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.