The nosy co-passenger

It was going to be a long journey to Mumbai, I told myself, as I surveyed my co-passengers in the train compartment. A family of four, comprising an elderly woman, a young man, a young woman, and a toddler (along with 4 large suitcases and 5 bags), were struggling to adjust their luggage under the seats and themselves on the seats. The elderly woman was the boss. No argument there. She decided how and where the luggage was to be placed, the seating and sleeping arrangements for her family, etc. She bullied the man (her son), was quite nasty to the woman (her daughter-in-law), and kept calling the child (her granddaughter) an idiot. She picked a fight with the coolie and shouted him down with the choicest abuse and sheer volume. She had a “Lalita Pawar” (for information on who she was, click here) kind of look about her with a screechy voice to match, and it didn’t take me long to name her that.

Yes, it was going to be a long journey to Mumbai in a Sleeper Class coach of the Mumbai-bound Madras Express. It was the year 1997 and a beautiful November morning in Chennai and a perfect day for travel. But somehow with the arrival of my Lalita Pawar,  the day just didn’t seem so beautiful any more.

Once settled, Lalita Pawar turned her attention to her co-passengers. And that was my cue to hastily bury my nose in a book. It was a look that I had seen many-a-times during my travels. It was a look that promised to dig out personal information from a co- passenger, particularly a young woman travelling alone. In fact, I could almost see Lalita Pawar rubbing her hands with gleeful anticipation when she saw me. Though I could feel her eyes boring into me, I did not look up from my book.

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Ladies compartment, 8.47 local: Book release function and review

Sometime early last month, Mumbai experienced a few days of gloomy, cloudy, rather funny weather.Though this type of weather was quite uncharacteristic for Mumbai, it was  typically London weather. And suddenly I was remembering and missing my days in London. On a whim, I put a status update on my Facebook wall about missing London, which elicited some responses. One of the responses I got was this:

You really miss England, don’t you? Go back, Sudha. Steep yourself in the legends and the history, touch the old walls and let them flow up your finger-tips into your heart, let the lakes and the streams and the little sudden springs soak into your soul, let the 40 shades of green fill your eyes and mind, let the cathedrals and the quaint corners whisper forgotten secrets and fervent prayers to you. Then come back home again.

As I read these beautiful lines, I did “travel” back to England, experience all that it said I should and came back “home” rejuvenated. And excited. Excited, because these lines had been written and posted by Suma Narayan, whose first book I had agreed to review. If these lines were a preview of what Suma’s writing would be like, I knew that the book would be a good read.

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