Am just back from a great trip to Thiruvalla, where we went to attend my best friend Beena’s brother’s wedding! This was a special trip in many ways…the first time I left Ishaan at home with Mom; the first time I saw Vinod (the groom) in 18 years; the first time I traveled without any reading material (a conscious decision!), and the first time I saw my favorite family together since school!
We left on Monday evening. It’s 6.15 pm, our ride is at the door, bags are packed and we’re all set. Now all that remains is to say goodbye to Ishaan 😦 He’s sensed something’s up and tails hubby all around the house. We kiss him and hug him and I inhale his sweet baby scent so that it fills my being…so he’s with me in something more tangible than spirit, to drown out the thought of not seeing him for the next 4 days 🙂 The whimpering begins and I signal to Pushpa. She whisks him away and we make our escape. Our journey begins…
We get to Tivim, well in time for our train, the Mangala Express (on its way from Delhi to Trivandrum), which unsurprisingly is delayed! 3 Cheers for the Indian Railways 😉 It arrives after a 20 min delay (thank God for small mercies!) during which a monsoon shower has managed to dampen the platform, the seats and our spirits! We get on, find our seats, which are not together (again, 3 cheers for the Indian Railway!) and one of which has been usurped by a family, who requests us to “please adjust”. This is not a big deal really, and we are happy to accommodate, but the fact is, we had wider seats and are now forced to squeeze into the narrow, uncomfortable aisle berths, which fellow Indian patrons of the Railways will be familiar with. Sigh…since I’m so non-confrontational however, I settle for mumbling my grievances and ill-wishes for the family, sotto voce. (What? I’m only human! And separated from my son for the first time…I’m entitled!) Hubby meanwhile has several conversations with the TC and finally after slipping a 100 rupee note into his pocket, we manage two berths together, for the rest of the journey. We are now in berths 29 & 30, after originally starting out with 2 & 15! Hip Hip Hurrah. (I do hope you get the dripping sarcasm…)
About 20 minutes into the journey, while we are still sorting out seating arrangements, we notice the train is at a standstill. We don’t pay attention, thinking it’s a signal. It’s only when we are stationary for a good half-hour that we realize, there must be something wrong. We stay on for another hour (Uh huh!), at Verna, halfway between Tivim & Margao, ‘coz something or someone has wrecked the tracks ahead and we cannot move ahead until they are welded together and safe for travel! By now, I’m so exhausted, even anger will not help, and the journey hasn’t even begun!! We chug into Margao at 10 pm, 2 hours behind schedule. By now, we’ve missed dinner (which we thought we would buy at Margao), because all the vendors seem to have disappeared! Oh well, there’s worse things than sleeping on an empty tummy…more delays for one! We bunk down for the night trying to make the best of our narrow spaces. Sleep is fitful at best, and sometime during the night, poor hubby, who’s having rather a tough time staying on his berth, moves to an empty, wider berth across the aisle. Here, he mercifully drops off to sleep. Just as mercifully, the train makes up lost time and when we wake up in the morning, we’re on schedule to reach our destination, the town of Aluva at 11 am 🙂
I have seriously begun to believe in the ‘rejuvenating power’ of mornings 🙂 It’s a new day, and though our night wasn’t the best, the morning brings a renewal of hope! And it is a wonderful morning! It has rained through the night and a light drizzle continues…the scenes slipping by our window are glorious…green undulations of paddy fields interspersed with the occasional farmhouses, grazing cows, wallowing buffaloes and hundreds of egrets, kingfishers and gulls…all awash in dew and the misty morning light…awesomeness 🙂 I discover that hubby has been up for a while, ordered breakfast and made friends with a middle-aged couple, Padma & Veerbhadra, on their way to Pallakad on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, for a ‘Puja’. They are wonderful company, and as we converse in halting Hindi and broken English, the morning passes pleasantly by. We exchange stories about other train journeys, places we’ve visited, Goa and Karwar (where they are now settled). I’ve never thought it would be this easy to have a conversation with complete strangers…but it is! I think the ‘Indian’ in me is finally blossoming 😉 The couple get off at Shoranur junction after inviting us to their home to sample some authentic ‘Karwari‘ cuisine. After a tough night, they reaffirm my faith in humanity 🙂
The train makes good speed and we arrive on schedule @ Aluva, where we are met by our friend Johnson 🙂 Boy, is he a sight for sore eyes! He’s coming with us to Thiruvalla and the very thought warms my heart! But first, we visit his new office in Aluva, set up by our friends Ajay and Tom, in a beautiful bungalow, in a quiet part of town. It is the day after Onam, the biggest festival in the state of Kerala and an auspicious time of year. We get the office tour, freshen up and have a typical Kerala-style breakfast of ‘appam & stew’…bliss! After a while, it’s time to leave for the station and get on with our onward journey to Thiruvalla, which is now just 2 hours away! I’ve called Ishaan thrice since we’ve left, which I think is pretty good, all things considered. Mom has taught him to say Baygin yo! (come soon!), which he repeats in his baby bird-like voice on the phone, much to my heart-breaking amusement 🙂 He’s doing fine and hasn’t asked for us after my Mom has explained that we will be away for a while! Well, someone’s doing well 😉 We make our way to the station once more and settle down to wait for our connecting train, the Shabari Express (en route from Hyderabad to Trivandrum), at 1.10 pm. I should have known better! The morning has grown weary and so have we, when at 3 pm, the train finally pulls up to Platform 1…sigh. We’ve misjudged where our carriage will stop and as a result have to traverse a long length of the train to get to our seats. Thankfully, we have just the one bag! The train is vacant for the most part and we choose comfortable seats without a thought to our tickets 😛 We have coffee and hubby takes a nap for an hour, while Johnson and I discuss wedding arrangements and the like. The excitement is returning now as we finally near journey’s end 🙂
At 5 pm, two hours behind schedule, again, we finally arrive at Thiruvalla station, exhausted and in dire need of showers almost 24 hours after our journey began! The last time I was here, it was Beena’s wedding, 18 years ago, and we had just been married for 6 months! Although I only remember vague details of that trip, as I walk along the platform, toward the exit, memories are starting to come back…slowly seeping back into consciousness!
Johnson drops us off at Hotel Elite, where we’ll be staying while here. As we unpack and wait for room service to fetch us two buckets of hot water (there’s no hot water on the tap!), it finally sinks in…we made it! We are here!
Let the good times begin 🙂