Ma and I walk into the platform, lugging our bags along. There is a spare seat in one of those typical 3-seater benches you find in any railway station. Ma requests the two young fellows seated – Raju and Teju – to make place for a third and fourth, insisting that I do not stand for the next two hours (with due courtesy to the punctual Indian train system).
This is Bangalore and the boys seated next to us are conversing in Bengali. They appear to be in their mid-twenties, dressed in simple clothes and carrying a duffel bag each. With all the time to kill, Ma and me speculate on what could they be doing in life. We eventually conclude that they are cooks in Bangalore (broadly on the fact that the city has a lot of male cooks from Odisha) and are possibly going back home for a short break.
Curiosity gets the better of the mother and soon enough, a conversation commences with her asking them where they are heading to. Raju, the chattier of the two, also wants to know where we are from and what we do. Infact, he shoots off a string of questions about us and Ma suddenly gets cautious (we are returning from a wedding and she has some jewellery in her bag!). However, the guys seem affable and she continues to chat giving them enough information that should do us no harm. And then, it is our turn to ask them questions. Both of us in our Hindi best.
Raju tells us that they are farmers from a small town an hour away from Kolkatta. He has worked in the fields from a very young age and has always wanted to travel. Last year he made a solo trip down south to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, his maiden voyage outside Kolkatta. He further explains that he keeps some savings aside for travel whenever possible and this is his second vacation; he has brought along good friend Teju to see the world outside Bengal. Our speculation proved wrong, we are now donning the interviewers’ hat and wanting to know what places he visited and liked, any challenges faced with language and of course, food. Raju tells us that while there were occasionally problems every now and then especially with communication, the overall experience was wonderful. And then he tells us something more. Nothing possibly new to you or me, but something good to hear every now and then.
“Every person must travel wherever he/she can, even with limited means. We meet people very different from us and learn something new everywhere we go. There are sights that amaze us and some that shock us but every experience is enriching and makes us wiser and more understanding.”
We chat a little longer and Raju and Teju are off to board their train to Chennai. They found the nippy weather of Bangalore a little too cold for their liking and are eager to discover a warmer city. And to devour idli-sambar.