This is a 10 month older me writing to you from a relatively unknown railway station Mahoba.
Ever heard of this place?
Its a stop-over for Khajuraho in case you didn’t get a direct train from Delhi like me.
Its been 10 months since I last wrote a post here. If you are wondering whether I quit travelling, no I didn’t. I just got busy (a more acceptable term for lazy). I travelled far and wide, observing on my way, enough to tell stories for almost a lifetime. Good and bad things have happened in between, let me spare you from both.
Coming back to Mahoba, where my travel partner and me are waiting in the small pan-stained pratishalaya (waiting room) for the elite-class travellers. We just returned back from a wonderful journey through Khajuraho, stories of which shall follow soon.
During these few months of my wanderings and findings, the thought of writing here often followed me, at times troubling me. I have been searching for an objective or a reason to write, also the lesser confusing thoughts on how & what to share. I wonder, and still do, how my travel notes are of any use to you in this age of google and lonelyplanet?
What prompted me to write today? Is that what you are wondering?
On our return journey, I met a humble man in the ‘general’ coach. He had a torn bag with a spare (dirty) white shirt , a plastic tin of pickles, a faded shawl. I was privy to this private possessions of his when he opened his bag to get the torn sweater and a trendy but loose skull cap.
I did see him before, but never noticed his thin white dhoti which revealed the lines of his undergarment, nor his slender but muscular legs. He sat in the corner, with the other half of his rear, hanging in the air. He was thus forced to the corner by another man who just boarded. I had seen him offer the small gap between him and another passenger with a respect I rarely saw in the city folks. No, he didn’t offer the seat as a gesture of kindness, but out of respect towards the newcomer who wore a pair of trousers with an air of superiority.
He smiled at me, breaking my thoughts and stare. He mumbled that he was cold by the wind gushing through the door behind him. Did I just make him uncomfortable in a manner unlike how you might feel when someone stare at you? It was not offence but that of submission.
Tales of Labour
I talked to him.
He is travelling to meet his son and daughter-in-law who stay in Faridabad. He stays 35 kms from Khajuraho but opted for the train which costs him ₹190 instead of a bus for ₹500. Our conversation ended with these few details, he didn’t dare to ask but only responded to my questions.
He looked young for a father-in-law. But his legs and arms, and the strong dark face, sang tales of centuries of labour and hard work.
Centuries of submission
He is a face of them who i meet in my travels. They who work tirelessly, survive on little and live a lot. They who are satisfied on what i can barely survive.
Like this man who collects money by singing in the worst possible tone but with heavily animated dance steps like a mad man (picture below). He was counting his money outside Mahoba railway station when i walked out to drink the best tea i have had in recent times at this tea stall straight opposite to the stations main entrance (picture below).
And then there are folks who passed through this waiting room. There is this young man i met few hours ago. He was returning from Khajuraho, but unlike me, he was there for business. He owns (and runs) hotels across the sub-continent. He is an entreprenuer, something me and my many friends aspire to become. Yet his humility astonished me.
And there is the transgender draped in a bright red saree and green blouse, trying hard to gel into the crowd but failing miserably. She looked at the old man accompanying her with a face that I have never seen before, was it sadness or fear, or was it the reflection of her thoughts about herself?
I saw her again as i was writing this post, smiling and walking along the platform like one of those sursundaris, i saw on the walls of Khajuraho temples; with gazes following her like flies after the brightest flower in the garden.
Today, I realised.
They are the reason of my travel notes, the places are just the means, like pages of a notebook.
Now that I have my reasons, I shall write, a lore on the unknown.
Hoping for your company,
Yours faithful servant
As we part, a food for thought. The picture below is a sculpture that adorn the wall of a temple in Khajuraho. I call it