Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Outside, Inside.....Cattle memories ....

My friend Alka Gurha  who blogs at this wonderful place  Freebird    recently did a great post  titled  Joy of Flying  which was all about short airplane trips, fluids, the desperate urge to discharge ,  and interactions with fellow passengers and the flight personnel.   And remembering Shashi Tharoor for his observation from his lofty perch, about the Cattle Class .

It brought back some amazing memories . 

Alka's were  about waiting outside the loo.

Mine are about the insides.

About 37 years ago , travelling to New Delhi from Bombay  (as it was then) , it was a popular thing to travel by Rajdhani AC chair car.  We had seats near the door , with extra legroom, and were traveling with a 3 year old son, K.   If you leave aside the AC, it was a Cattle Class journey, in the style defined by Mr Shashi Tharoor , who was then, I presume,  with the UN , and possibly not yet acquainted with the cattle.

At first we were happy that we were close to the loos, just outside the compartment door, given the last minute expressions of  wanting to go to the loo , that the child was fond of.    Then after several episodes of the child exploring the door of the compartment , and getting his fingers caught in an automatically  closing door ,   and letting off a frightening yell, thanks to folks wandering in and out in their quest for a loo,  his fascination with the door ended .

The time came to visit the loo.   People would look at a child  shuffling his feet, looking at me in desperation , and let him go in .  Our folks are nice that way. The child needed me to be in there with him.

We entered the loo, and the child positioned himself .  Holding on to me for support , as the train kind of lurched this way and that with some clanging noises, which he had not experienced inside the closed compartment.   Then he looked down and all hell broke loose. Right down the hole, he could see the rails and ground, moving fast , accompanied by the aforementioned sounds.   He got up, and refused to do what he came for. First it was fearful eyes, then crying, and then a desperate attempt to come out of the loo, saying he wouldn't go in, because he would fall into the hole.

I tried to calm him, explain , showing so many people wanting to go, and no one was worried and so on, but he simply would not budge. One uncle went in, and we watched with great wonder as he came out in one piece and smiling. An aunty went in, a young teenager went in, and everyone came out unhurt. He watched this and ventured in once again.  Once again we went through the whole naatak.   This happened several times, with various folks assuring him, while some kept indicating they had reached the end of their patience. We even tried the western style (which i personally do not like). But the view from there too included fast moving rails, ground and clanging rhythmic sounds.

Finally, biology kind of won, and the needful happened as he sat there clutching me, with his eyes shut.

I was just glad that we reached Delhi by 8 am.  It was not a nice thing to look forward to another day of fast moving rails and noises and a terrified child.

This child flew an international flight 2 years later , and the first thing he did was look down through the commode.  He didn't see rails, ground, or for that matter clouds, birds and sky.   This time he went in alone and managed to get stuck because he forgot how to open the folding door from inside.  You can imagine the cattle class folks desperately waiting for him to emerge, which he did after some airline staff intervention. They didnt think it was unusual.  I think they are trained to do this.

But yes. He always needed a window seat, and he always wanted to go to the loo, when the lunch trays were served, or when the aisle was blocked by the trolley.

I think the cattle class has improved. Today, folks waiting outside the loo, on international flights, do the "pehle app" stuff,  when they see kids, and some folks even do bending and losening relaxing  exercises etc while waiting for their turn, hoping that their systems will understand.

The aforementioned child is now himself a member of the Cattle Class  , and possibly doesnt remember the loo stories.  I dearly wish they change the design of the loos in our trains.

I dont care how fast the train moves.  And I shudder to think of the effect of bullet trains as a child of today looks down the loo .