Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The boondocks saints in Kerala Express

It is afternoon; I am still wearing the socks, jacket and the cap that were a protection from the cold weather in Nagpur. It has not been long since I was seen shivering on the platform of the railway station. Some beautiful women surrounding me as if they are the official white cats appointed by the Maharashtra government, slim, no six packs. One of them looked seriously into my eyes, as if I was the one who stole her favourite lipstick that made her lips appear chapped. I said in a feeble voice with jazz effects mixed, “Excuse me”. The women gave me a narrow path to pass ahead to reach my seat at the end of the compartment.

I am in Kerala Express, back from home, departing parents and sisters with sweet memories that should last until a year.

I am with my Aunt sitting near the window watching the fields and mountains. We crossed Ballarshah few hours ago and entered Andhra Pradesh. The train is late by 5 hours, came a voice from a mouth whose owner is an old man, wearing a chest attached half-T sweater, bald head with a thick moustache always busy making malicious facial expressions. Besides him sits a women who always smiles half-heartedly, wearing an old aged, downtrodden socks and a brown coloured shawl covering her fat body. We are hardly 5-10 people in the compartment with no special amusement other than mouth looking each other. I always see three girls, the size of “Nayanthara”, the looks of “Sreedevi” and the voice of “Aishwarya Rai” walking from one end to the other, gossiping, looking periodically at our seat as if there is something they see for the first time. I think they were looking at the old-uncle, trying to guess his age each time they cross the space. :)

I was tired watching golmaal three and I thought that sleeping in the afternoon would be a good idea and I tried it.

Kzang, ghroom, whom, khadak, heard in the ear and the brain, signalled eyes to open the shutter. The eyes were open and I could see complete dark around me. Am I in a hell? I understand I am not a very wise person but I have done no bad to anyone to be in hell and that too when I am sleeping in a train. I was wrong; these were a dozen of people dressed in black, hairs black and appearance light black. They are the pilgrims to Sabarimala and they attacked the seats as if their Akbar, in their memory built it. They were speaking alien languages resembling Malayalam or Tamil with “u” added to every sentence. I heard one saying “randu, eithu, moonu” and I understand it was no cursing but searching their seating locations. They were soon seen everywhere, on the top, bottom, like monkeys holding the iron rods with hands and legs. Most of them had their beard grown and they were referred “Swami” (saint).

Zzz... Came twice from a swami whose stomach was bounding each time he exhaled the air out of his lungs. He was 5feet 5 inches, small round face, with German Sheppard beard, fair in complexion, wearing half-tight black shirt and black Bermuda that was not worth than 50 hard-earned grand. He was bouncing from one side to another like a teddy bear gifted to a three-year old girl on her birthday. They started chanting “Swamiye sharanam aiyappa” and then went to sleep. It was hard to sleep all the time and thus the remaining passengers moved to a new seat where we could sit comfortably.

My Sonata has its minute needle on 9 and the hour needle on 6 when I saw people rushing to the end of the compartment. They were all half-dressed (or naked) with a 2 meter cloth covering the portion below their stomach and above their knee. Most of them had soap and a plastic bottle cut from the middle. They were planning to bath in the shaking, trembling, unhygienic toilet of the train. The ones who completed their “banjara bath” started to makeup with 4-5 types of bhasm, chandan and sindoor. It was not over but started following the long prayer sessions and drying celebration. The train was decorated with the black dhoti, half pants and undergarments of the swami’s. Flowers ranging from rose to jasmine were scattered on the floor with apple and groundnut waste as an added effect.

It is hard to explain where we were; sabarimala, pamba or a train? Swamis were not going to leave us and thus they started their second session of bath and toilet festival, followed by normal prayers and “chaddi decorations”.

I departed them with hand waving and over acting moments at Ernakulam Junction. I would remember this journey and this would help me plan my tour :)
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