Train to Nada Land

train_nowehereXDear friend and patrons, by the time you read this post, I’d be rocking away to my old hometown in a still older train panting over the ancient tracks laid down by the British looking to save the Indians from the Indians. If you are the type given to bouts of anxiety over cruelty to animals, worry not. Before setting out on the clanging caravan of rusting steel, I have taken care to pay the premia due to the insurance companies and printed multiple copies of the receipts as proofs of payment, and planted them in the grocery cans, dressing table and wardrobes, and behind the cluster of conditioners in the bath for the benefit of the posterity. For the sake of legacy, I have written down the passwords of the wi-fi router, computer systems, Kindle, blog domains, Facebook and Twitter in a diary left in plain sight on the dining table.

To be fair to my infinitely better half, she had fought with me bitterly to get me on board the two-leg flight to the destination. What she didn’t know of course was the vegetative state of my bank account that wouldn’t survive another assault so close to the recent plundering triggered by who other than the Almighty Google with the launch of its wonder-phone called Pixel. As a recompense, I let the ‘Quite Black’ memorize a finger each of my wife and the twins. There is always the one in a billion chance the phone will be returned to the family by the onlookers (plunderers) of the crash site.

The bubonic plague misnamed ‘Election’ has returned to grip the badlands of my home province, along with a few others up north. The aspirants to the throne are going all out promising costly gifts to the freeloaders. These thermonuclear bombs are of both kinds, recurring and onetime: mobile phones, laptops, charity pensions, farm-debt waivers, reservations etc. But I guess the line between recurring and onetime is being increasingly obliterated with a bias towards permanence, as long as the lit fuse doesn’t ignite the core.

Of the 1,349 million people who are citizens of India, about 1,336 million do not pay income tax. Given the average household size of 4.8 and one bread-winner per household, one still has a ballpark figure of about 300 million who would rather not pay income tax, the rest being dependents. Now that is such a godawful number of freeloaders, or to put it in a politically correct phraseology, such a staggering count of poverty-stricken human heads, the shortest route to improve the poverty line is to turn them all into beggars and hence disqualify them from the statistics. And that precisely is the intention of the political parties contending for power in these provinces, raining freebies on the voters. Who said bribing was a crime in this ancient country?

Perhaps you are scoffing at my egregious cynicism, and if you happen to be one of the legalized mafia, you may want to silence my voice by hook or crook. Please spare your anger. Did I not say I am taking a long-distance train to somewhere? Wait, there is a back-up plan too! I intend to take yet another train on the return leg one week down the line…

It also gives me an idea, this recurring bother of train crashes and monetary compensations to be doled out to the victims —although I have forever wondered if they ever get fulfilled apart from the splash in the media at the time of announcements. We should tear apart the offending tracks, the engines and the bogies, the stations and the signalling system and the whole shebang and sell it all on the Internet to Alibaba. We are a tech-savvy nation, are we not? With luck, it might finance the insane greasing for a year or so. And when we reintroduce the bullock carts along those patches, we will not only be creating employment opportunities for the millions of jobless youth, but also producing more than enough bulls for Jallikattu.

(Jallikattu, practiced in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is a traditional spectacle in which a bull is released into a crowd… and multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump of the bull with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape. Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull’s horns. ~Wikipedia)


  1. I hope you’re chuffed with your train ride to the hometown, Uma. I still get excited as I near the place I grew up in… the shape of the hills, the smells, the weather!

    May you never fall off the bull! And I’m delighted that your Pixel is Quite Black.

    I just read a quotation in the doctor’s waiting room this morning in a women’s magazine: Don’t put all your eggs in one bastard. Sage advice perhaps for these days of corruption and decay.

    1. I am still in the train, Bruce. (It has managed not to crash, so far!) There is not much I look forward to. The places I grew up in have turned uglier in both body and soul. Thanks for the beautiful blessing. The ‘Very Black’ just fit in the scheme of things.

      And, hey, what a quote! The doctors down there are smart for sure. 🙂

      1. Ginene, I’m not allowed the postal ballot, there is no alternate system either. Then there is also the matter of my kind-hearted neighbours encroaching on my puny farms…

  2. I loved how you ended up in the train ride due to the Pixels. 😁 Where is this town anyway? Quite smart of you to jot down all passwords and docs for posterity. 😉 👍

    Proud of you to go through all this trouble for casting your vote. Hope you make the best choice. Be back soon, Umashankar. ☺

  3. Enjoy the train ride! As little the govt. tries to do, some money has been set aside by the govt. towards safety for the trains. But till we know if that money is being well spent, you will need all the good luck and wishes on your travels to stay safe! And I quite like the idea of missing the flight and buying the pixel!

    1. It is believed that the mysteries of the black holes, dark matter and the intent of the rulers of India are still beyond human comprehension. That said, the post is based on a true story.

  4. “Parties raining freebies on the voters. Who said bribing was a crime in this ancient country?”…..Exactly to the point sir. An awesome article. Hoping your journey is safe.

  5. all the way to cast your vote !! that shows your concern for our democracy Umashankar ji waiting to read your travelogue interspersed with interesting anecdotes in the same interesting way and inimitable style of yours that has your readers captivated

    1. Pardon me for failing your estimate, Rajni Ji, but we are living in a mafiocracy, not democracy. I will try and write about something as long as my pen has the ink.

  6. Have a good journey Uma and congrats on your Pixel ! Great to know that you are traveling such a long distance for the election. The vote is all we have to give sanity a chance..

    1. Thanks, I was waiting eagerly for the next avatar of Nexus when the Pixel materialised out of the thin air and I had to had it. As for the vote, I need to figure out whom to choose: the devil, the doom or the deep sea?

  7. Nice leisurely read chugging along like the train, serving us delicious tit bits on the political situation like the vendors who come serving samosas and chai.

  8. Election – for some it may be time to make hay while the sun shines. For me – no theater of the absurd can be compared to this. Everybody now comes forward to bat for the common man – who will remain the same, may be a little more deprived after the elections are over.

    1. Sadly, the prospects are turning grimmer and sinister with each passing year. Sometimes though I wonder whether that common man is the ant or the grasshopper?

  9. I have nominated you for the Bloggers Recognition Award and the link for the same is t

  10. What a delightful start to my day, Uma…you are such a wonderful scribbler! I laughed about leaving notes all around…I have a single note I keep by the computer addressed to my daughter with all that good information. I pull it out and leave it on the keyboard anytime I’m feeling as if god knows what might happen. I also leave a check for the entire balance of my bank account. It’ll be a sad day if somebody breaks in and cashes that check. Thank you for your gift to the universe…Molly

    1. Molly, instead of writing that cheque for the entire balance in your account, you can file a nomination with your bank in favour of your daughter! Now that was me wearing my soggy banker’s hat… The reason I’ve gone bananas is my country is headed to be a banana republic at a breakneck speed, and our ageing railway system has become much more slippery than the pulp of that fruit.

      Thank you for making my evening luminous with your word, Molly!

      1. No one looks better in a banker’s hat than you! As for bad elections, you probably know we’ve been thrown into chaos by a tantrum-throwing child at the helm…wishing you safe arrival and then safe journey back…

        1. Molly, it looks like we are all being held to ransom by tantrum-throwing children. Sadly, we are yet to learn the price we will end up paying at the end of the day(s). Let us make old William Wordsworth writh in his grave by misquoting him: The Child is father of the Man!

  11. The silver lining is that Pixel that’s made its way into your pocket. I saw that picture of the orchard in the mist. So heavenly! I’m (sowwwww) looking forward to seeing your photographs, USP.

  12. Uma, by the time I’m reading your post, I guess you’ve probably returned from your train trip to your old hometown to vote. You certainly prepared well for your family before you left! I hope the journey was fruitful and good for you for taking that trip to vote even if buying the Google Pixel (I’ve heard rave reviews about the Pixel!) necessitated taking the train. I can certainly understand and relate to your cynicism about political systems, especially after our recent election in my country. Enjoy that Pixel!

    1. My country is on the verge of being pickled in a noxious cocktail of casteism, sectarianism, parochialism and proletarianism fermented by forces of greed and barbarianism, a point where no voting or protesting is going to help it. The ‘Quite Black’ of Pixel is a blip in this utter blackness, but, hey, we must learn to live on crumbs of happiness wherever we find it, howsoever we find it.

    1. I am grateful for your attention to the archives, Inese. Yes, many things have changed since then, one if which, sadly, is I have stopped writing.

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