I feel the chill on my feet and moan out loud. A deep dive into the blanket, and it feels better. A few gymnastic moves and my world is warm and cosy again. There is a distant rumbling happening, but it seems like a pleasant lullaby. There are some aromas around, but I cant figure what is what. Coffee maybe. I smile and think that Laks will be pleased. The faint light falling on my eyelids feels like a caress. Not intrusive, but comforting. My eyelids fall prey to temptation and open. The compartment is still dark, but the sun is already creeping through the tinted glass of the windows. Can hear some faint conversations, but it seems like a dream. And the feeling is of calm aloneness – not loneliness; of presence and yet emptiness, of drifting and yet permanence. The smile again, and I feel my facial muscles stretch again in welcome relaxation. No stiffness, no appearances, no effort. Eyes close again, and it is oblivion once more.
The dream was warm. The voice was rough and cheerful. And while I struggle to drown the voice, the cheery greeting beckons me. I dive for the blanket once more, and I can hear him laugh through the muffled depths. A few more moments of cosy lovemaking with the blanket, and then I surrender. I look up to see Morning Freak grin at me. I gave him a disgusted look, and huddle up with the blanket. Once comfortably settled, I gaze out of the window. The silence falls again. The window is tinted, and it seems like a sepia landscape outside. Brown with fades edges. And yet, fresh and alive. Familiar, and old, and yet so full of vibrance. And it was home.
I complained to MF that I couldn’t see the greenery, and that it was no fun with the tinted class. It was not true. Every time I have seen this land, it has been in joyous green splendor. Rich and lush and warm, with an intensity that left me spell bound. The rich bright green paddy fields, the dark aggressively green coconut groves, the brownish-green rubber plantations, the pale green jackfruits hanging on huge tall trees, the slippery green moss around dark ponds, the almost fluorescent green hyacinth enveloping the small ‘thodu’, the thick lush green shrubs and vines hugging the fences – I have waxed eloquently about these, and have never tired of these. And this time it was different. But not any less beautifull.
A lamp in the veranda. And the thulasi in the yard. The old man was sitting on the ‘aramadhil’, his newspaper stretched in front of him.
She was wearing a ‘macksie’ and had a wet ‘thorthu’ on her head. She is sweeping the yard and smiling at she watched little Appu and Kalyani play.
Next door, Janakiamma is cutting banana leaves. Is it Adda for breakfast today?
A winding road along the railway track, a few cyclists, a fisherman on his Luna, the lamp posts still lit, the red earth on the paths merging with the grey of the tarred road. The tea shop on the kawala. A few lungi clad men sitting on the wooden benches as Mathaai is cooling the tea. His hands moving in a rhythmic motion, as the tea falls neatly into the stainless steel mug.
The paddy field is far reaching, its edges kissed by small water canals. In the middle of it, there stands a huge poster of a jewellery shop with a promininent mallu actress.
I smile as I emerge from my reverie. MF is asking him as to why I am not talking. I tell him that I am the quiet kinds. He is hungry and so am I. We debate on what we should eat. Idli, Vada, Dosa, Appam. The train pulls into a station, and MF jumps out. A plate of idli vada, and two cups of coffee, and we are at peace. I settle back once again. I am so often fighting with MF that he was almost off-balance to see me quiet and calm, giving him the blank content dazed lookJ. The train moved along.
A bus alongside the track. The passengers gazing curiously at the compartments, the ‘kili’ on the footsteps smiling and waving.
A bunch of them, giggling, their bright faces glowing with youth and energy. Checked Salwars Kameez (their uniform) with the dupatta neatly pinned on both shoulders, long wet hair neatly combed, (with three stands taken from behind the ears and plaited), gold bangles shining in the bright sun.
A coconut grove. The uneven surfaces covered by grass. A few benign looking cows grazing. Shankarankutty in his lungi, his curly hair and ‘katti meesha’ making me smile.
A church. Deepa Weds Sunil. Lots of chattering faces. Men in silk jhubaas, gold bracelets, Honda Citys and ‘cooling glasses’J. Women in silk sarees, uncomfortable lip stick, and gossipy eyes.
The train pulls into another station. One more coffee and a little more conversation with MF is on the agenda.
The television is playing an ad for Hawai chappals. And umbrellas. Popy Kuda. The music is familiar.
The track is clean. Uncle is huffing and puffing as he jumps from the platform with his suitcase. A quick peering glance in both directions, and he is across to the other platform. Another huff and he is now talking on his mobile. A newspaper under his armpit, and a gold watch on his right hand, he walks across to the Tea Stall. Pazham pori next?
A dark face smeared with dirt. And scrunched up with the effort of crying. Nicely cradled in the arms of her mother, little Rinu seems to be hungry. Ammini gives her husband a hassled look, which he returns with equal vigour. Ammumma is wearing her usual Setum Mundum, and is carrying a Seemati plastic cover. She hurries across, her steps trying to balance her weight, and reaches across to take little Rinu.
A deep red loose shirt, and a white mundu worn folded such that healthy calfs are displayed for the world. Negotiating his ‘kooli’ with the family. A grin, hands waving at the luggage, and a helpless shrug. Hari helps him heave the suitcase, and they walk together, his gait strong and confident.
MJ is calling his parents. I check to see if I am getting a signal on my mobile. Idiot that he is. MJ has forgotten his charger. And I gloat.
They are wearing loose shirts, untucked and ironed. And he has a ‘chandana kuri’ on his head. Floaters, and a blue file in his hand. The sun is smiling down on him as he waits under the cover of the ‘petti kada’. There is a banana kola hanging next to him. The jars around him filled with sweets, biscuits and kapalandi mittai.
Pink walls and a huge terrace. And rubber sheets hanging up there. A huge house, tucked in the middle of a paddy field. A path leading to the house. Neatly trimmed shrubs lining the path. Achayan is picking the mangoes, that have fallen in the courtyard.
I stretch. MJ is saying bye. With a promise to call soon.
The TT waves his flag. And the coffee chettan runs along with the train.
Through the tinted glass, I look across.
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