You must have travelled, once in a while, very early in the morning. I know most of the people do, as early morning and late night travel is what most of us prefer to save the day light hours of work and if you haven’t travelled during those hours, when humans are actually supposed to sleep biologically then, congratulations, you are the happiest person on this earth because you never had to kill yourself by waking up during those sweet hours of sleep to travel and finish a task that usually keeps the today’s civilisation awake.
I have experienced how bad it is to wake up and look at that alarm clock and beg it to slow down so that I could sleep a bit more. But, time and tide waits for none!!!! Every time I am travelling early I feel a strangeness in the events that happen around me. All I mean is that the early morning is the time when most of the world is sleeping (except those guys in India who work for America in some call center). Recently I had a chance to wake up at 0300 hrs. to travel 300 Km to reach a fish farm to get my experimental fish. Here are some of the things that I noticed, found amusing and thought to share them with you all. To begin with, if you have read my earlier blogs then you may be knowing that I stay in a metro city in India called Mumbai (earlier Bombay). This is a city, that the whole India knows, doesn’t sleep. But, 04:00 a.m. is the time when even owls retreat. Late night party goers, late night working people etc. all usually sleep at this hour. So when I had to reach railway station 4Km from my hostel, I needed an autorickshaw. I, with my friend walked slowly out of the main gate of the University campus and found three autos lined up. I guessed they were there to pick up early morning travellers and make some extra bucks as the rickshaw fares at those hours are higher. I reached the first one and was happy to hear the engine running. I understood that the driver was warming up the engine and was ready to go. On approaching the auto I found the driver sleeping on the passenger seat covering him with a thin white woolen shawl. I called twice but then stopped, fearing that he may get annoyed if I woke him up. Then we approached the second auto. The driver was sleeping again in the same pose as the earlier driver. I called once, I called twice and the driver sprang up throwing his shawl down. He had in his hand a mobile phone playing some movie that had a hero with heroine’s hand in his hand running away from a large plume of fire. He pulled out his earplugs. I looked at his facial expressions. He wasn’t annoyed that means we could ask him to take us. I told him what we wanted form him and he agreed. He asked us to sit on the seats warmed up by him in that cold morning. He said he was going to urinate and would be back in a minute. While he was away, I was wondering if it was my call or the explosion in the movie he was watching that woke him up. Whatever, I thank those guys who have transformed mobile phones into such a ‘time-pass’ device. It has something for everyone. If you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend (I am not concerned about your sexual orientation) then you can spend hours consuming your talktime and if you are not that lucky then listen songs, watch movies, take photos, surf internet, you name it and it does for you. I recently heard that they are going to make mobile phones that work as shavers and umbrella.
Anyways, we started our journey towards the railway station and reached there. We had to catch a local train from the station where the rickshaw dropped us to another station from where we would be catching another train carrying us 300Km. We reached for the ticket counter and found a sleepy clerk with anger on his face. We asked for a ticket, provided him with exact change still he threw that ticket with disgust towards us. Huh! nobody wants to work that early. His wife would be sleeping alone at his home. I understand buddy. I too had left my sweet sleep on my bed in my hostel room number 312.
Now was the turn to catch the right local train. We got a slow train that would stop at all the stations unlike the fast ones which have limited number of stations and stop only at the important and busiest ones. Perhaps it was not the time when the fast train services begin. Right, we were the nocturnals, even the trains sleep at this time. Signboards were flashing LEDs, telling us the train information. We ran to catch the right train. Running, when India is sleeping. We got into the train and found just around twenty people sitting in the whole compartment. As the train was to start, a family came running in. A man with his wife, a daughter of about ten years old and a younger son. Boy had squint eyes. As the family rushed in, they threw their luggage before them and all the twenty sleeping heads erected. Few looked at the family and slept again, few kept on scanning their activities, few lifted their noses in disgust of waking up again while few just didn’t bother to notice what made that sound; they were simply looking at zero searching for their sleep again, they found it soon and slept again. I started observing the family that just had barged into our compartment. The man stood near the door, his wife found a vacant seat for three and slept, the boy slept too. The girl was awake and alert. She drank some water form her bottle. Suddenly the train gained speed and the speakers in the train announced the name of the next station. The girl smiled hearing that. Around twenty heads woke up again and did the same drama as before and slept again. The girl spotted a digital sign board in front of her. These sign boards tell you to be aware of pickpockets, buy tickets using new technologies and avoid queues, they tell you not to spit in open, not to smoke as it causes cancer and at last it tells you the next station and the destination. I find them the most annoying thing on a train as no one bothers what it preaches and I have an annoying habit of reading them all the times. I have been reading the same thing for last one year. I don’t smoke, I don’t spit in open, I use internet to book my tickets, I take precautions to avoid being robbed of my belongings still I read them. I find reading the same thing boring and annoying still my eyes catch those signboards with green LEDs displaying the messages. It’s tiring.
As the train kept moving, it kept on stopping at the subsequent stations. People kept walking in and few walked out. Every time before a station arrived and when the train left, the speakers announced and the heads woke up in unison and drooped again one after another. The train moved, it danced on the tracks, the catches hanging from the roof of the train to provide support for the standing passengers in the train were swaying with the beats of the tracks as the train moved on and with them swayed all the heads together in rhythm. This was that perfect co-ordination in a group that those dance masters keep searching from active dancers on the dance floor. Ask them to meet me and I will show them the perfect example of group co-ordination in response to rhythm and that too from sleeping people.
I noticed that I was not the only person reading that digital board. That little girl who had entered with her family at the same station where we entered was also interested in reading it. She would read it every time. She was one step ahead of mine; she was repeating what the speakers announced too!! And every time she would match the slang of that feminine sound coming from the speakers, she would smile at herself. She kept on doing it every time.
Suddenly somebody’s mobile phone rang. I could make out that it one of those brands launched by China that had been giving tough competition to giants like Nokia and Samsung. They look like Blackberry or any of those high-end smart phones in the market, are packed with functions, sing songs in a shrilling sound that can pierce eardrums and are just 1/4th of the rate at which other reputed brands sell their handsets with just half the number of functions that these Chinese brands boast of. I just hate these mobile phones for the reason that will be clear in my next observation. The mobile phone rang and rang at the volume louder than the alarm clock that any of the travellers in the train at that time would have used to wake them up for their morning journey. This time not only did the sleeping heads wake up but the dreaming eyes too were popping to see what happened. The most surprising thing was that the owner of the mobile phone was still asleep. Slowly the ringtone which was a song from some B grade Indian movie of mid-nineties’ started to create panic in the compartment. People were searching the source of the sound. And then a man moved. He was hiding under his shawl, sleeping. He removed his shawl, the tone became louder. He opened his jacket, the tone became much louder. He put his hand under his sweater through its neck and pulled out that loudspeaker from his chest pocket. Now the tone was unbearable. He looked at the screen, puckered up his face and, lo behold, pressed the red button. It was a call from a telemarketer that he didn’t want to attend. Grrrrrrrreeeaatt!!!! First these cell phones and then these telemarketers have made our lives hell. As he kept his phone back into his pocket and prepared to bury himself again under his shawl people threw disgusting looks at him. I am sure some were even thinking of killing this guy. I was, at least, having plans to throw the damn thing out of the train. Since such cell phones have been launched, mobile phones are no longer personal devices. People buy them, load songs and play them anywhere they feel like. Why doesn’t Govt. just ban the use of such phones in public places as they have banned smoking. Anyways, the sound of the phone was dead and the owner was back into the comfy of his shawl. But, this time none of the heads drooped. The ringtone had done the damage. The heads were erect, brains functioning, eyes popping out, watching out of the window picking up clues of the place where the train had reached. Some eyes joined mine and the girl’s reading the sign board.
(The line diagrams that you see are dawn by me half asleep at 0200 hrs )