Train Trivia – 3
In this era of Limos and Champagne, writing about trains — not even Metro, mind you, just plain old Mumbai local trains — sounds downright down-market.
However, some things do leave some mark somewhere. The world inside a local compartment has a life of its own — breathing, pulsating, beating every minute of the day.
It need not be always fights and arguments. Sometimes, suddenly amidst the peels of laughter, there are lilting notes of ‘Happy Birthday to you …..may God bless you……’
Groups of females, taking the same local to same destination each day – come rain or sunshine – , form a strong bond during the travel. Each lady belonging to a different age group, coming from different social and educational background, working at different places in different capacities, come together during the daily commute and turn into travel buddies.
Such groups, especially those who take the local from its starting point, usually manage to acquire their particular corner of the compartment every day, and can avail the luxury of comfortable journey. (Lucky females, because, those who get in at later points, have to manage by standing on one foot 😛 )
Usually, the chatter doing rounds is about domestic and professional highs and lows. but if it is a special occasion, then it is properly — as properly as is possible in an overflowing, running train — celebrated. A small cake is magically produced and unveiled, then out come the paper plates and disposable spoons or forks. There are also packets of other munchies. Pre-cooled soft drink bottles are opened with a fizz and disposable glasses are raised in a toast to the birthday girl – Cheers!
Not everyone can be a part of these celebrations, most of the crowd plays the role of an onlooker. However, just witnessing a happy occasion makes the morning a pleasant one for everyone around.
Not only birthdays, but some other functions, too, are carried out with all the traditional aplomb. Especially Haldi-Kumkum. Its a Maharashtrian custom. At the time of Makar Sankranti (ie Pongal in South India and Lohri in North India), Suvasini or married women are invited at home. (A tradition to honour the married status of a woman). Their foreheads are adorned with Kumkum and Haldi tilaks. Flowers, Itr, special sweet, Tilgud, ladoos of sesame and jaggery, are offered to the invited women. Then a small token gift – Vaan – , usually some useful household item, is given to the Suvasinis.
The train ladies don’t let the lack of time or opportunity stop them from enjoying the customs. Haldi-Kumkum with all its essential ingredients is observed in the bogey of the racing train. Some even introduce few innovations – the gifts given are not identical for everyone. Chits for each gift article is placed in a bowl for a lucky draw. So each one enjoys a surprise gift item. Everything ends up in a lot of laughter and merry making.