Travelling alone via Indian Railways is a real eye-opener. The demographic you get to interact with can be quite overwhelming. On my way to Bangalore in the prestigious Rajdhani, I met Javed. Past midnight, he was sitting on a blue plastic crate set against the door,  quietly packing bread for the next day’s breakfast. I enquired whether I can smoke without worrying about thullas (policemen) or the TTE. (Smoking on trains is strictly prohibited, you see). He smiled – an effusive smile that instantly took me in – and said “Arre madam, hamare hote huye koi aapko kuchh nahi bolega.” (Don’t worry Madam, as long as we’re here, no one will say anything).

So there we were, Javed and I, smoking whenever he could catch a break and when I got tired of sitting in the airconditioned compartment… I admit I spent more time standing by the gate than I did on my seat and Javed kept me company. His coffee, the best coffee I’ve had till date was my personal drug on the journey. Regardless of the time, of his work-load, Javed would see me emerge from the compartment and whip up his trademark coffee in seconds.

He told me he had been working in the railways for 8 years. He must have started off as an adolescent because he could not be more than 24-25. This was understood when he told me “Meri umar ho gayi hai madam, ab ghar wale shaadi karvane ki soch rahe hain.” (I’m of age, madam. Family wants me to get married). He was positive that when he returns home this time, they would have prospective brides lined up for him. He didn’t seem too excited at the prospect. “Biwi tension hai madam,” he said “yahan ek pet nahi bharta, phir uske kapde, gehne farmaayish ke liye kahan se launga.”

For Javed, who has spent 4 years as a waiter on the same train, wife translates to tension, an added responsibility that he is not looking forward to. He knows he will be stuck with an illiterate lady who will take care of his old parents and manage the household, but he knows what it really means – yet another mouth to feed. He was downright scared of the idea of fulfilling her numerous wishes. I suggested he might find someone who would understand his predicament and be what a life-partner should be. He just laughed it off.

My exchanges with Javed made me realise just how lonely a job that keeps you constantly moving can be. He does not associate with his family, does not like to speak much to his colleagues (“ya to kaam karenge, madam, ya dosti; dono nahi hota”), and the travelers hardly ever speak to the waiters and attendants, he told me. He lives in a world you and I cannot even pretend to understand. A world of 6 meals, of iron tracks and midnight stops in the middle of nowhere; a world of twenty trips to the pantry and thrice as many in the coach, of passengers who want everything to their perfection and then refuse to tip; a world of perennial journey with no particular destination and no home. If I’ve ever met a true vagabond, it is Javed.


In the last post, I posted this picture of a train and asked whether you guys noticed anything special.

Kam/Sash guessed it right. There are no wires! At Secunderabad, the electric engine of Bangalore Rajdhani is replaced with a diesel engine. If you have ever traveled by Indian Railways, you know how precious this sight is: minus the pylons, wires, and strange little boxes. Just the train snaking through picturesque landscape. I had a three-second window to take this shot before the train swerved sharply left. With one hand holding the rail and another managing the bulky camera, I leaned as far out as possible much to the chagrin of a few passengers who noticed the monkey-act. But I’m happy, perhaps a little too happy with the outcome. *grins from ear to ear*


21 thoughts on “Javed

  1. You are right.We people can’t even begin to understand the loneliness and predicaments faced by the Javeds of this world…
    And as for that photo,take a bow,will you?!

  2. I’m glad that your journey to bangalore had better companions than your stay here. Sigh. We all owe it to this guy for taking care of you, though he deserves a spank for not letting you sleep 😛
    That pic is amazing! totally worth the risk of hanging out of the train like this 😛

    • My stay in Bangalore (companions included) was everything I could have asked for and more, so shut up already? 😛
      That he does. But I miss his coffee man. I had the best coffee on that trip. First Javed and then your morning brew. Excellent stuff 🙂
      Glad you agree it was worth it. Not that I’d care if you thought it wasn’t. I took it and I’m happy 😀

  3. Hahaha… Super lol 😀
    You named my blog very well 😀

    that’s i do it and not idiot. Address here: idoitsblog.wordpress.com 🙂

  4. Somehow this evocative post just mocked my stationary self. So, now im carrying my laptop in my arms, moving from room to room and back, all the while reading this post (Jack’s happy looking at the sporadic movement of his owner, forecasting a dogwalk…..hehe! never gonna happen.) Javed is a true vagabond, indeed. They say, its mind numbing when u do listless stagnant jobs…..but this man, who bears with him, the possibility of never running short of these ebbs and flows, …..well, for him, to catch up on few phews! must be a luxury….. I do hope he gives a better rendition to his life now. . if he has been doing this for 8 years, to quote Miss Taylor, now is the time for guts and guile. I must say, KritiQ, u have made me contemplate upon so many areas of my life this very conscious moment…my career, my personal life, my own self…… current velocity of which should be given that much-needed probe…. my crazy obsession with my work n my slackness towards personal life….. what have i been playing at! You are my very own Kahneman! Kudos! 🙂

    • You give me way too much credit, A-me. 😛 I merely relegated a story… it’s impact depends on what you make of it. So credit yourself for you deserve it 🙂

      Heading out on your suggestion now! 😀

    • Your apology is not accepted lady. 🙂 i liked it, i am an idiot anyway. Hahaha..

      And, this post is very real and am happy you had an experience like this! You said it well too.

      I have met many Javeds in different walks of life. And, i could see the slightest difference between the smile of achievement and the smile of acceptance, etc.

  5. Javed’s journey is his end and he can meet his ends from this journey only. A displaced man in a mapped country. The journey is constant for Javed. The train is a moving prison for Javed, the prison of economy.

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