khana loge tussi

ujjwal kanishka utkarsh

1/29/20196 min read

khaana loge tussi? (will you have some food?)



khana loge tussi?

arriving at the new new delhi station, it’s always quite something. the station as usual has chaos all over. Calling the railway enquiry number was also something - you can now book food for train through phone! But something was off when i tried to check the train arrival/departure time. Indian rail always amazes me with the tech they use, and today was no surprise, you enter the train number and the telephone code of the city which you need the details for, and voila! Although, I couldn’t listen to it properly, but man, the tech at play...

Entering the station, the mess is familiar. The auto wallahs trying to ask for random sums of monies from strangers- strangers to the cities, eXcept that many weren’t and they would give a quick rhetort back to the autowallahs, people hurrying towards the metro gate, only to be told by the guard there that there’s no entry from there and gate number five is ‘आगे से right’. The coolie arguing with a potential customer for the amount that should be settled in - thankfully the amount is a negotiation between 200 and 250 - at least there s semblance of a decent amount. As you go further in the mess of the infrastructure is presented bang in your face, with construction work all over the place, the LED display board not displaying things properly because several lines of the LED are not working.

It is important to say that this was much better than the Old delhi station, where toh I was told by this platform ticket checker that the govt had taken off all the boards, and she then directed me to the platform where the train was anticipated. On my way back, I again encountered the old dilli station, and with me was this himachali fellow who was so so overwhelmed by the whole situation. It is completely understandable, but what is excruciating to see is all these ppl who will give pro advices, that you could have gotten off there, and taken that train, and you would already have reached, and

why don’t you get down now, and take the next train in that direction,

where should i get the tickets from?

it is a short distance, you can just go...

and the horror on his face. Delhi man, and the big city - how absolute ppl think it is, and really don’t have an imagination beyond. I walked with him to the metro station and explained him the direction and all, just that I myself got it wrong where the tickets would be available and ended up misdirecting him. :( He would have had to walk an extra 5-10 minutes because of that.

I didn’t have to bother with the ticket counter of course - I have a metro card, and not just for Delhi but for Blr and Bombay too. and now that I was catching a train from the New Delhi Station, I was looking forward to the aloo puri dinner. Not as good as Allahabad station, but what the hell. The chaos one wades through a station of the scale of New Delhi is sort of incomparable. A coolie who had lost his commuters, and was waiting for them, a set of commuters who couldn’t really keep along with each other, the mother shouting at the rest of the gang. You couldn’t locate the ticket counters if you wanted to, and one wonders why the inquiry counter is actually literally hidden away. The huge sign board that says ‘may i help you’ is an empty counter - somehow it is like delhi itself. Everything around it broken and you reach there through the construction rubble, and it is after all all empty.

‘You may help me’, please?

But things had improved. Of course every luggage had to be scanned through now. The two cops who were apparently checking the screen, were more busy chatting with each other. But just after the scanner came the comfort of the escalator, ‘स्वचालित सीढ़ियाँ ‘. That’s an interesting name for what escalator is. सीढ़ियाँ जो स्वयं चलती है। Would the conveyor belt things, called स्वचालित ज़मीन? Had it also been imagined by the hindu mythologies and sciences ages before the west had even reached the point? I do remember that in Mahabharata there is a floor which can’t really be seen or something like that. The Kaurava was unable to see that it was water actually and had embarrassed himself, triggering off things which would later lead to the greatest war ever. Well, see... we had imagined a war of that magnitude before the west arrived at it too, only in the 20th century. Chemical weapons, drone like arms, et al.

Anyway, focus ujjwal, poori aloo... station wali. My friend asked me as to what was so special in that? And how does one explain it? How does one explain it to ppl who haven’t really traveled in train like that? Of course it has to do with nostalgia, but also with the taste, also with the dirt, also with how one used to look forward to it, and how one does look forward to it now. But man, things had improved... The escalator had speakers blaring how to use the escalator. But there were a few people at any given time who would be fumbling over it. I tried to help one or two, at least to not let them fall. But one guy was interesting. This drunk person was climbing up the escalator going down. Not in like a competition, or play or anything - it seemed he was genuinely trying to climb up and frustratingly his speed was also fast enough to not let him be pushed back to ground, but keep him to almost the same level. Had he found his rock, that he had to roll up the hill?

Maybe this is why they don’t let people who have had a drink on to the metro. It is amazing to have witnessed that - a young man and his friend being scolded at Botanical Gardens metro station to shoo away. ‘दारू पीके आते हो और मेट्रो पे चढ़ना है?’ hahahaha. How dare he? The clean sanitized metro, is only for who can afford of course, and also for those who are able to live up to that idea of cleanliness, who have no big luggage to carry - only things of specific size, or who can speak a language in which the guards can be persuaded to lax the rules. Would they dare stop me after having a drink on the metro? I really doubt it. I can of course afford it. And that s public transport for you - For everyone, till they can afford it, and meet up to the moral criteria of accessing such a ‘wonderment’ as the metro. And that makes sense, we have to keep it clean after all.

Reaching the station platform, it was also quite clean, one must say. There were dustbins also! This was not a New Delhi Station I remembered. And not much of it was remaining now. Now there was the RO water was available, a himachal fruit juice stall, and one food place. Which had only got rajma chawal, and burgers to eat and no aloo puri. And rajma chawal was around 40 bucks! Packed in plastic of course. No egg even available! It is interesting how the organic plate aloo puri stalls and so many other things on the platform had been clinically cleaned up. The organic plates and the aloo puri I am sure will come back, but something as exotic, and priced at premium. It is sad how reductive this idea of cleanliness and design is. When will we really start designing for the people, and not on the people? And how is sanitization, a solution to anything. We are all supposed to now eat burgers, is it? Of course, the thing now is that you can order food on your berth now. But what of those who don’t have a berth?

And what is with the train numbers? There are four numbers on every train now it seems. I thankfully got in the right train, after having a chicken fried rice packed from just outside the station, sadly. The only other place as an option of course was Burger King, and I did consider it for over a minute - the longest I have considered any of these chains in the past decade or so.

Having seated myself in the AC three coach, the girl in the lower berth (i was in the middle berth) asked for a meal - of course only veg available, like the entire New Delhi Station. We have of course ‘developed’ and now have burgers! After she was done eating, the sardar ji opposite her, opened his meal. And offered it to the other two guys there, and then the girl,

and then, he turned to me...

Khaana le lo tussi

nahi sir, thank you...

at least this was some of the train i remember, and back to that familiar place. Having said no, I did take a peek into his dabba, and there was really lovely looking paneer, matar thingy and ghar ke triangle waale parathe. yumm yumm...And there was enough for more than for him, he had to get off early morning also, so the offer was genuine, but... damn, the politeness. It wasn’t just the stations that had changed, but so had I, it seems.

{epilogue: All the romanticism apart, when he snored at night, and at the level he did, it was quite something. No exaggerations, things were shaking because of that - and in his gaps, one of the other two guys was filling in a much more somber fill.}