It was Sunday and an idea of captivating the break to visit south Kashmir in the local passenger train poured into my mind. So I rolled up my sleeves, took my peers along and moved on.
It was a fine morning although cold but sunny enough to make it pleasant. Although I have traveled by train outside Kashmir many times but it was my maiden train trip in Kashmir. Perhaps the only reason for my excitement was to travel in an environment that is colored in snowy white unlike outside Kashmir and draw the comparisons.
While I was standing along with my peers at the Srinagar Railway station, my mind was imagining the past experiences and doodling the two scenarios that looked quite complementary.
The Srinagar Railway platform looked quite appealing and clean as compared to the shabby ones outside the valley that are usually filled with half-naked “sadhu babas”, beggars and the waste. The announcement about the train’s arrival was made and in a while I could squinty see a short truncated train approaching closer. It was a surprise to see a small four-coach train that adjusts people manifolds its seating capacity.
Well, the train started moving after a while with its whistle blowing louder as if saying good-bye to the few people standing by and wakening up others. The train that I assumed to be unoccupied was flooded with people as passengers started getting multiplied. Although the train was filled to its fullest, the breathtaking landscape and snowy village fields outside were good enough to entertain me. Otherwise I had to plug-in my earphones in order to kill my time and facilitate a good slumber in presence of strange annoying sounds of chuckling, barking, bragging, backbiting, gabbing and fighting.
As I looked through the window, a giant striking outline of the sun in the east amidst the snowy white fields was giving the gloomy wintry flora a solid color complexion. Enchanting villages with young lads playing hide and seek behind the outsized heap of pasturage was presenting the scenario of some old black and white Hindi movie being played on my train window as the screen.
The pleasant panorama outside the train window reminded me of the ugly scenes when I used to travel in Indian Railways. I vividly remember how I was always taken aback after looking through the window to rejoice some scenery outside. It was either some filthy fouling crap or poor people looking for a space to excrete away their last night meals. Zounds!
Moving on, as our train reached Pampore, the aroma from the saffron felids filled the air with a heavenly fragrance. Again, I recomposed my previous fouling experiences outside Kashmir. My Goodness, what a terrible smell used to fill the air at some junctions. It smelled worse than the worst thing I had ever smelled. Even more disgusting part was the scene presented by the graffiti on the walls outside and the hoardings advertising the “aphrodisiac curatives” with weird names like Dr.Bengali, Japani Teel... Yuk!!
The last comparison was something that underlined my whole trip as out of ordinary. It was like transcending from one age to another...BANG!! Both the environments were totally opposite; the passengers, their opinions, their dressings and their behavior, it was all poles apart. On one side the crowd in the Kashmir train consisted mainly of the riffraff Kashmiri faces; Women veiled in purdah and young village teenyboppers imitating their favorite Bollywood icons with their spiky hair flooded in hair-gel…Ha-ha. On the other hand the Indian Railway crowd was more diverse starting from the “bihari” guys, “Sophisticated” elites, the ladies who lunch, dudes carrying hi-fi gadget, potbellied uncle-jees, Sari wore women and young lads carrying the newbie love novels, the “Chetan Bhagat stuff”.
The Kashmir train was airing familiar sounds of diverse Kashmiri lingos; the south accent, the north and the city. The Indian Trains, however, puffed my ears with Punjabi, Hindi, Haryanvi, Bihari and what not. Almost all tangled with some abusive adjectives. There were also the sounds of people trying to anglicize their English speaking accent to sound more pompous...Huh! I felt uneasy; both the times.
On the whole it was a journey full of drama, excitement, action and fun. And later when I reached back home, I rested myself in my room, staring at the ceiling while looking amazed and recollecting my experiences in order to find answers to my bewilderments that are still puzzled!!