Thursday, April 03, 2008

Of Inventories and Itineraries

27th March, 2008

It's been more than 2 years since I've updated this blog – not for lack of time, though. Maybe my blog writing bug is tied to Indian soil :)

We are finally back in India!! After a year of living out of suitcases and on the goodwill of friends, we are ready to do a year more of that, albeit in a more planned fashion. Most of our stuff is not with us but in boxes in my parents' basement or in suitcases in Dwiji's parents' attic. A comprehensive inventory of our worldly possessions was necessary, with constant updates required when we sent stuff ahead with my Dad and brother, when we had to prioritize and leave things behind etc. etc. Of course, some slips are inevitable – I forgot almost all my saris with mom in Canada. Well, I'll manage somehow!

All of our travel planning has required itineraries and more itineraries. These days I'm often mixing the words inventory and itinerary to Dwiji's great amusement (coming as it is from the self-proclaimed English whiz). But I guess they are closely connected in my head – where to go and what to take...

The first two weeks of our return has been devoted to catching up with family and friends. We have spent time in Bangalore and Rajahmundry so far. I've had to deal with a couple of digestive upsets – apparently, my stomach is not as tough as it used to be. Hopefully, it will resolve itself before we land in Sitapur, UP.

One thing I have sorely missed about India are the train rides. Yeah, they can be messy and long, but they're still more comfortable than traveling by plane or bus. And sometimes one gets to meet some real interesting people. In our journey from Bangalore to Rajahmundry, we met a lot of Indian Railways employees traveling home for Holi. There was a station master, a train guard and a locomotive driver. They regaled us with stories of coordinating passenger trains with goods trains, the latter being the bread and butter of the Railways; about iron ore mining in Kudremukh in coastal Karnataka where sometimes seven engines are pulling compartments up a 30% grade.

But the most poignant conversations were about 'suicides by train'. Each of them had experienced atleast a few people who ran in front of their train and died before they could brake to a halt. All of them have been affected by this to some extent or another, but have all learnt to cope with it. “If we can stop and save them, fine,” said one. “If not, we just have to shrug and go on.” Sometime, really determined persons wait till the train restarts and then jump on to the tracks. If the drivers are running late, they don't even try to stop. “It's not worth the bother of getting reprimanded for being late. Those people are going to kill themselves anyway.”
- Sudha

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