Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Paneer mazhai puriyum maegangalae..

I went to Mathura 3 years ago. It was during a class trip to Nainital. The trip was in August and a classmate of mine was complaining about how she didn't get to celebrate Krishna Jayanti at home thanks to the class trip. Imagine her joy when we found ourselves catching a train in Mathura that night. The bus dropped us at 10.50 outside the station. The train left at 11.05. What followed was (imaginably) a mad rush towards the train. And that is when I got my real taste of North India.

One of my favorite books while growing up was Kim by Rudyard Kipling. Not many people like the book since he was highly racist. But apart from that, the book is beautifully written and puts images into your head about what India might've been like once upon a time. Stepping into Mathura Railway station, I saw the images come true.

Some bright person in our group had the idea that it might be easier to use the back entrance. What he failed to inform us was that it involved dragging our brand new Samsonite bags through a quagmire for about half a kilometer. Our stuffed bags were of course too heavy to carry. We finally caught sight of the platform and heaved a sigh of relief thinking "we can atleast use the wheels the makers of the bag have so thoughtfully provided us". Boy, were we wrong!

If you have been reading carefully (and I'm sure you have), you would've noticed that I mentioned a tiny fact about landing in Mathura on Krishna Jayanti. *Click* The devotees were returning home. And Krishna has a LOT of devotees who want to visit his birthplace on his birthday! Trust me on this. And moreover, they are not the kind who reserve tickets on trains. Very few of them even know which train takes them back home. Hotel rooms of course are out of the question. They sleep, (you guessed it) on the platform. On every inch of it. We had to lift out bags to our heads and walk very carefully. It was no longer a matter of getting our branded shoes covered in mud. If we slip now, we step on someone's face. Literally.

There is a movie starring Robin Williams - "What dreams may come". In that movie, he dies and goes to heaven. His wife, unable to bear the pain of his death, goes to hell. The movie about his search for her through eternity. The station with it's eerie yellow lights looked like a scene from that movie where he is in hell and all he can see are faces of people tied down together - millions and millions of faces.

We had to get into the train as soon as it came to the platform and lock ourselves in. Like I said, people didn't know what reservation was, and didn't care. You found people seeing our coach was relatively empty and banging the door asking to be allowed in. It was crazy. And scary. It also makes your stomach drop a little with guilt.

I suddenly started talking about Mathura because I read that it's facing "the worst flood in recent years". Whatever that means. And also because it's Autumn again where I stay now.

Autumn because last autumn, my uncle had taken me on a drive down the heart of Pennsylvania. For the uninitiated, it is a beautiful beautiful state which transforms into something beyond description during Autumn. I took photos (duh!) and sent it back home(double duh!). MY mom enjoyed the pretty photos and told me "Chitra, you're so lucky to have seen this". And that's when it stuck me - I am lucky and I got to see what all those people (hardworking and sweet - most of them, I'm sure) will probably never get to see. It makes one feel guiltier than you can imagine. It also makes one miss their homeland. :-(

Note: The title is line from a devotional song praising Krishna. It translates to "Oh clouds which give us sweet rain, please sing about the beauty of our lord". Of course, as usual, a humongous amount is lost in translation.