Friday, May 20, 2011

OF TRAINS AND BURNING BRIDGES


Prashant & I aboard the Darjeeling Local, 2009 

A friend of mine lives very close to a railway crossing in Mumbai. Local trains whiz by in both directions every few minutes and the never-ending traffic follows suit. While an average Joe would curse his fate for having landed such an apartment for the sheer noise it bears, my friend doesn't mind it much. Having lived there for a number of years, he is accustomed to it & gets anxious when the trains don't pass by regularly (due to bandhs, accidents, water logging and the like). Sometimes, he finds it therapeutic even.

I completely relate to him. In my home town Dhanbad, my folks and I have lived in places barely 100 meters away from a railway line for what now seems like forever. Over the years, our home has changed many times but there has always been a constant: the railway tracks & the perenially chugging trains. As a child, I've watched in awe as mammoth steam-billowing engines have hauled a bevy of bogies & puny-seeming human beings within from one corner of as-far-as-the-eye-can-see to the other. The whistle of the steam engine would have me rushing out to the balcony to marvel at the rampaging metal monster & the black, ominous smoke surging out of it.

I've watched, bemused, as the monster has been humbled more than once; having to grind to a halt as a Holy Cow sauntered across the railway tracks. It's had me in splits when its whistle has scared the living daylights out of a defecating local. It's had me wide-eyed by running over the silver coin I've placed in its path, reducing it to a warm, flattened ellipse. It's made me ask my parents endless silly questions about it. And it's made them answer each silly question with utmost patience. The gentle rocking of the train has often been my lullaby on sweltering, restless nights; the thududd-thududd an assurance that everything is as normal as it can be. These little things had become such an integral part of our lives that on subsequent relocations, my parents specifically looked for homes bearing an intimate proximity to a railway line.

Where I live now, the sights & sounds include a sea of humanity & automobiles, festivities, funerals and what-have-you. Everything but the constant. The memories of the railway lines may nestle in a corner of my mind but my parents still live those memories back home. They live next to one to this day...

*****
Image courtesy: Vogue India

It's a common fashion to disagree with what Sapna Bhavnani has to say, but that doesn't necessarily make her wrong. A firebrand acquaintance, more popularly known as M.S. Dhoni's superstar hair-stylist tweeted this gem recently:

When in doubt, open your mouth & spill it out instead of being a diplomatic hypocrite! Burning bridges ain't that bad. You learn to build new ones.

Yes, it ain't that bad. It ain't that easy burning bridges either when life & peace of mind might depend on it. But what good is a marriage of individuals which takes the joy out of living? Life IS after all a jigsaw of good & bad experiences, and some unplanned risks might very well put the puzzle together. Easier said than done Sapna, but a valid point nevertheless.