This Post was first published @ N-zine . Could be read there as well.
The young boy was jostling with people looking up the reservation charts on the board, he was scanning it from top to bottom looking for a particular name. He stopped at one point, his heart started pounding, probably found what he was searching for.
“Anna, here look! Your name! Come here and see!” shouted the excited boy turning towards a young man standing a little far from the crowd.
“See! M. Subbaiah M26 ! It’s confirmed!!!” Cried out the boy in excitement.
M. Subbaiah looked up the list for his own satisfaction and smiled widely with relief.
“Great!” Subbaiah spoke for the first time in minutes and pulled his brother out of the crowd in front of the reservation board.
The brothers walked cheerily towards an old lady standing near a lamp-post and guarding the luggage.
“What happened?” asked the old lady with concern clearly showing up in her face.
“Guess!” smiled Subbaiah stopping his brother from speaking out.
“Tell me, please what happened? Is it confirmed?”
“Yes Amma it’s confirmed” the young boy blurted out unable to hold it anymore.
Amma looked up and gestured a ‘Thank you’ to God.
The brothers picked up the luggage and walked towards the coach, their mother following now that Subbaiah has a confirmed berth.
The train started at right time and was slowly pulling out of the station. Subbaiah or Subbu as he preferred to be called, was standing at the gate of coach waving Goodbye to his family left back on the platform.
Subbu returned to his seat and started looking out of the window. The goodbye was not as difficult as he had thought it would be. The scenery outside the window was of buildings concealed by walls and slum shanties around the walls, the view started bringing back many memories.
The walls beside the tracks were whizzing past, though much was not visible beyond the walls but Subbu could visualize every lane, every street, every shop, every house, every nook and every corner. After-all he had lived there, in that town since his birth. Naturally everything was so familiar to him but now this very familiarity was stifling him. He wanted to leave all the familiarity behind and move in search of something unknown and something new. That’s why when he got a job in a faraway place in the mountains he accepted at once. His Amma had agreed with a heavy heart as she could not see her first born suffer so much in this town. Lost in his own mired world Subbu shut his eyes and soon fell asleep.
The train was running on its own rhythm and some of the passengers were chatting, some haggling with the vendors, some reading or playing cards and some like Subbu sleeping fast and sound. Just then the Pantry attendant came along enquiring about the passengers’ dinner plans. He saw Subbu sleeping so woke him up and asked “Sir, What do you want have for dinner?”
Subbu was so startled and surprised that he couldn’t understand what the man was trying to say, so the Pantry attendant repeated his query. Subbu groggily shook his head and replied “No thanks, I have my dinner”. Amma had packed his favorite Chitranna(lemon rice), Curd rice and Aavakkai (Raw Mango Pickle, Andhra style). Subbu checked the bag containing his food once and when found it intact, he went to sleep again smiling blissfully.
The next morning Subbu woke up to the famous sounds of “chai garam” (hot tea) /”coffee coffee” calls of the tea/coffee sellers. He called one of the tea vendors and ordered one cup and paid the vendor from his upper berth and enquired whether the train was on schedule or not. The tea vendor replied it was running an hour and half late, with a big smile. Subbu took a sip of the piping hot tea and told himself “A perfect start to the day! Aaah!” the tea was nice though not as good as Amma’s but still he was happy as he got his daily tea served in his bed.
After finishing tea and visit to the toilet Subbu saw the Pantry attendant coming asking for breakfast. When the Pantry attendant came to him, Subbu asked “What do you have?”
“Bread Omelet, Bread Cutlet and Upma” the Pantry attendant uttered mechanically.
Subbu enquired little surprised at the list of items “You don’t have idli/vada?”
“No sir, only Bread Omelet, Bread Cutlet and Upma, tell me Sir what you want?”
Subbu got a little irritated at the fact that a train from South India did not offer idli/vada for breakfast but did not want to spoil his pleasant mood.
The Pantry attendant turned to the next passenger. Subbu thought no problems if the Pantry doesn’t serve idli the next station would certainly have a idli/dosa stall. The thought having hot, fluffy idlis with morning newspapers made Subbu smile.
The train slowed down, Subbu climbed down from his berth and saw the train was entering a station. He put his slippers on and told a co-passenger to keep an eye on his luggage while got down at the station for breakfast.
Subbu stepped onto the station, it was quite busy with passengers moving in and out of the compartments. The different vendors were declaring their own wares at the top of their voices. He started searching for Idli/Dosa stall and started walking up and down the platform but to his dismay he couldn’t find one. He asked one of the stall owners who shocked him by saying that there are no idli/dosa stalls in the station. Subbu got totally disheartened meanwhile the train blew the horn and started moving with a jolt, he got into the train hurriedly.
Subbu was very upset and also feeling hungry but he had not ordered anything to the Pantry so he drank water and waited for the next station.
The story was same at the next station but this time Subbu had used his brain and purchased some fruits and cakes, which became a makeshift breakfast for the day. He remembered his Amma’s words “Why are you going so far away you won’t be able to get proper food. Ok let me pack some idlis for your breakfast in train” but he had refused saying that he had heard that South Indian food was very popular throughout India, he will get it and adjusting the food habit is a very small cost he has to pay for relief he would be getting by moving away so far.
Next morning too Subbu had to manage with fruits, cakes and biscuits, though this time puri/sabji was on offer but he didn’t want take the risk.
His train reached its destination with about two hours delay. It was evening by then and he had to take another train to the mountains scheduled about four and a half hours later. He thought that the delay was a good thing for him as his waiting time had reduced. He felt little hungry as it was snacks time. He went in search for the coveted Idli as he thought he was in a huge station in a large metro city.
To his delight he spotted a stall which had Idli,Dosa,Vada etc on its menu so he very excitedly placed the order for Idli only to be told that Idlis were not available as all were sold. Subbu’s frustration knew no bounds he felt God was playing a strange game with him. He didn’t lose hope he asked the man at the stall about any other place where he would get Idli. The kind hearted man told him about one of the South Indian restaurants in the city.
Subbu immediately set-off after calling his neighbor Saritha Aunty about his safe arrival at the city and leaving his luggage at the railways locker . He was overwhelmed by the large city and its tall buildings and wherever he looked there were swarm of people moving around hurriedly, vehicles cramming every nook of the streets and lanes. It seemed everybody was in a hurry, no one had a moment to spare. On reaching the said restaurant he was informed rudely that they don’t serve snacks at that hour only meals were available. He decided to return to the station as he didn’t have much time to left for his train to leave. He didn’t want to be stranded in such a heartless city.
He reached the station barely fifteen minutes before his train’s departure. But he got into train just in time after rushing around. He was cursing himself for venturing into the hostile city for Idli in the process couldn’t have or pick-up any dinner. It was a night train so didn’t have any pantry services only water, biscuits, cakes, chips etc light snacks were available. He somehow managed with them. The journey was teaching a number of lessons to the small Towner like him thought visibly distressed Subbu.
Subbu’s train reached at the scheduled time in the morning stepping at platform he could feel the chill the mountains. He got out of the station and took a taxi as he was instructed by his employer. After travelling a while he could see the majestic mountains ahead and the taxi began it’s ascend up the mountainous roads. The scenery was so beautiful that it took out all the bitterness and frustrations residing in Subbu. The driver was very cheerful and showing him places en route. He was playing very beautiful songs in his car audio in a language which Subbu didn’t understand but liked every bit of it.
When he reached his cottage the old caretaker and his grandson came running and helped Subbu unload his luggage and took him inside.
The caretaker told Subbu to freshen-up, while he is laying the table for his breakfast. Subbu smiled wistfully at the mention of breakfast. He quickly got fresh as he was hungry and reached the dining table and was almost in tears when he opened the lid of the container.
Dear Amma and Srinu,
You will be very happy to know that I have reached here safely and settled without much difficulty. This place is very beautiful, people are also very nice, kind and helpful. There’s a lot to write about but right now I am little tied down in taking over my new job.
This year during Srinu’s vacations you all should visit here. Yes don’t forget to pack enough Idlis to last the whole journey. Rest all is fine here and don’t worry you’ll get hot and fluffy idlis with coconut chutney and delicious sambar served to you every morning right here.
Note : This is work of fiction any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely unintentional.