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D P Satish
Wednesday, January 04, 2006 at 19 : 40

The Chalukkudy Train


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Chalukkudy. A beautiful name. A town in Trissur district of Kerala. A town if you want to call it one. A village if you want to call it one. A hamlet, yes, it is a hamlet too. There is a Bangalore in Chalukkudy. Just as there is a Chalukkudy in Bangalore.

The aperture of my eyes clicked countless times as I travelled from Bangalore to Chalukkudy. I have lost count of the pictures that the camera called my head took. The pictures have come out good, bad and blurred.

The train which left Chalukkudy reached Bangalore finally, but it also touched Kiravatti in Uttara Kannada. It may sound strange if I say that it showed us the Baragodi rivulet of Kavadikere, the mechanic shop of Gaveguli Maachanna, and the fields of Jikkode. Because there is no train to Kiravatti.

I met Pandu, the Yellapura bus stand porter, at the Chalukkudy railway station. He is not the real Pandu of course. His face was different. His physique was different. He spoke Malayalam. He carried all my luggage from the train to the platform. Refused to accept even a paisa less than twentyfive rupees. "I am doing it for so little because I've got no other customer today. Otherwise I would have accepted nothing less than fifty," he said. That was when I saw Pandu in him.

As usual, the train didn't come on time. A worker was smearing grease on the fishplates along the track. "At this rate, he will reach Bangalore some

day. Not very soon," I thought. Anyway, he wouldn't reach before we would, I consoled myself.

The train arrived. As I got in, I remembered Mangalore. I had boarded a train for the first time in Mangalore. I took a window seat. The train started moving towards Bangalore. I soon saw a big slum and heaps of rubbish. I saw marshy land. I had seen such land for the first time in Yellapur. I met the women of Baragodi who carry firewood on their heads. Before reaching the next station, I saw huge iron rods on both sides of the tracks. And Maachanna's garage among the rods.

The train reached Palakkad. In the stacks of wood, I visualised the timber depot of Yellapur. The Yellapur forest office was also there. I saw Somalia in the faces of

the begging children. Behind them loomed hoadings of Coca Cola from hi-tech America.

When we travel by train, we don't see the front of houses. We see only their backyards. Only their back doors. Trains always travel through backyards. The buses we see from the train fill us with a strange comfort. The same happens when we are on a bus and see a passing train.

I saw heaps of rubbish throughout my journey, because our train travelled through backyards. I have lost count of the Gida Siddi of Donkalla (an old tribal from a remote village called Donkalla), which I saw everywhere. Children studying in the backyards. The train halted at Coimbatore. Defeaning sound of boots. And the sweet sound of the anklets. I opened my eyes to see a beautiful girl next to me.

********

After that I sat straight. Started reading a Khushwanth Singh story seriously. Changed my style of sitting. I began looking out in a different style. My conversation with a little child, who was sitting in front of me, became dignified. A polio-afflicted boy came near me. I had seen another boy like him in Palakkad. I gave this one five rupees. I asked him about his personal life. I handed my Bisleri, which I had kept hidden, to the old man in the opposite seat. I pampered the little girl. I told her an Osho story in English and felt very happy about it.

Two passengers started to quarrel without any reason. What reason would we have to quarrel with a fellow passenger on a train? The Malayali was shouting abuses in Malayalam. The other man was a Tamil. He knew no language but Tamil. I don't know either. But I tried to make peace between them like a UNO negotiator. I explained to them in English how it looks silly to quarrel over petty things.

The little girl asked, "In which direction is the train going?"

"It is going south as fast as it can go north " I replied with smile.

The girl sitting next to me was holding her suitcase and getting ready to alight. She got off at Salem, and I looked at her face. There was Janaki in her. Janaki was my first love.

********

The train moved on, leaving Salem behind. I started to look out of the window again. I changed my style of sitting again. I had no enthusiasm to talk to the little girl. The Khushwant Singh book went back to its place in my bag. I was not interested in helping the old man. The Tamil and the Malayali were quarrelling again. I didn't bother about them. My hair was unkempt. My tucked shirt came out of my trousers. I didn't bother to straighten up.

I started to pay attention to what was outside the train. Somalia, Maachanna's garage and the Kiravatti timber depot again. The sun disappeared. Night covered everything. I slept. It was morning when the train reached Bangalore.

It is quite some time since I returned from Chalukkudy. I have been thinking about it at my office, at home, on the road, at Lido theatre and Manipal Centre. I can't remember the faces of the passengers who travelled with me between Coimbatore and Salem. I can't remember who was sitting next to me. But I still remember it was a girl.

After that I have travelled to many places. On trains and buses. Various kinds have sat next to me. I can't remember their faces. I don't know whether they are old or young.

But I can still remember that girl. My fellow passenger. I can also remember a boy who vomited on me when I was going to Madurai.


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More about D P Satish

D P Satish has been a journalist for the past 14 years. Born at the picturesque Jog Falls in Shimoga district of Karnataka, Satish did his graduation in English Literature. He is a post-graduate in Journalism from the prestigious Asian College of Journalism, Bangalore (now in Chennai). After a brief stint with the Indian Express Group, he shifted to TV. He also worked for an American news magazine called ' Image '. He has widely travelled and covered some of the biggest events from South of Vindhyas in the first decade of the 21st century. He is passionate about English literature, classical music, cinema, history, photography, jazz and Cricket. A self-proclaimed centrist, Satish keenly follows major political developments from across the World. He blogs regularly and spends hours searching for readable material from the Internet! He belives that journalism is a calling and a person meant to be a journalist, can't escape from it. A hillman at heart and by birth, Satish lives and works in New Delhi. But, loves Bangalore more than Delhi!
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