An Hour and a Half

Like crayons of every colour sticking out of their box – lined close to one another – the houses stood in front of me as the boat docked onto the port. I was expecting a camera to pop out and a ‘cut’ to be yelled, expecting the beauty in front of me to collapse like a temporary set up for a movie, for like a picturesque movie scene the site in front of me looked.

As I proceeded, I came up to a place where a canal snaked through – boats floating stagnant on the water – dividing the island, only to be connected by beautiful bridges that arched over it.

The balconies and windows lined with potted flowers, a common sight, but only adding to the dreamy haze that seemed to surround the place; their colours seeming to imitate those of the houses around.

I imagine: Juliet out on one of the balconies and Romeo standing on the cobbled streets below, committing themselves to one another.

A cluster of tables scattered at intervals outside restaurants, bustling with tourists. Small stalls bursting with souvenirs – postcards, key chains, magnets, bookmarks – dotted around the place. Shops adorned with intricate lace and glass works stand along the path where houses aren’t.

An hour and a half. I was in Burano for only an hour and a half, rushing through the beauty around to get to the next place on the list like a typical tourist. But that short time, apparently, was enough.

Photograph of Burano: Saakshi Gupta

Local Train Buddies

I covered my mouth as a huge yawn escaped me, bringing tears to my eyes.

I was standing at a dimly lit station, waiting for the train to arrive. It was 6.40 in the morning, and the train should have been here ten minutes ago.

I checked my watch again and then looked in the direction from where the local train was supposed to arrive, as if my staring at that particular spot would make it pop out of thin air. My stare wasn’t all too powerful because of my occasionally drooping eyelids, which seemed to weigh a ton.

I was running late as is, already having missed the train I usually took. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to regret those few extra minutes of sleep.

Soon enough, a bright light could be seen approaching on the tracks. As it was still dark outside, the scene fit the idiom ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ perfectly. But then the sound of a ridiculously loud horn cut through the relatively peaceful air, making me opine that a light-less tunnel was more preferable. I would have jumped in surprise from the noise had I not been half asleep on my feet. Instead, all it did was annoy me.

‘Morning person’ is not a description I strive towards.

As soon as the train slowed down enough on the tracks, people started boarding it. I’ve always boarded trains once they fully come to a halt, but have always wondered how people manage to get onto a still-moving, albeit slowly, train. I’ve never even tried it because I’m too clumsy and filled with a perpetual fear of falling.

Once I stepped onto the train and found myself a seat (lucky!), I settled in for a good half-hour shuteye. But a loud shriek, not much unlike the train’s horn, jerked me awake. I looked around for the offending source and came across a beaming face of a middle-aged woman. My face morphed into an expression of disbelief. Clad in a bright, bright orange and green salwar-kameez, the woman did not look like the shrieking kind.

Ms. Bright Orange was now talking (over) enthusiastically to another equally (over) enthusiastic woman. They were both now rapidly chatting. The other women on the train looked just as happy, all of them now gossiping with one another, their topics ranging from “where and how have you been?” to work to children.

Only the woman sitting across from me was not a part of this reunion; she was dead to the world, her head lolling to the side and her mouth wide open as soft snores left her.

And, even though, all that chattering prevented me from getting even a wink of sleep, I didn’t mind. I was fascinated by the fact that something as simple as traveling by the same train everyday had created this bond of friendship among the women.

Not more than ten minutes had passed when I heard singing. It was coming from the coach next to the one I was sitting in. A man’s voice was belting out an old Bollywood song, while other voices joined him occasionally. When the song came to a finish, there were several voices making demands of which song they wanted to hear next. Soon enough, one more song was being sung. This went on for the rest of the journey.

The train seemed alive. The chirpy voices of the women talking over each other, laughing at intervals over some joke or the other. The continual singing in the background. My sleep was now long forgotten, and I was left wondering if all the trains were like this.

I knew that the train which I usually took wasn’t so lively. Most of the people on that train either slept or stayed busy on their smartphones. My usual train was quiet.

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On the return journey, not only are the trains quiet, but empty too.

But this, this was different. New. And even though I wasn’t fond of chatter and noise, I found this environment appealing. Maybe I would get tired of it if I had to go through it everyday, but once in a while wasn’t so bad a notion.

I got off the train at my station, mind filled with a myriad of thoughts.

I had never thought that friendships could be formed just by traveling on the same train frequently. I had always assumed that forming bonds took a lot more effort than that, but one single train journey had proved that friendships didn’t need effort, all they needed was intention. An intention to know someone, a willingness to open up.

And the same went for fun. Instead of shushing the man who was singing in the train, the others had joined in. If one joins in on the fun, they have a good time too.

Even though my college timings wouldn’t let me travel on that train again (unless I overslept), I knew that this was one journey I couldn’t possibly forget.

Do you have a travel story?

Photo of train lights in the dark by Jiroe on Unsplash

Header and train seat photo: Saakshi Gupta