Blog post by Vidya Mahesh
“Appa.. Appa oru kadhai sollen”
“Enna kadhai solla?” My dad asked us knowingly, flanked by me and my sister on the either side of the bed. We shouted in unison, “vera enna, train kadhai daan”
Summer vacation is round the corner. All I can think now is about the elaborate summer vacation we planned every year. I am from a TamBrahm family settled in Kolkata. So nothing new, we religiously planned summer vacation to our paati’s place in Chennai. The nearest hill station Darjeeling was a distant dream. We went from one hot boiling city to another very hot city to meet our thatha, paatis chithi, maama ,athais and cousins. Oravu vittu pogama irukkanum paaru.
The 90’s was an age of letters and rare phone calls. So from the month of February and March letters would pour in with the wishlist. 2 calcutta vanali, 4 irumbu idukki, 4 bengal cotton sarees, pakkathu athu maami kku 40size ulpavadai, edhirtha vittu kozhandaikku 4 cotton shimmy and so on. Enna Calcutta samaan daan cheap adu daan best. In return my mother would place orders for mavadu, vathal, arisi appalam, avakai and so on. It was a rather barter system. Kandippa Calcutta kali prasadam um eduthundu vaa.
Loaded with the samaan we would board the yellow taxi to the Howrah station. We would always take Madras Mail for some reason instead of Coromandel. The train would be at 9.00pm. Appa would scold Amma under his breath for so much of samaan. “Ellam onga athukku daan, enga athukku unnum illai” my mother would retort. The rasgulla tins had to be accomadated at the cost of our dresses. “Ellam naalu naalu dress porum. Yaaru paakkapora?”
“Seekiram vaa, nambo train platform number 11.” Anga poi patha ellam terinja moonji daan. Most of the Mamas and Mamis going to Madras with a similar overloaded baggage. Ellar veetulayum ore kadhai daan polai irukku.
As soon as we boarded the train hunger pangs would start in the anticipation of eating snacks like samosa and chips. But my hardworking Amma would have brought molagapodi idly, puliyodharai and thachi mammu with mor milagai and vadu manga and not to forget home made potato and banana chips. Veliya sapadu nalla irukadu paarungo, kozhandelkku othukkadu! Our mind voice – pochu da ingayum ide daana?! With 70% of the train occupied by Tamil Mamas and Mamis, the train would smell of different variations of puliyodharai and thachi mammu.
My sister would sheepishly ask my father, “inikku avadhu meals at Waltair vaangi thaa pa” as a kid she thought the food that is served in train is called meals at waltair. “Adu ellam vendam nalla irukkadhu, Amma eduthundu vandhadu super’a irukku paru.” my father would try to pacify my kid sister.
At Waltair station and Vijayawada we would be treated with mango and grape juice. We always wanted to taste gold spot and limca but Amma would say “adu ellam vendam, ore gas’u”
As the middle births were put for an afternoon nap we would race for our air pillows and appa would yell, “parthu parthu jannal vazhiya veliya poida pordu pudu thalagani”
The train huffled and puffled through the stations and reach Madras Central our anxious eyes searched for our Mama to receive us at the station. More than the destination it is the journey we undertook is more dear to me. Train sneham little chitchats with known and unknown mama and mami and their children is what I remember the most. Now I truly understand the importance of these journeys. Idhu daan ennoda train kadhai, Madras kadhai, adhu oru periya kadhai, innoru naalaikku.
Image Courtesy: www.rediff.com