Alright folks. Here’s the first bit of the Diwali post. For those wondering why I was so silent on it, it is because I was madly busy. You see, my parents make it a point to spend Diwali with us and over the years we can’t imagine it any other way. This year they’d just got back from a month-long trip to Europe and the US and were reaching back to their own home and businesses that had been languishing all that while. Ma wasn’t too well and it simply wasn’t possible to tell her to come back. As she passed through Delhi, just a little less than a week before Diwali she sadly mentioned how disappointed she and my father were, that they couldn’t be with the OA and the kids for Diwali. She’d already told me this on the phone however, and I was all prepared.
You see, the OA and I had planned to take a trip back home for Diwali and surprise them. The problem with surprises and me is that most often I can’t keep them. So every day while she was travelling we’d speak and she’d try to convince me to come home for Diwali and I’d literally be hopping from foot to food in an effort to keep my mouth shut.
However, the plan was made rather late in the day considering it was the Diwali weekend and we only got reservation on a holiday special train going to Bihar. Most other trains were fully booked up by August so as you can guess, this is yet another crazy train story.
The run up to the day was crazy with both kids down with a cough and cold and rather cranky. I just kept their spirits high by telling them that we were going to visit G’pa-Nani’s house and praying that they kept shut about it. They did. An hour before leaving I was rushing around lighting up our home because I didn’t want to leave it dark. The OA was on a conference call and was the lucky recipient of the dirtiest looks I could give him.
My brother called up and wanted to know what I was up to. Told him I was lighting diyas before leaving and the true-blue NRI that he is, he gasped in horror ‘Its a fire hazard!! How can you leave lit diyas and go off?” “Oh” I replied seriously – “See, you’re the middle piggie with a wooden American house. I’m the eldest piggie in a stone house. It won’t burn down.” Yes, I said it in all seriousness – apparently I’ve been reading too many kiddy books. I then went on to point out that I was leaving a maid in the house – something he hadn’t factored in!
Being the night before Diwali we were advised to leave early for the station. What with the heavy traffic and the firecrackers. We left 3 hours early, the streets were deserted and we ended up sitting on the platform for hours. The train, though it originated from Delhi, showed no signs of appearing at the time it was meant to and the platform was so crowded that I was terrified of getting shoved on to the filthy tracks.
You know how they tell you kids will always adjust to the circumstances, well they (whoever the hell they are!), are right. We put down our luggage, surrounded by filth. Bits of food, spilt tea, a mother making her infant pee on the platform before putting his shorts back on, huge rats, paan stains. We often travel by train, but we usually get to the station just in time (sometimes too late, as you guys are aware!) and get on and we’re off.
As we put the luggage down, we wondered how to keep the kids entertained. It was past 10.30 at night and way past their bed time. I’d been debating this with some friends and decided to test it out on this trip. I usually carry books and toys and crayons to entertain them on long trips and I wanted to see if they’d hush up and entertain themselves if I didn’t keep providing them with entertainment. Call me foolhardy if you will….! Plus we just had so much stuff this time that I didn’t want to add to it.
My parents who had passed by on their way back from the US had left one of those huge suitcases that everyone brings from the US and we were stuck taking that back too. I was loaded with Diwali gifts for the family and the green basket I carried had rabbit and elephant shaped planters in it that weighed a ton. There was wine for before dinner and some glassware as gifts. The OA glared at me balefully while I stood my ground and glared back – which member did he not want to carry a gift for?!
Surrounded by our sea of luggage, we waited for the train. The minutes ticked by and then the hours. The number given for enquiry was not being answered, it was past midnight and the kids were drooping with sleep and exhaustion. To say nothing of coughing and sneezing.
And yet they found something to smile about. We gave them coins to take their weight (anyone remember the old machines that give you your weight, an ugly distorted picture of a filmstar and a completely unbelievable fortune?) and they kept taking their weight and playing with the cards that popped out.They eventually fell asleep. The Brat draped across the big suitcase and the Bean in my arms. It was exhausting and as luck would have it, the train came in at almost 2 am and the tinny voice on the loudspeaker kindly informed us that the platform had changed and it was now 7 platforms down. A cheer went up as the hordes surged up the stairs. The OA and I looked at each other in horror. With a super human effort I hiked the Bean up on my shoulder, picked up an assortment of bags and let the crowds push me and my bum knee up the stairs. The OA stood there holding a sleeping Brat out of harms way as people pushed and shoved and stepped all over our remaining luggage.
I made it to the coach and the OA called me to try and put in place a plan B incase he missed the train! I couldn’t leave a sleeping Bean on the berth to go help him and he couldn’t leave the luggage and bring the Brat alone. Finally he dragged in the last pieces with a sleepy Brat dangling around his neck. We needn’t have worried. The damn train didn’t move even after that. Chaos ensued. This is one of the trains where Laloo had tried his infamous scheme of adding a third berth in the RAC section and then removed it after much opposition. The berth numbers were painted over and there was chaos for a good hour as people juggled and shifted and argued instead of simply waiting for the TT to come and clear things up.
The AC compartments were full of ticketless travellers on the floor right up to the toilet and I was horrified at the thought of the newly potty-trained Bean having to hold it till I stepped over people to the loo, waiting for them to get out of the toilet (yes, people were squeezed in there too). So I sorrowfully took out the diaper I was carrying for emergencies and she took one look at it, shook her finger at me sorrowfully and explained to me as though I was an imbecile “Mamma, I am a big girl. I don’t wear diapies now.” Yes darling, you ARE a big girl… even if you call your diaper a diapie…. :( Fortunately she did me a favour by giving us adequate warning, holding it in as long as it took for the long-legged OA to step over prone bodies to the toilet, and then helpfully hovering over the seat and not dirtying her botty!
We woke up to realise we were still three hours late. Do you know what its like to sit in a train with no pantry car, stuck in the middle of nowhere, with two little children who have no books or toys to entertain them?!!!
Surprisingly painless! Yes – they just sat at the window, looked out and counted birds, got yelled at if they got off the seat and dirtied their feet, learnt to shimmy up and down to the top berth, getting me giddy with the movement and terrified that the Bean would fall off each time she peeked over to give me a big grin!
The train crawled and stopped and crawled again. It was quite funny because at one point it picked up speed and the Brat looked at me in delight to say ‘Look! the train is moving!’ as opposed to just starting, coughing and shuffling forward embarrassedly (no, it’s not a word) and stopping.
We reached at noon. Tired, cramped and dirty and five hours late. Nani-G’pa were thrilled to see us and Nani who had fallen down a month ago and injured herself, did herself more injury by rushing down the stairs from her first floor bedroom the moment she saw a little baby face peep out of the car. More about Diwali in my next post, this one’s been long enough!
Thanks Boo for this lovely diya stand!
The balcony lined with little pots holding diyas inside them…
A regal cat planter, a Bean-ish finger reaching out tentatively to pet it, a candle standing by…
A moose lit up out in the garden…
My favourite jaali lamp…
A bored Brat lies on the suitcase and watches the world go by. Eventually he fell asleep on it.
Counting compartments for a change as trains whiz by and ours refuses to show up.
The Bean playing with her weight tickets. Don’t ask me what she did. I was just grateful to see her amuse herself with a bunch of grubby bits of card.
Finally – on the train in the early morning, up and chirpy while a sleepy and cranky mamma aches for a caffeine fix.