I know it has been a long gap since the last post. No excuses…!!! Just that the mind has been cluttered with too many things – chief one being the daughter’s XIIth standard exams. I don’t think I was this worried when I wrote the same exam years ago in the mid eighties. I guess it is my helplessness about influencing an outcome beyond a point. Husband calls me a “Control freak”!!! He says I would like to influence everything and everyone around me..!! May be…. But I do realize my limitations
I realize that there are many things in life that I cannot influence or control! If I do not like something I just have to grin and bear it. Yes, “bear it” being the operative phrase!
So what is it that I have to bear quietly? For starters, I would say it is the eating habits of my country men!! Yes, men! It was not until recently that I realized how much the men in our country eat!! I encounter a lot of these gluttons during my train travels. I don’t think they have suddenly increased their appetites but just that I have started noticing it more. And given their sizes it is kind of difficult to miss…
It was amazing to see a man the size of a teenaged elephant trying to hoist himself on to the upper berth in a train compartment last week! I had entered the coach to see him plonked on my seat, polishing off about 1 kilogram of biryani lubricated with some curry that he was pouring out of a plastic packet. I waited for him to finish the task holding my breath as he opened another packet - raita with raw onions in it. The smell was overpowering inside a closed AC coach.. ! I had to clench both my hands on the strap of my handbag to prevent them from going up to my nose. Colonel Hathi finished his job, drank about half a bottle of water and let out a huge trumpet of a burp that made me involuntarily shudder.
He made two attempts at climbing on to the upper berth before succeeding. I decided to intervene after the first one out of a sense of self preservation as I did not want the berth to come crashing down on me while I was fast asleep in the middle of the night. Had I been a decade or so younger I might have exhibited this fear or worse voiced it. However the experience of dealing with such situations over the years has made a diplomat of me. I made it look as though I was trying to help him when I offered to exchange berths with him. He was touched…!!! It was only when he said “ No Aunty it is okay” that I realized that the poor thing was probably in his late twenties or early thirties.
As I watched him at his “Jumbo circus” act I wondered if he was married. If he was then who was the woman who had to put up with this disgusting creature? The buttons of his shirt were fighting a losing battle with his paunch. Poor woman, she probably bought buttons in industrial quantities…
I tried to take my mind off the upper berth as the train started. There were more people around me having their dinner and the smell was really awful. I could not imagine why people who were boarding an overnight train leaving Chennai at 9.15PM and reaching Coimbatore at 5.00 AM would want to eat so much for dinner? And it seemed as though everyone was on a single menu- Biryani!!!
My nose has always been my problem. I might sleep through the cacophony of snores in the coach but smells always jolt me awake. By the time the train was at Jolarpettai I was experiencing the results of the digestive enzymes of the Biryani eaters travelling in the coach. When the train reached Katpadi I felt like I was in some Nazi gas chamber. I was trying to recall physics lessons from school –did Hydrogen Sulphide move up or down? I was kind of curious about the noises the middle aged gentleman on the side upper berth made- it sounded like a combination of a snort and a fart. Between him and haathi it was a “jugalbandi”.
I made a mental note to ask my father if I could file a complaint with the Indian railways about this? I wondered what would happen if some electrical spark were to find its way into coach no A2 of the Nilagiri Express ? Remote chances of a spark you say? But what about the synthetic blankets? I remember reading in physics about static electricity being generated when someone rubbed a synthetic material against a glass rod? Cant gases trapped in synthetic blankets produce similar effects?
By now I was completely awake! I decided to go out of the gas chamber. The area outside was equally smelly. Just a different gas this time – Ammonia. With nearly 50 odd bladders being emptied and not even a drop of water being used to flush it out the place smelt like a chemistry lab. One of the toilet doors opened. A lady was coming out with her nose covered with her duppatta!! Seeing me standing there she warned “ It is awfully smelly inside the toilet.” I told her “ It is smellier inside the coach”. She grimaced. I felt a sense of female camaraderie with her as we opened the main door to the coach and let some fresh air in.
As we went back into the gas chamber I wondered how is it that men can get away with this kind of disgusting behavior? If we woman were to eat such huge quantities or turn our posterior into a trumpet or gas chamber then we would be ridiculed. Or may be it is a cultural thing. We care two figs about what another person thinks or feels- especially if they are strangers. When we have paid for a ticket we assume we are the only person traveling.
We do not want to adapt to a situation even temporarily. Eating huge amounts, burping and farting are among the many things that are part of this glorious Indian culture. I think I should learn to adapt to it. After all, what cannot be cured must be endured!