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A Journey!

Last weekend, Yash and I, accompanied by our children, visited Jhansi in southern Uttar Pradesh for the wedding of a close relative.  The bridegroom, Ansh, is the son of Krishna, Yash's first cousin.  As Yash and Krishna's respective fathers were brothers, they would be considered to be brothers rather than cousins as per the culture and customs of northern India.  So Ansh is Yash's nephew rather than a first cousin once removed.  He always addresses Yash and me as Chacha and Chachi (uncle and aunt).  In any case, Ansh is a regular visitor to our home.  He often has to attend business meetings in our city, Lucknow.    The children and I were very excited about attending the wedding, as it is a long time since we travelled away from home.

We travelled by train.  Now it would be true to say, I suppose, that you haven't really 'lived' in India unless you have travelled by train.  Of course, it is just a personal opinion.  But you experience so much in the Indian trains.  You see wonderful views of the land.  You meet interesting people.  If the journey is a lengthy one, it can be an eye opener to see how people eat, sleep, literally live on the trains as they traverse the huge distances of this country.  Air travel, if it is available and affordable, can give you speed and if that is your priority, then great, go for it!  But I always feel that train journeys can be a very rich experience indeed, and are well worth it, especially for foreigners like me who are always trying to learn more about this wonderful, often puzzling and mysterious country.  For the purposes of this post, I'm concentrating on our return journey, from Jhansi to Lucknow.  Suffice to say that the outward journey from Lucknow to Jhansi was made in great haste, and we hardly looked to the right or left as we hastened to our destination to participate in a wedding that was starting even as we arrived.......

The wedding, a grand affair, lasted the entire night.  First there was the Baraat, (bridegroom's procession) , then a reception at the bride's (temporary!) residence which was of course a hotel, then the marriage ceremony which took place during the night and early hours of the new day.  Yash and I took our children back to our hotel to sleep before the ceremony.  It would have been extremely difficult to participate in a night time ceremony with four children in tow.  We rejoined the wedding party for the remainder of the festivities in the morning.......

For our return journey, we were dropped by van to the railway station.  Many of the wedding guests were coming to the railway station along with us, catching various trains around lunchtime.  A couple from the other side of the groom's family were going with us as we were travelling to the same city, although we did not sit together on the train, as their seat numbers were far, far away from ours.  Several contingents of relatives were going towards Delhi, at least three parties of travellers as far as I could see, including my husband's cousin Guriya, travelling with her husband and daughter,  with whom I had been dancing and having fun with the night before at the wedding.  "Guriya' is just a childhood pet name, meaning 'doll', by which she is known in the family, her real name is something else entirely.

As we were waiting on the platform, I saw a small child, no more than seven or eight years old, sitting down on the platform in front of a group of travellers.  He was wearing clown's makeup on his little face, and was wearing a comical looking hat.  He seemed to be all alone.  I was so surprised when he started beating a small, upside down bowl (katori)  like a drum, and calling out what seemed to be a rhyme in Hindi, in time to the drumbeats.  He then produced a steel hoop from somewhere, and proceeded to perform an acrobatic trick with it.  It was astonishing.  He was a little acrobat!  When his short act was over, his upside down bowl was turned right side up and became a begging bowl, as he moved among the travellers, looking for some reward for his efforts.  I felt profoundly sad at this spectacle.  I have a little boy who is only six years old and the thought of his ever having to go out and earn his living in this manner, in any manner at all, fills me with horror.

We boarded the train slowly and carefully, as we always do.  When you have children with you, you have to be extremely aware when boarding and getting out of the train. Then there was the business of finding the seats.  Yash had booked berths for all of us.  A berth is a bench seat which becomes a bed at night.  In the day you have to share your bench with fellow travellers, but at night, you can sleep on it!  Where do the other travellers go?  Well presumeably, they have booked the berths above yours, and these are opened at night.  On the outward journey we hardly bothered about the berths as it was early in the day.  On our return journey, however, the berths assumed greater importance as night was approaching and we had to make our children lie down somewhere.  Instead of our berths being all together in one compartment, they were side by side in a row along the carriage wall, outside the compartments.  The children had to sit alone on their berths, among strangers and little Trisha was sitting completely out of our view.  Yash tried to talk to some of the other passengers about changing the berths to no avail.  He was very tense.  He always gets tense when we are out of town with the children.  He's like a lion, very protective of his cubs.  This is one of the reasons we seldom go out, to tell the truth!

The inspector came around and Yash explained the problem.  The official did a little juggling and, thank goodness, we ended up with four berths together, two up, two down.  That was really nice.  We made Neil and Mel lie down on the top berths, and we kept Trish and Nitin on the lower berths with us.  The train sped on, but by now, it was several hours late.  As long as I've lived in India, this seems to be a regular feature of the trains, so much so that no-one minds, and even allows for it!

Krishna, Yash's cousin brother, and his wife, in addition to having provided us wonderful hospitality by booking us a hotel room near the wedding venue, and a lift to their house and to the railway station the next day, had thoughtfully provided us with a packed lunch, home cooked.  We really enjoyed that meal on the train, which consisted of mixed vegetable curry and puris (deep fried bread).  Then we dozed for several hours, sleeping on our bags, although I don't believe that Yash ever slept at all.  I had made it a point of not carrying any valuables.  When you are on a long journey, your guard is down.  People travelling to and from weddings often carry valuables with them, particularly jewellery.  I hate extra responsibility and want that my priority should always be my children and their safety.  The only jewellery I wore to the wedding was an armful (well, two armfuls) of shiny glass bangles (gold and maroon, my absolutely favourite colours!), simple nine carat gold earrings.  I don't really have any good jewellery as jewellery is not and could never be my priority (not that I don't like it, but there are so many other things to think about),  so my mother-in-law lent me her pearl necklace.  I wore it there and back, and never took it off even once.  So there was no tension of guarding valuables.  But I'm sorry to say that our relative Guriya (Yash's cousin, mentioned above!) was not so lucky.  She was carrying jewellery worth around twenty five thousand Euros by Yash's estimation, and it was stolen from her on the train on which she was travelling, at the same time as we were travelling.  What a loss, and what an awful experience for the poor woman and her family.  Theft can happen anywhere in the world and it is so important to take precautions.

As the journey wore on late into the night, the children became more and more restless.  It was certainly a case of  "Are we nearly there yet Mummy?"  Various people passed us by on the train.  There were tea vendors, food vendors, beggars - and even some beggars who doubled up as food vendors, selling things like peanuts.  I hate using the washrooms on trains, but with children, visiting them becomes a necessity.  I don't like leaving my other kids and walking for a stretch out of sight where they can't be seen.  I can't wait to get back and see them all sitting in the same place.   Yash has a habit of getting out of the train for a smoke or to buy a newspaper when the train stops somewhere, and seems to wait till the very last moment until the train is pulling out of the station before he jumps on again.   He has been doing this ever since I have known him, when I visited him in India, even before our marriage.  I've stopped getting tense about it because I realise he knows the ways of trains very well, being a daily train commuter.  Moreover, he'll never change now!

All good things come to an end, and so did our journey.  As the train moved into Lucknow station, we packed up our bags and gathered our kids and moved slowly towards the nearest exit before anyone else did, ready to get off carefully as soon as possible.  Then, the scenario we always dread happened.    A group of four young men, who had been running alongside our train as it moved in on the platform, attempted to board the train without standing back to let us get off.  One in particular, attempted to push us out of the way as he forced himself in.  That did it!  Yash, ever on red-alert as he is in these situations, let him have it good and proper.  Yash, I don't know if I have ever mentioned it, can lift the roof off an office block if he starts shouting.  The young man got the shock of his life as Yash railed at him in Hindi, saying (as far as I could gather) "you bxxxxxrd, get out of our way and allow us to take our children safely down off the train, you ill-mannered lout!  We have four children here!"  The young man recoiled in shock as if hit.  He certainly hadn't been expecting that.  We got off the train and took a few minutes to just recover.  I really wanted that Yash should come down from that "worked up" state.  That was some adrenaline rush!

However, the other lovely, reassuring thing about being at Lucknow Railway Station, apart from the fact that we were back in our home city,  was the fact that our nephew Praveen had come to collect us in the family car which is dragged out especially for trips to weddings and the railway station.  All that we had to do then was sit in our car and be driven home.

You know, the nicest thing about a journey has to be the arrival at your destination!


This is my weekly post for the Loose Bloggers Consortium.  We are a group of diverse bloggers from diverse places such as Ireland, India, the UK, the USA, and Canada.  We post weekly on a given topic.  If you are interested and if you have time, please visit the other LBC members and see their approaches to the given topic 'A Journey'.  Our members are (in alphabetical order), Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, me gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria, Marianna and Ramanaji.  I should mention that Marianna is on a break from the LBC nowadays, hopefully, she'll be back soon!

Comments

  1. I love your journeys through India. Travelling by train sounds like a different world!

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  2. You're so right! No matter how much enjoyment you have on a journey, coming home is so wonderful! I think it's because you're in familiar surroundings and can now relax. Very good post! It is interesting reading about your life in India!

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  3. When you write about India, it seems different to an Indian! I suppose you already know my fascination and love affairs with trains and journeys through a few posts that I have made on the subject. This trip describing a family's journey captures the journey, the wedding atmosphere, and a little known quirk about how nephews and nieces become sons and daughters. My brother a naturalized Brit is the butt of many jokes when he calls his nephews and nieces as such!

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  4. I felt like I was right there with you on the train. You have a wonderful way of describing situation which bring them to life. Welcome home. :)

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  5. Wonderful story. I was thinking that the consortium of loose bloggers should organize a campaign to get you a camera, but perhaps your art is in the writing.

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  6. I really enjoyed this. I wish passenger trains weren't so few and far between in the US.

    India is a fascinating country to me.

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  7. Gaelikaa,that was quite a trip.Glad you enjoyed the short break.
    Travel by train is always an experience.I'm not too fond of travel by train..espl here with the crowds.You have adjusted quite well in India.Good post.

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  8. This was so descriptive that I felt as if I was accompanying you on the journey too.
    Truly wonderful.
    It's also a year to the day since I left my home and traveled to India. It was an amazing experience and I love following your insightful stories.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  9. I love traveling by train and I loved reading about your experiences on the trains in India. Train travel used to be a great experience here in the Sates. Sadly, now the trains are old and in need of repair. The dining room leaves much to be desired and the bathrooms often don't work properly.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post with us. As always you give a wonderful insight into your life in India.

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  10. gaelikaa, I feel much the same about seeing America by train! I have had many of my most memorable journeys across the land by train and you see those things not seen in any other way.

    The relationships seem so familiar yet exotic at the same time. I love to learn of the other lands our LBC gang writes from. What a delightful chance to grow and learn.

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  11. Train journeys have so far been my favorite mode of transport in India. I have such fond memories of sleeping overnight at least two nights on the way from New Delhi to Madras in just those berths you mentioned here. I didn't sleep all that well, but loved being lulled awake into a dream state at all those railway stations we stopped briefly in. "Coffee, coffee, coffee," the vendors would yelled and the answers were always "chai, chai chai!" We had home prepared meals on the beginning of the journey, but I have to admit I looked forward to ordering the next day's meals from the porter who stopped by in the evening to take our orders. Breakfast they brought to us, and we'd go to the dining car for lunch. You see so much life along those railways and like the young boy you speak of, you begin to realize how lucky you are to live your own life, rich or not, because even the poorest here enjoy a easier life than much of India. I'm glad you enjoyed the wedding trip; I presume you managed not to become ill on all the wedding food.

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  12. Brilliant post as usual Gaelikaa...so descriptive and I could feel your anxiety.
    I love train journeys. Unfortunately there are very few trains in Turkey, the preferred mode of transport being buses which are excellent, and the domestic flight service is also very good.
    That poor child...having to perform to earn money at such a young age. It reminds me of my time in Avanos where there were often very small children standing on the bridge over the river...begging for money for books for school...although I somehow feel the money ended up with the parents rather than being spent on books. Very sad.

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  13. I was there...I travelled that train with you! Oh, that feeling on a train with small children. On one such train journey with my kids, a horrible man tried to sit beside us, drunk and swearing. The kids looked at him, wide-eyed and astonished. Before I even had the chance to kick him off the seat...which I would have done....two men sitting opposite rose from their seats, grabbed the man from under his arms and ejected him from the train to applause from the other passengers.

    It's good to know that people like Yash and these men are around. :O)

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  14. Bang on! The essence of India can be captured only when you are out there experiencing things, this very well includes all the train and bus journeys. Flight travels are comparatively surreal.
    A very nice post.
    I can safely say I have become a fan of your writing and have been following it quiet devotedly.
    Look forward to more of these!
    Anu.

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  15. Home Sweet Home is well said by some one !! Nice to Read..Its very interesting..Unseen Rajasthan

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  16. I recollected the numerous train journeys that I made....
    It was an interesting post to read

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  17. I see that my comment about the India wedding street procession; bright lights, colorful decorations, elephants, music, groom on a chair, isn't here.

    You come from a refined, higher class, gentle India but I think something other than "What a lovely post" might be of interest.

    We aren't so different, both having had 4 children, smart educated husbands.

    The child that did the acrobats for money is sad, but he's probably not sad; doesn't feel sorry for himself, but I do.

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  18. Uh Oh! I see that my comment IS here. I apologize so very much. I get confused reading "your comment has been saved" & think it's waiting to be judged. SORRY!

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  19. I love reading your diary, but I can never really get through them in one sitting! You write so well and very lengthy! You should think about becoming a novelist ...

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  20. All of India is GENTLE (except maybe the boundary of Pakistan & India).

    I was thinking of gentile which is an all wrong word too.

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  21. Apart from reading about your exciting & descriptive journey, this line stood out for me - "I've stopped getting tense about it because I realise he knows the ways of trains very well, being a daily train commuter."

    It is all about acceptance. A difficult thing for many of us. And, when we do finally accept, suffering ends and we can just be.

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  22. i am just catching up on a backlog of posts here and elsewhere. i'm glad you had safe travels to and from the wedding and that it was an enjoyable time.

    i loved reading about your own hindu wedding ceremony and it has made me so curious as to the significance of some of the aspects of the ceremony. it fascinated me.

    as for the mother-in-law advice, well....it's not just hindu MILs who need that advice ;)

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  23. it is always so interesting to read about india in your posts. the indian wedding must be a very interesting experience as well as travelling by train. i agree tah coming back home is always great!
    have a sweet day,
    justyna

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  24. Oh Dear! You have discovered some secrets... If I have to travel , let it be by train... and one of the few "places" I would have loved to have travelled to is India, for the railways, music and food.

    I suspect a psychologist would have a wonderful time with my reluctance to travel but if I was forced I think it would have to be India.

    I was touched by the description of the boy clown...so many of us do not realise how fortunate we are in life.

    Curried vegetables and puris...mouth is now watering copiously....

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  25. Really enjoyed travelling along with you as I read about your train journey home.

    I find travelling with kids can be SO stressful!

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  26. Wonderful tale of a long journey home!
    Very interesting details, thank you for sharing.

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  27. "Maria", an ancient name; so simple yet so beautiful.

    Thank you for your recent appreciative comment on Ramana's blog. Even tough boots like myself need the odd propping up every so often.

    Portraying your 15 years long life in India, with a Western eye, there are many notes you hit, a lot to read between your lines - many I'd like to comment on. However, some sentiments are private. I take it that you do have my email address. Let me have yours if so inclined.

    Fond regards,
    Ursula

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  28. I love this story... I love travelling by train! And the poor begging child reminded me of "The Millionaire" film...
    Thank you for sharing this with us!

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  29. Ursula, I'd love to get in touch with you. You can get my email id from my facebook badge which appears on my this blog (when it bothers to load) or from my profile page. Near my photo click on 'view my complete profile'. My email id is on that page.

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  30. Public transportation can certainly be interesting. I truly miss the metro in Madrid. Sigh.

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