Sep 29, 2003

A trip to Bhopal over the weekend meant touching down at Habibganj railway station (the Habibganj station is to Bhopal what Shivajinagar is to Pune station, if you know what I mean). This station recently became India's first ISO 900x certified station, and I was curious to see what this really meant. In the 10 minutes I spent there, I couldn't discern any notable differences from others. The station was neat and clean, but I assumed these guys would be following (consistently) some standard practices, but judging from the fact that no one bothered to check our tickets as we exited, I guess the processes cover other kinds of things.


I don't really like to travel: that applies to all kinds of travel, local or otherwise. Usually, it's got a lot to do with my fretting too much about things. I adjust pretty well to circumstances, but I wish I wouldn't. Rail travel still remains painful, and my recent to-and-fro had most of the accompanying irritants of a second class sleeper fare: untidy compartments, people occupying/sharing/trespassing berths, leaking and decripit accoutrements and messy passengers. I have always travelled 2nd class (except thrice last year), so I know the score. But should one always settle for a chronic ailment? Shouldn't I expect better facilities all round?

Rails in British India had an Intermediate class between Second and Third. Now we have a First Class (technically a Second A/C with 2 tiers & 3 tiers), a Second Sleeper and others. My experiences with the Second A/c have been equally unhappy: musty compartments and an A/C whose setting only has two options: OFF or TUNDRA, which means my health goes for a toss. I wish we had another Intermediate between the A/C and the Sleeper which basically provides an attendant to keep some order in the coach and which also guarantees that the facilities are tolerable. I'm sure that people wouldn't mind paying the extra costs as long as they don't differ as much from the Sleeper class as the A/C & Sleeper usually do. Or else people will continue to dread being allotted seats from 1-8 or 65-72, which are the seats closest to the stench.


When no one except a handful of elders know what is going on during a pujai, the occasion often slips quickly into a farce with even the vaadyaar growing increasingly irritated at the participants being wholly incapable of following his instructions of when, where and how to make the offerings to the religious representations. No one seemed too embarassed by this ignorance, and were quick to offer the usual "it doesn't make any sense these days". The question remains: why perform the religious function if we are so unwilling to do it with even a basic degree of interest, competence, propriety and belief? I ask this of myself every AavaNi Avittam (when we change our sacred threads) when I mumble the shlokas and want it to get over soon. If Hinduism is in any crisis at all as some claim, perhaps it is because of its leniency. But before we condemn or cast away these "anachronisms", shouldn't we first engage in a basic (if not deep) study of what it all means?


I'm one of the youngest in the collection of paternal first cousins, which means that right now most of my cousins have been married for a while and have kids of their own. I can get to be a chittappa or a mama depending on the relations, but as most of my cousins know me from my diaper days, they don't quite encourage their children to call me with any of those appellations. Nor do I mind it very much, I don't care if they call me by first name. So most of my nieces and nephews call me by name or by anna as they tend to be 6-10 years younger than me, which is lesser than the difference between my age and many of my cousins. I was pointed out to one of the latest entrants to the set of nieces as a chittappa, but then they all decided that I was too young to be one. I think I should remember this if ever I start feeling the passage of age on my next few birthdays.

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