Posts Tagged With: nostalgia

La Nostalgie

Nostalgia comes to all of us in various forms. A place visited, something you ate years back, a school reunion, a song. And then, something as cringe-worthy as hearing someone blow her nose.

When I set foot in France, the weather was just transitioning from autumn to winter. Could it be the climate change or could it just be that the French (or westerners to generalize) use a lot more tissues in their daily lives than Indians? Right from cleaning a food stain to wiping sweat to more intimate (t)issues that may not be worth detailing. All said, tissues are finding increased usage in India too – however, growing up (the 80’s generation and before) we have seen a lot more hankies, towels and water being used for all of the above mentioned!

So my initial reaction to hearing tram passengers in Strasbourg blow their nose vigorously for a good 2 minutes was one of horror. I mean, yes I know something is bothering you, nice pretty woman – but why be so loud and open about it? And before I knew, the elderly gentleman next to me was also blowing his nose. And another one. In a few days, horror gave way to amusement, and among other things, I self-entertained my daily commute by listening to different tones, rhythms & intensities.

Now comes the embarrassing part, but it becomes imperative that I am honest here. You know that saying “When in rome….” – well, a few weeks down the line and I was one of them. Painting a not-so-pretty rouge picture of my round nose like just every one of ’em. Blame it on the icy weather, I say!

Anyway that runny-nose phase has gone past. Two days ago, the newly-joined French intern at work blows her nose. Just like the way they all do. And I once did. And strangely enough, I stopped what I was doing, looked at her and smiled, a sense of déjà vu totally enveloping me.

Strange, this nostalgia.

Categories: French chapter, India | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The great indian rail journey

36 hours of free time.
Chai/Kapi-wallahs.
Packed food.
Cockroaches.
Green fields.
Brown rugs.
Smelly toilets.

Positive or negative, nothing can evoke a strong sense of nostalgia like that of a train journey. To me, the quintessential train journey of my childhood was that taken from Coimbatore to Bombay (yes yes, Mumbai) and back during summer vacations. Fortunately, for most of these 36 odd hour-long trips, we were able to afford a 2-tier air-conditioned coach (there were no 3-tier AC coaches then). Tamilians, Malayalis, Gujjus & Sindhis would form the majority of passengers travelling this route. Strangers would become friends by the end of the journey.

An interesting observation that sticks to my mind was the always-uniform food habits. The south indians would invariably home-pack their food. Tamarind rice and curd rice would be neatly wrapped in banana leaves & old newspapers alongside spoons and paper plates. A Bombay-bred family like ours would sometimes carry theplas (spiced Indian flat bread) in aluminum foil as well. Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING could replace Idlis (rice dumplings) smeared with chilli powder (and sugar at times) as the staple train breakfast. Buying from trains or stations was not the norm. In sharp contrast was the gujju family seated next to us. The mother (or better still grandmother) would first remove the knife, then the kairi (raw mango) which was deftly and finely chopped along with an onion. A quick mix of this with puffed rice and the masalas culminated in a delicious looking Bhel which was then distributed and consumed. And mind you, this was just the appetiser. While I recall it to be a great ‘timepass’ watching the fervour with which these folks consumed their food (and occasionally offered me as well), I must admit that it did not contribute much for the tidiness or odour of the place!

As years passed by, only overnight or half-day journeys were preferred, the one I now classify into the ‘insomniac’ and the ‘contemplative’ trips. The former being overnight sleepless train journeys where one hears atleast 4 different types of snores in various intonations and rhythms! And the latter which start early morning and reach the destination by noon/evening. These are ones where you read a book, take a nap, and contemplate life by looking at the countryside.

I think most of us Indians have gone through these varied emotions at some point in time on the train – cringing in disgust while visiting the loo, the thrill in getting off a station for a few minutes and rushing back before as the bell rings, the excitement at spotting your loved one waiting to receive you at the station or the deep-down feeling of sadness when you wave frantic good-byes as the light goes green and the train slowly chugs along to its destination.

Categories: India, Travelogue | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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