It was Ronnie’s first train journey. While it took nearly seventeen hours to reach the subcontinent from New Jersey, Mumbai to Latur was going to be a twelve-hour journey.
The train stood still for hours at the outskirts of Vadgaon due to some signals issue. Irritated, he descended down and took a stroll around. After some time he realised the train has begun to leave. He managed to board the second last bogie before it started taking momentum.
He was not inside his sophisticated Second AC compartment. He found himself surrounded by sleeper coach passengers. There was a joint family, a young student, burqa-clad women and a Sardar couple. Discussions ranged from Bollywood to politics to the current education system…with such a passion.
“So colourful in here…”He muttered.
“Beta, you can use the coupler to go to your coach.”The elderly of the joint family said.
The Bahu pulled her pallu two inches more to cover her head.
“Arey na ji…the couplers are not connected properly. Sit along until the next station arrives.”Sardarji gestured. The middle-aged Sardarni moved aside, “Koi na puttar,we can adjust.”
Ronnie tried to smile. The Indianness of adjustment amused him.
Soon it was dinner time. Ronnie was hungry. The local vendors moved around. The foreign-bred hygiene factors…sigh.
“Have some paranthas.”Ammaji offered him.
He was feeling shy…however; the methi – paranthas with lemon pickle satiated his soul.
Meanwhile, the young lad came down from the upper berth.
“Uncle- Aunty…It’s my birthday. Ma packed this cake yesterday. Shall we?
Soon, the compartment echoed with the birthday song.
“Happy Birthday Joseph!”
Ronnie was captured with the moment in a selfie.
In those couple of hours, he was introduced to all the flavours of his motherland. The diversity was merging . Amidst the strangers…he was back home.