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Month: February 2013

Never Stop travelling Sleeper Class

Sleeper Class
Sleeper Class is where the stories are

Ghaziabad station. Too filthy. Too many people. We find a place for the two of us to stand out of the way of sundry passengers and vendors and it takes some effort. Platform numbers 1 and 2. Every five minutes a train comes and leaves. Ours is still sometime away.

A filthy man in his mid forties ambles awkwardly behind her . He is above average tall and stoutly build, only his walk is slightly deformed and clothes a tad too dirty. There is something creepy about him. I am code red alert. I have heard about these weirdos in crowded places. They look miserable and harmless but are always looking to brush against a woman or touch her and run away.

You are getting it from me dude if you try anything smart. All muscles tensed, I am ready to launch a solid kick to his head if he does anything funny.

Just then, he bends down, picks up a half eaten piece of bread pakora from near the dustbin and walks off.

Something falls inside me – too dumbfounded to react!!!

Just then the PA system announces the arrival of our train. We pick up our bags and walk towards the other platform. Too many people standing on the platform. We pick a spot where we expect coach number S6 to arrive. Yes, S-6, we booked late so couldn’t get anything else. We had to book a sleeper class ticket.

I see a tough looking guy standing close to me. I am sure this bastard is going to squat on my seat and I will either have to scare him away or share my seat with him. I rest the bags on the floor. The train is not yet in sight but the rush on both sides is already giving me heebie jeebies.

The fuckers are even standing on the other side of the track in between platforms. I am sure these are the daily passengers who travel without tickets and throw those reserved ticket holders off the train who resist being bullied into surrendering their seats.

I secretly pray S-6 doesn’t stop here and just to get rid of my nerves walk further down the platform secretly hoping my coach to stop where there are no toughies. Bad luck, they are everywhere.

I know the train won’t stop here for long so it is important to not be too far away from where S-6 would stop.

Luckily, as the train stops, S-6 is right in front of us.

We get in.

None of the toughies get in the train. They are waiting for the Saharanpur Express coming after this!

We reach our seats. 50 and 56.

A hard looking guy in his mid thirties, stocky build and an old man sitting on 55 and 56.

As soon as we reach the seat, the hard man gets up and sits on another seat close by. Turns out he is a cop, a UP Police constable travelling to Moradabad who in all probability doesn’t have a sleeper class ticket and is travelling in a reserved coach partly to avoid the rush of the general class and partly out of the faint sense of entitlement his khaki uniform bestows on him.

I softly ask the old man, “Chacha, what is your seat number?”

Chacha too gets up, indicates his seat is in another coupe and walks off.

I didn’t have to use any of my brown belt third step karate badassery to save my wife from molestation or to secure my seat.

And then it struck me.

Too much travelling in my car is making a neurotic coward out of me. I have begun fearing public transport and sleeper class and this when I have traveled in meter gauge trains for the half of my life which didn’t even have any reserved coaches. Sleeper class and long route trains came during college and AC coaches and air travel came post MBA.

I remember being pleasantly surprised when I saw our Organization Behavior professor at IIMA travelling in the same sleeper class coach as us some 10 years back on Ahmedabad to Delhi Ashram Express. I wondered then as to why someone who could easily afford more comfortable travel options would travel Sleeper Class.

The professor had smiled and said something about liking to travel Sleeper Class. I had found it weird then.

But now, I am beginning to understand the value of Sleeper Class. The fear of Sleeper Class signifies the fear in me of the “others” and doubt in my ability to tackle a situation if it should arise.

Not the way I want to live my life.

Mind you, the professor’s reasons for travelling Sleeper Class might have been entirely her own but now, I too have begun to find my reasons to at least occasionally travel Sleeper Class.

Come to think of it, Sleeper Class is probably the most interesting way to travel in Indian Railways. Open windows, incessant chatter, a wide variety of people, on and off beggars and an occasional eunuch invoking your likeness to Salman Khan or Ajay Devgan to extract some money. Even the people there talk as against those in AC coaches so basking in self glory that they exchange only icy glances.

Not going all seventies Amitabh, “Sachcha pyar gareebon ka baki hai khel nassebon ka” extolling the virtues of ‘Sleeper Class’ as against the ‘evils’ of AC coaches. Not to suggest that I’d only travel Sleeper Class. Far from it.

I’d still travel air, AC and Volvos but would not stop travelling Sleeper Class or UP Roadways.

That’s where the stories are and that’s where the edge is which I don’t want to lose. The edge that’s too damn precious for a Hindi heartland Bhaiyya born in a farmer family.

Never stop travelling Sleeper Class.


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Why so much guilt tripping on Afzal Guru hanging?

Many people seem to be appalled at Afzal Guru hanging and that his family was not informed, body not returned. Many are mightily embarrassed of the Indian state and have gone into a full blown self flagellation routine both in media and private.

Martyrs of Parliament attack
They too died and families didn’t know they would!!!

Truth is, many things about Indian state suck but they suck equally for people of all shades and gods, especially if you do not belong to the moneyed or political dynasties.

If not informing his family reeks of utter disregard and disdain for human life and dignity, you don’t have to wait for a one off terrorist hanging to conclude that. Look around and you will find ample evidence of the low value accorded at human life and dignity in India. Kids remain malnutritioned while money gets siphoned off, farmers starve and hang themselves while the grain rots outside godowns, women get raped, killed and then degraded most reprehensibly. People die in train accidents, bridge collapses, stampedes – people of all castes, religions and regions. We do have little regard for dignity of life and its not reserved only for Kashmiri Muslims.

Also, his death penalty passed through successive rounds of judicial scrutiny. The same justice system acquitted SAR Geelani on a technicality. Therefore, allegations that this judgement was not judicially sound based on cherry picking of the judge’s comments doesn’t cut ice.

And then, this guy planned to attack the parliament. His men killed soldiers who came from even poorer families. He was motivated by an ideology based on hate of other religions and goes against our professed values of equal respect to all religions. If you come to kill me with full intention, preparation and training, how am I supposed to react?

The idea that violent retribution is undemocratic or somehow less civilized is also not defensible. First, you do need to be able protect the civilization and democracy and if an armed attack on parliament is not a serious enough threat, well, should we wait for Hafiz Saeed to come riding his camel to Delhi? Second, for violent assaults, the defense too has to be violent. Else we could have disbanded the army and spent all the money on schools and peace monuments.

We are decent people and we feel bad when someone has to be killed especially by the state. However, the guy killed was not an angel and there are others too training, preparing and waiting for their chance to launch deadlier attacks. They need to know we can be violent if attacked violently.

It was insensitive to not inform his family members but then given the deeply vested interests in flaming victim-hood and separatism, it was never really an option.

It was painful but necessary. We can breath easy.

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OMG Bharata! Mom and dad wore sexy clothes

Indians don’t talk about sex. Infact, we don’t really really have it. It’s just the flowers touching. Skirts and short dresses are against Indian culture which crumbles the moment it sees a woman’s uncovered leg, shoulder or midriff.

The most potent feminine form at ease with her feminity
Love or war – we dressed in style!!!

Sex is dirty, tolerable only as a sacred duty to procreate (or wait, didn’t our glorious ancestors figure a sanskari way to procreate that didn’t require genitals?).

Someone’s brilliant brainwave, very popular, and not just with khap nut cases or card burning vigilantes.

And if you look at the history of our ancestors, you find great great granddad and grandmom were really colourful people. And, am talking of the glorious past, India’s Vishwaguru days. And am sure as hell they’d be laughing their asses off from up above – granddad with a stole on his bare chest and grandmom in her teeny weeny shiny bustier.

There is sexism in our epics. There is power politics, there is discrimination, there is the evil side of men and women and there is punishment and redemption. However, there is very little of this squeamishness about sex and the idea of keeping genitals under lock and key which we today propagate.

To start with, the nation itself is named after king Bharat who was the love child of Shakuntala and Dushyant born out of their rendezvous in one of his hunting trips in the forest.

The greatest epic of Mahabharata is written by Vyas who was born of single mother Satyavati and brought up by single dad Rishi Parasher. Yes sir. Premarital sex is not something they dreamt up in the west.

All the Pandavas were  born out of wedlock. Their dad, Pandu too was born out of wedlock. Even Kauravas’ dad Dhritrashtra was born outside marriage and so was the wise Vidur.

We are named after a love child
Follow your elders, yo.

Khajuraho depicts sexual acts which would make pornhub look like kindergarten. Vatsyayan wrote Kamasutra some 2500 years back when humans everywhere else were still concerned with making fire by rubbing stones (dang, even that sounds raunchy).

Apsaras never shied away from using their sexuality for purely material ends which often times didn’t even concern them.

Our goddesses were never ashamed of their bodies – check out sculptures of Goddess Kali in her most potent and destructive form.

Vedic texts are full of sexually liberal narratives. Kama is one of the pillars of the ancient Indian way of life. The sages and wise people had sex, had kids and many times, it was way outside the confines of conservative sexuality.

Our forefathers were comfortable with sex. They treated it maturely and my guess is, they weren’t maniacally obsessed about it. Sexual repression was never our way of life.

Oh yes, we always wore sexy clothes, be it men, women or Gods. Be it love or war.



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