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Fellow Travelers (standard:travel stories, 1521 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Oct 29 2010Views/Reads: 1678/877Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A story on traveling in India by train.

Fellow Travelers 

Subba Rao 

Travelling in train in India is no fun. Traveling in coach class in
particular could be hazardous to health.  In coach class, Juggernaut 
always ended up sitting next to the latrine.  Every time a passenger 
opens the door to use the latrine, disgusting odor rushes out as if it 
was stored under pressure only waiting to be released, subjecting the 
passengers in the immediate vicinity to the stench.  Fed up with 
getting a seat next to the latrine all the time, Juggernaut decided to 
travel first class. 

The first class fare on train was pretty steep; almost close to airfare,
though the comfort was superior to air travel.   Each passenger was 
assigned to an individual sleeping berth in a coupe that accommodates 
up to four passengers.  A first class coach would have several coupes.  
Each coupe has its own sliding door for privacy. Thus, the passengers 
in a coupe have to be put up with each other in close quarters during 
the travel. An attendant take cares of the first class passenger, in 
case of a need, say providing an extra pillow or a blanket.  Once in 
awhile, the coach conductor would drop by to check the validity of 
tickets and make sure no unauthorized persons were travelling in first 

During his first travel in the first class, Juggernaut's coupe mates
were all male. A pious looking man in late 60's named Mr. Viswanath 
occupied the lower berth.  He kept to himself, reading religious 
journal ‘Moksha' (salvation).  Once in a while he looked up just to 
adjust his reading glasses. The other passenger was Mr. Rasool, an 
eco-journalist, a dark skinned man with perpetual smiling face. His 
moustache was well trimmed which he constantly rubbed with two fingers 
starting at the middle with each finger ended up at each end of the 
moustache, repeating every few minutes as if checking whether the 
moustache was in place. The third passenger, an over sized man in loose 
white garb with flashy gold rings on most fingers.  A large pendulum 
like gold ornament was hanging from a very thick gold neck chain.  He 
was constantly on his cell phone, talking loudly on getting funds for 
various government projects to private contractors. It was not sure 
whether his audiences were his coupe mates or the party on other side 
of the telephone.  One thing was clear; he wants everybody to know that 
he was a very influential person, sort of a high-power lobbyist. 

The door to the coupe was kept opened since it was not sleeping time
yet.  One can see passengers walking through the narrow passage way, 
either to the latrine or to drop by other coup to meet friends or so. 
The noise from the adjoin coupe was very loud. It seems the passengers 
were involved in some kind of a card game with money changing hands. 

The coach conductor seems to juggle the seat assignment for a bribe to
facilitate gamblers to congregate in one coupe to gamble night long 
without interruptions, kind of a miniature casino on wheels. In 
addition to gambling, the attendant supplied booze and food to the 
players on as need basis.  Juggernaut wondered whether these railway 
employees borrowed this idea of ‘gambling on wheels' from an old movie 
‘Sting'  in which Paul Newman and Robert Shaw dual each other in a card 
game under the supervision of a railway coach conductor. 

Since Mr. Viswanath and the lobbyist were immersed in their activities,
Mr.Rasool started a serious conversation with Juggernaut.  He said he 
preferred the term eco short for ecology rather than the word 
environment to describe his line of work. When Juggernaut mentioned the 
term ‘Green' Mr.Rasool jumped from his seat towards Juggernaut to make 
a point how much he hated that word and how the word ‘Green' was 
grossly misused by everybody in the business of environmental 
affairs.”You know, people use the word ‘green' as a mantra to identify 
themselves as people of conscious and  I distrust them,” he said 
settling back into his seat. 

“That‘s true,” agreed Juggernaut. 

“I am travelling to attend a conference on global warming.” 

“That's interesting.” 

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