Generally Speaking

General compartments suck (surprise, surprise) but what doesn’t kill you … and while I didn’t really build on in the bicep, tricep, forcep (is that a muscle?) department. I did gather some salient attributes of a general compartment journey:

Bhasad machi hai!  Credits: Vishnu Vijayan

1. Everyone’s a millionaire and ‘knows people’ if their boasts are to be believed.

2. Everyone seems to know what is precisely wrong with the system and how to fix it. The compartment is filled to the brim with Anna Hazares.

3. Anthropomorphising trains is second nature; trains don’t slow down, they get tired (thak thak ke chal rahi hai yeh toh). They don’t slow down, they get tired. They don’t stop at a station, they relax there.

4. Within the first half hour of the journey, the compartment turns into a parliament. With ‘netas‘ squatting in the aisle, sitting on top of peanut shells surrounded by the shoes of other netas who have managed to acquire cabinet positions (by which I mean the much coveted berths) The compartment reeks of piss, sweat and tobacco. The first bill is tabled:

“Demonetisation? More like ‘Demon’ etisation, Modi is the devil!”

The unwashed masses are informed, updated and suave even, in their own way. They carry phones, smartphones, with the latest. The latest Android (Kitkat ? Lollipop? Nougat? Pakoda? You name it!) The latest Bhojpuri hit (mass culture at its best) not to mention trending Whatsapp jokes.

5. Fights are inevitable, squabbles unavoidable as everyone jostles and ‘adjusts’ like only Indians can. But at every major station, the general compartment unites and as one uses every trick in its arsenal to block the incoming torrent of passengers. chai, coffee (sometimes) and vada pav vendors align themselves along the length of the compartment selling their garma-garam preparations through wide spaced grills. In all this commotion, slurs and threats are exchanged like sweets on Diwali:

Tum mulle sudhar Jaao! behenc**do!” Exclaims a frustrated Bhai-loving (ironic?) islamophobe.

Emergency kohl kamine!” Cries a man, visibly distressed, probably due to the fact that this was the last train to Lucknow for the next six hours.

After an hour or two, the compartment feels like a concentration camp. Every atom of your body, mind and soul is tired.

Deutsche Reichsbahn Credits: Vishnu Vijayan

There is, however, some respite in the form of entertainment; entertainment in the form of Dant Manjan powder vendors with ridiculous sales pitches invoking promises of cancer prevention aimed at a worried Gutka eating demographic and samosas with tomato ketchup (always the wrong shade of red). The food supplied by the train’s pantry compartment is not exactly gastronomic bliss but it certainly is light on the pocket, with a small tradeoff: Acute Diarrhea.

Bon voyage!


8 thoughts on “Generally Speaking

  1. Subtly hilarious. Vivid description…feels like the journey that I did many years ago. You firgot the fan that rotates only after it is given a mechanical push and the loo where the chained mug is dangerously poised chalenging the critical distances of resource and utilisation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 😀
      In the winters the fan has an alternative use as a receptacle for sticking pan masala wrappers. Mind you, this is a delicate art. The wrapper must be rolled tightly and folded twice before being pushed into the space between the grills covering the fan. The wrapper stays put only if it exerts a force on the grill which is greater than the force of gravity acting on it. Also it is prudent to hold your number 1s and number 2s till the duration of the journey.


  2. Worth reading,each word brought up a sheet of vision onto the happenings in a train compartment.Incredible work on the details,shows the depth and effort of Yash.One could totally relate with it and with the actual reality guys!!This is the truth!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are the USP of our societal-national evolution and can’t be found in other so called developed prosperous nations. They yearn to get such soft power. You have described these so well. I enjoyed your style of description and felt good going through. Best of luck and Tagra Raho.
    Looking forward to more such posts from you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed! The raw experience of India is encapsulated by rail travel. This fact has been highlighted in the. Railway’s latest YouTube commercial. Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to the ad or else I would have posted it here. Also, thank you for your words of encouragement.


  4. A well written piece! Took me back in time, when one had to travel in these compartments due to non availability of reservation. Exactly as you have described! In summer months the smell of sweating masses around you was more killing then the smell from the loo!
    Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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