I don’t claim to be a great traveller but, over the years, my travels have invested in me some great tales-some of them absolutely incredible.
Before, I started living in Delhi, I used to commute between Lucknow and Kanpur, two cities of Northern India, separated by Ganga (or Ganges).
These two cities are 80 kilometers from each other and are one of the most important towns of the state of Uttar Pradesh.Lucknow is the capital city and Kanpur , though bigger in size, is in a state of decay and neglect.
I used to work for The Times of India. I was as a salesman and since, Kanpur was quite an inhospitable city for a relaxed soul like me,I thought of taking the trouble of a daily commute by train to the city from Lucknow, so that I came back to the latter by night fall.
Well, I was’nt the only one travelling daily, there were hundreds of other passengers who used to take the 7.40 am express train to Kanpur and come back by the same train the same evening.It was fun, friendships were struck with strangers over a course of time , seats reserved for those who came in late by just throwing in a handkerchief and what not!
One day, I decided to have it easy and so boarded a train that left at 9.05 a.m. Permissions having been obtained from my immediate superior about my late arrival to the office,I sprawled on the seat next to the window and opened up the morning newspaper.
After a few minutes of delay, the train got into action and gained speed and left the Lucknow station.
Happy that the train was kind of on schedule, I stuck on to my newspaper.Stations whizzed by!
And then, the train chugged to a stop at a station just next to the northern bank of Ganga. Curious, I peered out of the window.The morning suppliers of milk were hooking their cans to the window grills as was their daily schedule.New commuters came inside the train compartment. Samosa sellers made their way into the train hawking the freshly made snack.
Then, I saw an unusual sight! A pink-faced monkey, with one of its arms missing, crossed the adjoining railway tracks, clasped the hand rails of my train doors and ambled inside the cabin.I was alarmed-what was this “ticket less passenger” doing inside the train?
Mindless of its surroundings, the monkey walked on, saw an empty seat and just hopped on to it and sat on it as if it were its daily routine! Like other fellow passengers, it kept on peering outside the train with an obvious disinterest to its surroundings.
I was amused as well as a trifle distressed.What is the Indian Railways coming to?
As the train started to move and gained acceleration, I kept on looking at the monkey which kept on with its disinterested behaviour..
The river crossed over, the train arrived at the next station and the next set of passengers began filing out.
The monkey, too, came down its seat and with much practised effort, climbed down the train and vanished into the crowd.
I made an enquiry with a few of my co-passengers about this monkey. All of them said that this monkey has been making this journey every day by the same train and has never molested anyone.Some of the passengers even suggested that the monkey was a man in an earlier birth .The man had been crushed by a train and his soul found the body of a monkey.
Such is India!