Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Moony's night duty slambook!

Holy Cows! How can they? Their working hours might annoy even nocturnal birds, but they stay healthy, calm and poised. Here i am feeling all fuzzy, kind of inebriated and hallucinating as i am writing this after a night shift. I have been pushed to the dark night world where the shrill whistle of trains, lousy humdrum of passengers and dull buzz of spooky night creatures abound. So, here is this moony's checklist of staying awake all night at work-

Try focusing! As minutes tick past midnight, your monitor definitely appears blurred, your keyboard resembles a cute love cushion and your swivel chair envelopes you in a close cuddle. Don't fall for that! Try to focus. Concentrate. Look at the nearest gentleman typing away like mad. You might even hallucinate his balding upper cranium a crystal ball. Try to read your future. Or better still, if you work in a passenger system like poor me, fun is on hand! Compare and contrast the specimens on view. Take your own sweet time, peer at the checked shirt, long uncut nails and bloodshot eyes. May be your distant forefathers appear on the vanishing checks on shirts. Who knows, you might even attain Nirvana fo-cussing(!) and cribbing on the gentlemen who rostered you for the night!


You are- after all, human. Nothing wrong in taking a break. Get up from the chair, walk to the loo, spend a few..ahem..precious moments half asleep inside and emerge from it in a brisk walk. Wander from one seat to the other. If it is an all women shift- Ladies, start your tongues wagging. And mind you, don't spare anyone, including the boss. As juice overflows from the grape vine, you may even feel intoxicated with all the "who's sleeping with who" stories. And by the time you feel you are satisfied with the well deserved break, you can take your next sojourn.


Have a cup of ginger chaai at 2 am! The hot and spicy chaai can work wonders to keep you awake. Take a small walk to the nearest tea kiosk, even if that means trampling on a sleeping army of tyrants who refuse to budge a millimetre in their sleep. And oh, be careful in not slipping on the banana peels and kids' piddle that threaten to drown the entire station! Revel and rejoice at the coocoo sounds, the erratic and annoying shrill whistles of engines, watch fist-fighting families and just relax!


Still feeling dull and sleepy? Why worry? You can always pick a fight with the passenger. Ask for change.  Never pick one with the 'i know all, you know nothing' types. Your prey will land straight at your counter with a 500 rupee note asking for a platform ticket. Thank Heavens! You can spend the next fifteen minutes asking him for a three rupee, ten rupee, fifty rupee or even a hundred rupee. He is definitely not going to have any. Watch him hunt for the non existent change in his pant pockets, shirt pockets, wallet, 'secret' pocket. Send him scurrying for change. He will be back after ten minutes having gulped down a glass of typical 'railway' special watery coffee or tea that might give him a happy gala time in the morning loo! Still unsuccessful? Always try to issue ticket to the second lady in the queue, wearing that angelic smile of yours, when the first lady hunts for a change. A full fledged cat fight- guaranteed!!!
Catfight- Vintage!
Night shifts at railway stations can be extremely stressful, if there are trains all night and if we end up with a CM who refuses to reduce bus fares and a PM who refuses to increase rail fares. No one can ever know how refreshing it is to see your relieving clerk arriving, in the backdrop of early morning sun-rays that filter through the window panes. Ha...there arrives the next slave;)

P.S.- Gods must be crazy and i must be extremely bitchy while writing this post:P
P.P.S.- I wish i had leprosy, i hate it every time a bugger rubs hands when handing over money! Or can anyone suggest a hand mask resembling a leper's hand? 
P.P.P.S.- Dedicated to the counter clerk Mr Sound Gopal who seldom gives tickets but keeps rambling on and on and on. Next night shift, i might hack you to death, MIND IT!!! RASCALA!!!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Lonely Woman

The sound of lathi on a dry skinny body cracked the silence of the night. With a whimper, the old man pulled himself up and tried to walk. Weak limbs gave away as he stumbled and fell sprawling on the station floor. This might have been some usual occurrence to the policeman who kept moving, landing blows on one urchin after the other. Some under the influence of alcohol, some under a cloud of cannabis and many under the haze of hunger and thirst, the railway station is an open dormitory of the poor and needy...

She stood watching the distant darkness and stars twinkling in the night sky. She glanced absently at her Rolex that read 2.30 am. Two days ago, she was revered an angel everywhere she went. The wife of a wealthy industrialist, she had been pampered throughout her thirty odd years of existence. The thought of her husband brought a dry coarseness to her throat. She shifted her legs on the hard iron bench and shivered in the cool December air. The sudden loneliness and vacuum she felt on her husband's death had brought her here. It was not his death, but his continuous betrayals that filled her thoughts every minute. Girl after girl after girl, she had been hoping that he would stop somewhere. But he never got tired...She remembered the vivid fear that gripped his face as he fell towards the thundering train. He had died a painful death, ravaged by a roaring train in the same platform.It was suicide due to business loss, the story went and she was thankful. Yet, she felt pangs of guilt that mowed at her conscience night and day. She felt at a loss, figuring out why she must live, if alone she had to live...

The old man pulled himself up and staggered to the nearest bench. The lady seated on the other side caught his attention immediately. He held his wrinkled palm over his forehead and peered at her in the darkness. She seemed lost in her own thoughts. He neared her and extended his folded arms, silently begging.  She was so engrossed in her own thoughts that she failed to notice the old man. The old man was so weak to raise a voice and he staggered away slowly. Resting his aged limbs on the bench's other corner, he curiously looked at the woman in stoic silence.

She looked up suddenly, woken from her thoughts by the sudden shrill of the approaching train. The lights catching up on the tracks looked so beautiful to her. Only then did she notice the shriveled up and weak old man on the bench. His eyes were deep hollows and his body a mere shadow of what he must have been in his thirties. Gauging her line of thoughts, the old man again extended his palms, begging for money. She looked up, the headlights of the train just seemed to rest on the old man's extended palm for a split second and she felt a lightning jolt her insides. She had found the very reason for her existence that second, that instant. The old beggar never knew how much he changed her life forever. He looked with awe at the fresh notes that were glistening between his nimble fingers. She was at peace with herself, at last...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ode to the road!

Travel...One of my passion, only next to ice-creams and chocolates:P I had traveled over 1500 kms by road last month alone, thanks to a wedding at home and my bizarre interest on doing everything the purrrfect way! Thanks to the austerity measures, we have a brand new sparkling highway connecting the North most capital city to the South most tip where Angels..ahem...are born! So, how is it to do 120kmph without much ado, munching away murukkus and laddus watching villages whizzing by? Sheer fun, until your stomach rings the first bell. Fuel for the cars and burning stomachs on highway is a quagmire- the right petrol station that doesn't cheat on you, the right food that doesn't act as a HUGE laxative!

The drive from Chennai down South on early evenings is fine, so long as the weather is cool. Cyclone Thane raced alongside us from Chennai to Trichy which was our stop over. Chappatis and hot idlis in the night in Hotel Ponnusamy, Villupuram helped us move on. Why not Ponnusamy get royalty for their ayira meen kulambu and nethili fry??? L always prefers early morning travel from Trichy to Tirunelveli, we start by 6 and pull over for breakfast at 8 near Othakkadai, Madurai's Temple City restaurant. Situated along side HP station, the breakfast of puris and idlis is just right for the wallet and the stomachs! And idlis in Madurai...oh my! Just the right softness, the texture, the mildly tangy flour and the five colored chutneys that accompany it...just gorgeous! I am madly in love with the Temple city's idlis and gundu mallis...
madurai idli!
madurai malli, pic courtesy- google image search

And the next stop over is at Cafe Coffee Day near Kovilpatti. Relaxing and stretching with a cuppa cappuccino and a small chat can work wonders for your wary body...Drive beyond Tirunelveli to the mountains is just a dream drive, as the road winds along a green carpet of paddy fields and coconut groves. Every time we smile when we cross our 'favorite' accident spots- one where my sleepy brother parked our car underneath a parked truck and another where my little sibling hit a cyclewallah! Travel these days is more comfort and fun, which reminds me of my school days where buses took 18 hours to reach Chennai from my home town. I remember the place in Thuvarankurichi where i was offloaded from a bus that met with an accident at two in the midnight...I still get goosebumps remembering the long walk in moonlight with strangers for two kilometres that night to the nearest bus station.

Oh, should i forget the broom stick swept dosa tavas where profusely sweating men cooked in wayside motels? My aversion to motel food started the day i saw one such 'cook'! Fearing the restrooms in wayside motels, my food for the entire journey of 14 hours was a pack of good day biscuits and a tiny maaza! The wayside guavas, cucumbers, groundnut bars and my very special "inji morappa"...That girl is probably from a distant past, long forgotten...

All these years, one thing that has never changed are our rural friends who always line up the highway on early mornings for the Guard Of Honour;) Women who use highway barriers as washing stones, headlight flashing 'intellectuals' who rush on the wrong side of the highway, cattle who graze lovingly on the manicured grass on barriers, women who pluck 'arali' flowers from plants dotting the highway for daily pujas, busy bees who cross the highway holding atop their TVS Excel bikes...drunkards who roll on zebra crossings and old women who always jump the road barricade straight in front of your vehicle! NH7 and NH45 are still the same, they hold special memories...they have seen me drooling on the window panes of state buses as a little school girl and now a doting mother, mixing a glass of boost for the kids armed with a flask near a parked car. Men may come and men may go...but roads go on for ever!