Choose Life. Choose….. Aw, forget it. Too goddamned cliched. Cutting to the chase, I undertook four train journeys in the last twelve days. The first of which was the ritual journey back home at the end of the semester. I’ve never been a fan of the day-journey-by-chair-car. Past experience has taught me that if you put even the best of friends in a confined area with little or no leg space and tell them to stay put for the better part of six hours, they may end up killing each other. I narrowly escaped the last time. The scars of war were still visible, but not enough to prevent me from trying again. I live on the edge you see. So , on the insistence of my good friend theJJ, who vouches for day-journeys-by-chair-car ( You learn to enjoy the simple things of life he says. Like the view of the Indian countryside he says. Like the gentle breeze through the open window that makes you half-close your eyes he says. I’m a sucker for simple things.) I agree to take the chair car back home.

    Now I’ve never been a lucky traveller. Never has the woman of my dreams serendipitously sat next to me on a train or bus or any other means of transport. So I think to meself, this could be it. I live in a state of eternal hope you see. So now there’s the three of us in the train. Me, theJJ, and Traums. I quickly proceed to alienate myself from those two, the seats were in threes, if I sat with those clowns there wouldn’t be no space for my dreamgirl. So I’m sitting in my chair, with crossed fingers when a mild mannered, slightly balding middle aged man asks me where seat no. 15 is. The ever helpful person that I am, I look around and discover to my horror that it’s the window seat next to me. Strike one. I’m down but not out. It’s the law of averages I rationalize. If that seat’s gone to baldy, then the other has to be for a Monica Belucci , or maybe an Estella Warren, or probably….the mild-mannered, middle aged woman who friggin ended up sitting next to me on the other side. Strike Two. I hate day-journeys-by-chair-car for a reason!

    Now I’m squeezed in between Baldy and the other one, with little or no leg space, and for some reason suicide keeps flashing through my mind. To make matters worse the three of us had the very bright idea of putting a night-out the previous night. The brilliant logic behind it being we’d never be able ot wake up in time for a morning train. For the uninitiated, it meant we stayed up all night with no sleep. So, as you would imagine, there I was, a sleep-deprived, suicidal, dream-shattered wizard with very little or no leg space on a day-journey-by-chair-car from Chennai to Bangalore. It is during such times that one experiences epiphanies. One achieves a mental clarity seldom achieved otherwise. NOT!!! I friggin fell asleep on Baldy’s shoulder! The horror! The horror! I wake up and to my horror, there I am , on his friggin shoulder. The mild-mannered idiot didn’t even shake me off. I denied it later, but there it was. The cold truth. The excruciating journey came to an end after what seemed an eternity. There and then I became Bheeshma. Taker of terrible vows. I vowed never ever to take the day-journey-by-chair-car from Chennai to Bangalore ever again. And the Earth shook and the the sky turned red and then everything was normal again.

The next two journeys were uneventful. The night trains to Hampi ( The immature kid in me just can’t stop laughing at that name) where I went for a short vacation with the folks were comfortable and I got enough sleep, on a full length bunk, with enough leg space, and no shoulders in sight. They happened to be infested with phirangs though.

Well, my past few train journeys have taught me many a thing. Trains usually smell like urine. Kill for the window seat. And never compromise on your leg-space. I write this entry just after the fourth train journey from Bangalore back to Chennai. And what can I say, I love the smell of Chennai Central in the morning.