– A hilarious story on a sleeper- class journey
As young ones enjoy disobeying their parents, we too derive pleasure in doing exactly opposite to what our children want us to do. Otherwise why should I prefer to travel by sleeper class, despite my children’s standing instruction to travel by air, wherever feasible, otherwise by a/c class but never by sleeper class?

I avoid domestic air travel as I hate to spend more time in commuting to and fro the air stations and waiting at the lounge, than the actual journey time. It is equally sickening to be caged in a compartment like a safari lion in the zoo, depriving free air and the lavish sight of moving trees, hills, meadows and maidens. Hence, I avoid a/c class also, despite the concessional rate available for senior citizens. There is a thrill in travelling by sleeper class, meeting people of different category, taste and habits. Those of you, who do not agree with me, are invited to read this story. Somehow, most of the women whom I meet, and I prefer to meet them, more than men, in A/c class train feel that they are on the way to promotion as Angels

I go to Kerala, to recharge my battery, quite often. Mother Nature is lavish is her ceaseless celebration there in all her glory and more you move deeper down, more is your exhilaration in participating in a perennial panoramic presentation of pristine beauty and grace . The pre dawn temple worship after a dip in a river or pond , Karnatic music in the evening followed by Kathakali at night, colorless, odorless sweet water and smoke-free air, all around – all these remove impurities from mind and body and rejuvenate the system. And the puzhukkkalri (boiled brown rice ) choru with olan, kalan, avaial, pappadam and uppilittathu (side dishes) –aunh!ikshayayai-real enjoyment! ( how miserably fails the art of translation in its attempt to convey the meaning of those two words in a different language !)

During my last return journey from Thiruvananthapuram in Shabhari express, a very fair, fat, well-dressed woman with her dark-skinned, pencil-shaped, awfully dressed and arrogant husband and half-a-dozen children of different ages and mixed shapes, boarded my compartment at Kottayam Junction. They had with them, unusually large volume of luggage and it was an ordeal for the couple to load their movable and immovable products into the compartments, before the train steamed out.

I got up from my seat to extend a helping hand but before I lifted up my back fully, the lady managed to push her generous bottom to occupy my seat. Every millimeter space in the compartment had been fully filled by the intruders and yet, a few kids and cartons and a big jack fruit remain to be accommodated.

“Could you hold this for a moment?” Pleaded the lady and before I could answer, the big jack fruit was already placed on my head. I go mad at the sight of the sweet, juicy, flavoured fruits but to carry the whole huge stuff with thorny, thick skin on my bald head, in standing posture in a superfast express train, Sir, was not a joke. I like my woman. She is bulky like a pumpkin, not thorny like a jack fruit. But I can’t carry her on my head in a super fast express!

“I couldn’t make it to Pazhavangadi Pulliar, this time. Could this be his punishment?”

I started worrying and simultaneously took a vow that during my next trip, I would visit first Pazhavangadi before moving to other temples. I wanted to pick up a coin from my right pocket and put it in the left one, to cement the vow but my hands were not free-they were holding the jack fruit.

But Pulliar answered my vow instantly and sent a cashew nut vendor to remove the load off my head and place it on the upper birth. Instantly, I removed a coin from my right pocket but hesitantly put it in the left one. After all, the job is done. Is it really necessary to please the elephant headed God ?

I continued to stand uncomfortably surrounded by children and luggage, looking at my seat being occupied by the woman, hoping that she would develop an urge to ease herself so that I could reclaim my seat the moment she gets up. That didn’t happen.

I picked up another coin from my right pocket and placed it in the left, without hesitating for a moment as I am now convinced that only Pazhavangadi has the strength to push the intruder out of her seat which rightly belongs to me.

That was Perhaps a fake coin!

“Carry your child” So said the fat lady and placed a kid on my hand.

“My child!” I shivered and struggled to breath. “My child?” I asked her again, lightning and thunder lambasting my head and heart.

“All children are God’s children and God’s children are our children, while traveling in a sleeper class”

She had a point there.

We reached Ernakulam Junction. The children rushed out of the compartment.

“Catch them, they are getting down.” I screamed.

“Let them; they are not mine”

She explained later that the children’s parents were in the next compartment and the lady brought them along with her, only to enjoy their company for a short while.

‘Manssilaayo? Understood?’ She asked for my confirmation.

“Manssilayi-yes, under stood” I replied

At Trichur Junction, her husband, who was reading ‘Mathrubhumi’ weekly, sitting in a corner seat, got down and didn’t return..

”Your husband didn’t return.” I alerted her with a sorry face.

“He is not my husband”

She explained later that she took his help only to push the luggage in.

”Every one who boards the compartment along with me can’t be my husband. right?’

She has a point there too.

”Manassilayo?” She inquired again

”Manassilayi, manassilayi ” I replied.

I was to get down at Palakkad junction. The lady got down before me and didn’t bother to unload her luggage.

“Madam, you have not removed your luggage” I shouted running behind her.

“They are not my luggage” She replied.” They belong to my friends in the next compartment and they will collect them at Coimbatore. You take care of them till the next station. Coimbatore to Palakkad is just one hour journey.”

”Manasiilayo? Sami?” She inquired again.

I nodded my head vigorously and replied,

”Oh! Manassilayi, manssilayi”

” you understood, what ?” enquired, Ammalu, her eyes and mouth wide opened,

‘enakku onnum manassilayillallo!” She lamented that she understood nothing .

‘Athum mansassilayi’ I nodded my head forcefully that I understood that too.

July 29, 2008

Sent from my iPad

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