We finally had to go to Kerala. With great difficulty, the train tickets were booked for 11th April. Return tickets were also booked in advance, I was also informed. All the credits for these great accomplishments definitely went to my elder brother Bode.
It was sometime in early February when I was informed about this and I didn’t know why I wasn’t quite taken by surprise. Istill remember how I gently smiled and satisfied myself thinking about the sheer impossibility of the trip which, for no reason, I naturally assumed and believed steadfastly. Inertia might have a lot to do with it since I had been at the same place for quite a long rustic time.
Realization of the not so fancy dream
All my assumptions, my gut feelings & inertia slowly drowned away in real time. It seemed only yesterday we had that chat and here I was at the bus terminus in Dimapur waiting for my brothers. The next morning we started our journey happily (after all we met up after a long time) quite oblivious of the things that lied or might lie ahead. The day went just more than fine.
The Journey seems to have started
Damn hot and an even hotter coach! Tossing around a hot frying pan might have been a better bet. As the engine idly pulled along through the lazy dragging day, the tip of the proverbial iceberg started showing up more than once like a mirage. And strictly adhering to the pious & religious law of the land, coaches started filling up steadily at every stops until you saw heaps of living & breathing bodies started piling up everywhere – along the passage and at the entrances – a natural human shield against any external war-mongers & rebels! The toilets had already started resembling a cosy private cabin.
A brave front
I believed I had been through many trials & tribulations; I knew what endurance was all about; I had been cornered and I had fought back; And I had with me, my brother Bobo, who had seen so much in his tender days and who still lived every day with abundant rays of brightening hope to light him up someday soon.Striking up a conversation here and there, gently shoving away the human dumps on the way with a playful smile, reading up every crumbled printed media – we surely did our bits to merge with the inexhaustible time and frame and never to fight them till darkness swallowed our own consciousness and the very purpose of our rebellion while the tired-less engine thundered away with renewed vigour through the silence of the night.
The longest Indian Railway route
“The first journey on this train always ended up as the last journey”, the experienced Travelling Ticket Examiner casually joked after making some incomprehensible lines on our tickets. Huh, that was pretty demoralizing. The TTE moved on busy with his rituals as usual. He was last seen huddled in a corner negotiating some deals with the mounds I told you about.
We tried to soothe our nerves over a cup of tea when the Assamese rolled out a railway map and started discussing where in the map we might be languishing then. We left Kolkata in the wee hours of the previous night. Holy Gosh, we had not yet entered Orissa, and in a fleet second the coach all of a sudden seemed to start burning hot and the acrid stench of human sweat, which our noses had successfully turned a blind eye till then, seemed to have engulfed the entire train finding its away to every receptacle and slowly seeping into every pore we had struggled and successfully plugged.
God we had yet to pass the long stretch of the great Andhra, we had yet to run across the whole width of Tamil Nadu and had yet to enter the God’s own land, cruise its entire length along the Arabian sea to reach Trivandrum.
We did reach Trivandrum after a long continuous gruelling ride of 67 hours healthy & sane but with a firm pledge not to traverse the longest route again on a Sleeper class ticket.
We had a silver lining in the form of this video below: