaged in the familiar act of sprinting after a train…