I absolutely loved the journey back to Hyderabad! During our stay in Mumbai, something unfortunate happened. It had been one of those moments in life when you feel totally helpless and lost. So this train journey – a total of 18 hours – gave us time to think and be grateful for a lot of other things in our lives. Sometimes you just need some quiet, peaceful time to recompose yourself, away from people who blurt out “everything will be okay” even before you finish your sentence.
I began learning how to read and write Hindi a year ago – on my own, since Masood thought there wasn’t any need to – but got busy with a 1001 other things. I began to recognize the alphabets and slowly, very slowly, I even began to combine letters and read simple words. Like on the board above that reads ‘Lonavla’, I could only read the lo, na and la part in Hindi.
Lonavla is famous for its chikkis, sweets made from groundnuts and jaggery. But you get other flavors as well: sesame seeds, coconut, pistachios, and almonds. We bought a couple of boxes, which weren’t as full as they appear to be. *sigh* Well at least, they taste good.
Somewhere during this journey, though I’m not sure where exactly, we were instructed by some policemen (yes, there are policemen for each trip) to close our windows. It was around 9:30 pm, and I was enjoying the cool breeze while reading a book. I think Masood was updating his Facebook status then. We complied. They even came back to check.
A few hours later, when the lights were dimmed and everyone went to sleep, I heard a loud sound. It was as if something fell, or hit something. I went back to sleep, only to be awaken by the same sound few minutes later. I went back to sleep; I can’t be bothered by anything when I’m exhausted and sleepy.
When we woke up around dawn, Masood explained to me what actually happened the previous night.
Along the way – between Mumbai and Hyderabad – there’s this place notorious for robbers. The reason why the policemen ordered for the windows to be closed was because these robbers usually threw stones at trains. And that was the sound that woke me up from my sleep: stones were being thrown at us!
“But what good will throwing stones like that do for them?” I asked Masood. He explained that they mean to create fear or panic. Because apparently some ignorant passenger, like myself, is likely to think that something has happened and pull the emergency stop. This will stop the train, giving these robbers the opportunity to implement their evil plan.
One evening in Mumbai, Masood went to a nearby bakery in search for some pineapple pie to satisfy by cravings. They didn’t have one, so Masood asked for apple pie (which he knew was my next favorite). The bakery waala told him that they used to bake apple pies but that they didn’t sell well, so they stopped making them. “By the way,” he asked Masood, “where did you hear about apple pies?” And while Masood was still trying to process the question in his mind, the bakery waala added, “Did you read about it in some paper or magazine?”
“No, we buy it regularly in Dubai. In fact, my wife bakes them as well.”
“So why are you looking for the same stuff you eat in Dubai? Try these local stuff. Have some pav bhaji or bhel puri!“
He has a point, but I was still craving for my pineapple pie.
This freshly cultivated field in the picture above reminded me of Facebook’s FarmVille, to which I had been obsessed for a whole month. But more than that, I tried to visualize what must have happened in Kurnool, Masood’s birth place, where thousands of people and animals were displaced by a devastating flood during the first week of October. Most of the people there are into farming, so I cannot even begin to imagine their loss.
Each city of India is a different experience for me. It’s easier to see what’s bad or wrong in each one of them, but I choose to see the beauty instead. I could have posted pictures of the slums or the garbage dumped at the road side, but what good will that do? Why not go out there and enjoy the better things instead?
Sometimes, it saddens me to think that I’ve seen more of India than Pakistan. I want to visit Lahore, Peshawar, Multan, Islamabad, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Muree, Kashmir, Sargodha, Gujrat, Larkana, and Faisalabad. I want to see them all. If only our immigration officers didn’t give Masood such a hard time. If only they didn’t openly ask him for a bribe each time he visited.