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Posted on: Thursday, 12 October 2006 by Rajiv Popat

Dad is a "Train-Person"; simply put, A Train-Person is an individual who takes a train when he travels from Point A to Point B. Period.

Other mere-mortals like me or for that matter, mom or even you, (if you are not a Train-Person) would do some So-Called-Analysis which would be usually based on a set of “worldly” questions:

  1. How far Point B is from Point A? - or vice-a-versa.
  2. How long will it take to reach from Point A to Point B by train? - usually counted in Man-Days (with a Capital M and a capital D).
  3. Are there other faster (and/or cheaper) modes of transportation? - e.g. metal things that move on 4 wheels or metal things that fly, (depending on what the answer to question number 1 works out to be)?

To a "Train-Person" these questions are nothing but trivial worldly details. A Train-Person sees the "higher picture"; A Train-Person will ask a completely different set of non-worldly questions:

  1. Is There a Point A?
  2. Is There a Point B?
  3. Is There a Train Between Point A and Point B?

But the "worldly" questions asked become profoundly important; especially if Point A and Point B are located somewhere in India.

As an Indian who occasionally reads the news-papers :) and along with the papers, the Advertisements of the crazy Discounts a lot of Indian Airlines offer, I knew for sure that there were cheaper and faster ways of getting to Point B. But we (mom and me) pretty much agreed to the Train Plan without any arguments. Mainly because:

  1. I don’t have get to have a lot of vacations with family – for the past few years I have been nowhere on this map, every time a vacation was planned - mostly work and American hurricanes (long story) have kept me ‘on the move’ and when I do return to India the holidays have usually ended. So, the "going on a vacation" part was more important than how we got there.
  2. You can’t convince a Train-Person that there’s a better way to get to Point B from Point A other than a train. It has never been done in History of man-kind. Never.
  3. And honestly (on a slightly serious note), I liked the whole idea of "enjoying you journey as much as your destination".
Long story short, we surrendered to the train person and boarded a train that would take us to Point B for an awesome vacation. The Train trip to the destination was "sofa king" (to be read very fast, repeatedly) lousy that I wouldn’t enjoy it even if I was on a highest dosage of Nitrous Oxide (a.k.a. Laughing Gas) that can be given to any two legged creature before that creature… anyways, I digress. The point is, the trip to Point B sucked! Why?

Other than Mom, dad and me, the train compartment we had boarded consisted of the following other “things” which happened to accompany mom, dad and myself:
  1. A Mommy thing – this thing was usually quite, barely spoke, but would fight for luggage-space of 9 people because Daddy Thing had paid his “hard earned money” to buy 5 tickets.
  2. A Daddy thing – with obnoxiously loud voice and sick jokes, which by the way, were so-not-funny.
  3. 3 Teenage things – all three of which, had something in common. A Taste for bad and loud cell phone ring-tones. I’ve seen people listening to some strange music, but ring tones!!? How can you listen to ring tones, even if you are just a... a... “thing”? And of course the use of ear-phones was so-not-necessary… Anyways, am I sounding mean here? I think I’ll leave it at that :)
The part of the trip that sucked the most was that these things happened to be in the same compartments as us. There was one good part to that train trip however – It Ended.

We Reached Point B. Took connecting buses to our final destination (my happy-place) and I had the best uber cool, rocking, relaxing and thought provoking vacation of my entire life (long story).

Good times slowly ended and it was time to head back to home to Point A to enjoy home, life-as-usual and interesting work. The return tickets had been booked and I was getting “prepared” for another lousy experience of having to spend another 38 hours with god-know-what kind of creatures and “things” which would share the train cabin with us this time.

But this time I was be prepared; with my MP3 player, Audio Books and the loudest set of headphones I could buy. At least sick jokes, mobile phone ring tones and requests for “a little bit more space” weren’t going to get me down after such a rocking vacation.

When we boarded the train Mom was concerned about the seats we had. Dad (being, the Train-Person) was concerned about all the other points between Point A and Point B (such as X, Y, Z etc.) in which the train was going to make brief stops and kept looking for an official Time-Table. I was concerned about the lousy company I was going to get and kept buying books just in case my Mp3 player lost charge. So, basically, all of us were... concerned.

After more than 38 hours we reached home. So, after my long rant about train-trips you would think that if I had a chance to choose between a flight and a train journey, ever again, I would choose the flight any-day, right? WRONG! Wait, I didn’t describe the train trip back home yet.

On the train journey back home other than me, the train compartment we had boarded consisted of the following “interesting individuals”:
  1. An incredibly lively girl who could speak on-and-on-and-on-and…and-on, for hours; Quite literally :). About sun-signs, face-reading, religious conversations, bhajans, jokes, cards, movies, travel (the list goes on). If you didn’t talk to her, when she was getting bored and if you were brotherly enough, you ran the risk of having her pluck a hair out of your head or hand to make you talk.
    If she was my sister I would feel proud (no offense to my existing cousin sisters :)). If I was concerned about recruiting guys for HR of any company, I would choose this girl with eyes closed.
  2. Her sister - who would ask questions, listen, explain what she knew rather well (I saw her giving some sound career advice to yet another individual) and was curious to know about things when she heard them. I casually mentioned the word Blog in a conversation and ended up describing what a Blog is and beyond.
  3. A Bubbly Girl who would laugh at jokes and then couldn’t stop laughing.
  4. Mom – Mom was “interestingly different” with these girls than she is with most other people in her first meeting. With most other people she takes a couple of days to break the ice (much like me). Here, she was singing bhajans, playing cards, talking, laughing away and having fun. We’ve (dad and me, well, at least me) never seen her get this friendly with people in the first meeting.
  5. Dad – He was putting his solid hold of English vocabulary to good use - the guy is a living walking dictionary and the reason why we never looked up the dictionary when we were young (we usually just asked him). There was this game of making words which start and end with a particular letter and Dad was in action!

During a short span on one day as the train was taking us home; people in the compartment (me included) were engaging into one or more of the following activities:

  1. Having conversations, cracking jokes, pulling legs. (Including my leg, which got pulled more than once :)).
  2. Singing bhajans.
  3. Playing court-piece - a card game (I learnt that I suck at it!).
  4. Career discussions and advice.
  5. More conversations, more jokes, more pulling legs.
  6. Stories about heart surgeries, discussion on recipes, face reading, sun-signs, studies… (Long list). 
  7. Gambling - not with real money, but with a deck of cards which everyone pretended was money.
  8. People teaming up to plan to steal my personal diary when I sleep (and then asking me if I was asleep and if it was OK to steal my diary) :)

This trip was the first time, since my school life, that I wrote my thoughts on paper and the first time in a long time, when I went anywhere for more than a week without my laptop. I paid the price for it by getting my legs pulled for using a paper pad :) – But a deal was struck.... They would have access to an “edited version” of whatever-it-is that I was writing and in return the idea of stealing my diary would be completely dropped.

There are very short extracts of the thoughts I was scribbling there 'embedded within this post' so I guess I’ve kept my part of the deal... "Technically" :).

The next day after a trip of 38 hours or so (albeit, it appeared much lesser than that) we reached Point A again. If I was to version myself and say that I was “Rajiv 0.1” when I started out for this vacation it would be ok to say that this vacation has been a solid Elaboration Phase for “Rajiv 0.2” – people will notice Major “design changes” as Construction begins :).

This was a vacation where I came back without a lot souvenirs or pictures but with many interesting stories. And the train trip back home? Well, that was an icing on the cake!

Moral of the story: When a Tain-Person tells you to board a train, you board a train. Chances are, in the end of the story, you won't regret you did what he told you to do. :)