Light it up

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.


46 thoughts on “Light it up

  1. You always have a story to tell when you travel by train … don’t you MM ??

    I am quite amazed that Beanie managed to use the potty in the train . Mine refused to use it .. she managed to control for 4 hrs straight and did the job only after we reached home.

    And oh … those suitcases ARE indeed huge …

    Me: arre yaar- this time I made a tag ‘train tales’ – I dont get it. Why do things happen to me when I travel by train?! And Bean managed simply because we suspended her over it… not the big job though !! that she held on till we reached home

  2. just sent you a response to your email..thanks for following up.

    your post reminds me of the train journeys i took as a kid..especially the part where you found people squeezed in the loo…well i was one of them..many years ago and guess who was my travel/loo companions.. goats..yes they were right in my face in that tight little space.

    and your brother does sound like someone who lives in the US…i totally see myself asking you the same question…”isnt that a fire hazard????”

    love the fdiyas fotos.

  3. i was entrusted to get my six year old niece from chennai to kovai.. was one of the worst rides having three suitcases full of gifts,the kid wanting to be picked cup so that she cud guy fighting for catching the train in running..and for me the next six hours were equally worse..i dont know how u parents put up with

  4. I love your spirit. Your train travel stories always remind me of mine, how my mom and dad used to take the 3 of us to all different places when we were in UP, for 3 years of deputation. And so they wanted to see as much of north india they can, and we were almost the same age as brat and the bean. You are an inspiration to me for travelling.

  5. MM – loved this post. It is the Indian life that I probably will never lead much as I wish I could…I have to write a post about it. Though Poppy will get mad at me for what I write in that post!
    I love the pics of Bean and Brat entertaining themselves. They did not cry at all?. Amazing really. To wait till 2.00 a.m., I would have been crying myself, let alone the kids. Even in relatively clean airports, the thought of waiting two hours for a delayed flight leaves me nervous. Reading your post makes me want an Indian life really. No, I am not romanticizing life there…just want to be there and my kids to grow up the way we did…

    Me: arre – you’re leading your own beautiful life. Dont regret it. Your kids will grow up with their own beautiful memories…

    And no the kids didnt cry. If anything, I was ready to cry! They just sat still and didnt step into anything suspicious or touch anything gross – for which i was duly grateful

  6. I have to say, I thought the same thing as your brother, when I read about you leaving the lighted diyas 🙂

    The journey is as fun as the destination, right? Some line like that or the other.


  7. Hi MM,

    Thats so sweet of you !! So, you surpised your parents on the day of Diwali..I am sure they might have been super thrilled and happy about it.

  8. LOL MM! You always have interesting train journeys 🙂 I hope you had a good time with your parents. The diya’s look lovely. Its nice to see the kids passing their time peacefully doing their own thing!

  9. MM everytime I see pictures of Bean my heart aches,and also when I see all other little girls. Oh how I want a daughter!! I keep praying I have a girl next or I am so giving up both the boys and pretend I can take another chance 😛

  10. Oh the horror when they change the platform!

    When our train once got as delayed, we were thankfully in the AC passengers waiting room. But we were so unprepared – no biscuits or crackers – I had to let my kid take some offered by a co-passenger. You know the look on their faces when they want our permission to take whats being offered na? 😦 I dont make that mistake anymore.

  11. And you’re still sane after all that?!? I would have burst a blood vessel or three after 30 mins of delay!

    Of course, having those angels must help a great, great deal!

    Your train stories always leave me wondering how you manage to do it again and again! I bow to thee!

  12. So lovely to give someone a surprise like this! Waiting to hear the next part:)

    Ur whole description reminded us of our trip last summer. We spent a similar 3 agonisingly awful hours at Old Delhi rlwy station. And then were rewarded by the worst train ride of our lives in the second class sleeper to Kalka. The Haryanvi mosquitoes sure relished our south Indian blood;) Funny part is the kids loved it!

    Except for the part where we lugged 2 kids and eight pcs of luggage up n down the stairs…I think I should charge for the free tantrumming show every single time where Dhruv just sits down and brings the station down with his piteous wails.

  13. How in the world did OA manage to carry all that luggage while carrying sleepy Brat to the train?!! WOW!
    Beanie looks thinner and her hair is longer and beautiful. Brown curls and cutie clips. Curious kids always learn to entertain themselves. They either find something to play with or eat your head. 😛

  14. God !! *shakes her head muttering something about the mad family*

    Only you.

    Anyways, waiting to hear the next part, I like the idea of surprises! Not the execution as much. Nor do I like being on the receiving end 🙂

    Noon: I heard you ok? And do some post, any post I miss your voice! I promise I won’t be upset with anything you write!

    Me: *glares at poppy, hands on hips*
    oye – you say anything you want to me – don’t you dare scare poor noon. pick someone your own size. look at the poor woman – too terrified to comment even…

    and I heard that about mad family. just too exhausted to do anything about it right now 😉

  15. WOW! that was one hell of a journey. BTW, Where do you get these animal shaped planters ???

    Me: They’re sold all over the place in Delhi, Meena. on the roadside, exhibitions…

  16. (Was trying to post this earlier, but am not sure it went through fully, or just a few sentences!)
    Rest assured, the Brat and the Bean will treasure the chaotic train journey for the rest of their lives – and why do I say that …. Read on….
    We used to travel from Ranchi (when it was still part of Bihar) to Bangalore for summer holidays. Those days there were no direct trains and so we had to hop on to the Bokaro – Chennai Steel City Express and then get on to a connecting train. We used to reach the platform at 6 PM to catch the train which arrived at Ranchi around 8 or 9 at night since (a) it was unsafe to travel anywhere in the city after 6 in the evening and (b) autos were not readily available. My sister and I have fond memories of having the most fun in our lives on the railway platform, running up and down (aimlessly, it seems now), counting all the bogies of other trains going past, walking in to chat up with the station master to check whether our train was on time, checking weight on those machines and God alone knows what else!
    Every single time I have travelled on the train, we had confirmed reservations – but that did not, in the least bit, bother the ticketless/ unreserved passengers crowding our compartment – and every single time, we’ve had to step over people to reach the toilet (I am sure that contributed a great deal to the amazing bladder control that my sister and I have these days  ). And every single time, without fail, the train was always late by at least 2 hours (the maximum was 21 hours!), which meant that the preferred connecting train to Bangalore would have already left and we had to spend another 4-6 hours on the Chennai platforms (which I can still recollect!) Oh – and it NEVER had a pantry car!
    Sorry for taking up so much comment space – suffice it to say, if not reiterate, we had great fun and nothing since then has come close to replicating that joy!

  17. Things seem to always happen when ever the mad momma and trains are involved. The part where beanie keeps looking down from the top berth remnds me of my first train experience. I was 6 years old going to my cousin’s brothers marriage (my mom is the youngest of a family of 6) . I insisted on sleeping on the top berth and my mom hesistatingly agreed. In the middle of the night I rolled over and fell. Fortunately, I was not hurt but the funny part was that apparently I woke up , rubbed my face and asked “who fell?” !!!!!!!
    Hope that never happens to any of you guys.

    Me: LMAO – its happened to me. I was about 5 when it happened too!

  18. Pick someone your size?! Hands on hips from me – what do you mean?!
    Watching too many Hindi movies or what?!
    I know how Poppy will react to my post about wishing I were living in India – is what I am saying!
    And you have not responded to my second comment! Lie if you have to.

    Me: errm… *squirms* well they did visit your part of the world but the other coast … so err… 😀

    and this is how you repay me for taking up for you against poppy? ah woe is me.

  19. The real courage is that you took the two kids and a ton of luggage on a train journey. I can do either kid or luggage, not both.

    So everytime I travel with N I end up with a bare minimum wardrobe for myself, a fact I deplore when I have to attend a nice party or pay a formal visit to somebody’s house.

    Me: LOL! I didn’t have a choice yaar. No major credit going to me.

  20. I know! My heart was in my mouth the whole time…even though I’d read the text and knew how it was going to turn out. That baby will grow up to rule the world…Have you seen M.Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (I had a freudian slip and typed unbearable)? This one a sure candidate for the heroes experiment…

    Me: LOL! Here’s a thought – why arent you writing more? I mean blogging or something?

  21. I get the hint…I’ve given you the impression that I have way too much time on hand with these back to back comments. Which is not too far off the mark, atleast not today.
    Anyway I’m not even going to try putting on that “I’m a busy professional act” around you…suffice to say I’m the laziest person I know.

    Me: wow – way to take a compliment and toss it down on its arse. You were a bright kiddy intern (I think ! ;)), bright woman now and interested and aware… why arent you doing something with it, is all I want to know.

  22. Chalo, let’s make a movie.. sure to be a hit. Or we could bring out a series of books like the harry potter.
    “The (mis)adventures of MM and the Railway Brigade” or something like that.

    But thanks for all the smiles and laughs you give us.. 🙂

  23. Its the curse of my race…sitting on a wooden bench outside a chayakada (tea shop) and pontificating comes naturally to the mallu in me. But call for action and watch me vamoos…You know you’ve scared me off commenting, dontcha? You reverse troll you…

    Me: Sigh – I *do* love you Mallus, so you lazy bum – don’t you dump that on me and run away. I expect to see you around however busy you might be.
    Speaking of trolls –

  24. This post reminds me of the many train journeys I took with my family and sadly how long its been since all four of us traveled together, we still do family holidays but all of us meet some place- and miss out on hilarious travel experiences. My parents usually invented new games to keep my brother and I entertained. We counted cows, train compartments, people on platforms wearing a particular color and other random things. I miss it so much!

  25. i have some trains to take from delhi station and i am just praying hard! :p

    Brat and bean are looking adorable as always!

    and that was quite an adventure you had!



  26. LOL – I think all the NRIs who saw the pics of the diyas, promptly thought “Fire Hazard!”

    (Aside, I understand that newer Indian homes, despite masonry construction, are not so fire safe anymore – thanks to newfangled wooden floors, built-ins in every room, including the kitchen, and lots of draperies and other combustibles…not that you want to hear that :))

    As for train journeys, I am a vet of BLR-DEL trips before there were direct BLR-DEL trains, and in the days when 2nd class was all we could afford…lots of been-there-done-that 🙂 But makes for excellent memories and stories for the kids!


  27. MM – How the heck did you manage to carry one big suitcase, 2 smaller blue suitcases, one heavy green planter and one red airbag plus 2 sleepy children between the two of you? I simply dont get it – I try all possible permutations that you and the OA may have carried, but it just doesnt add up.

    Me: 😀 You have no idea dude… we just dragged them along. For all I know the OA got one on his head 😦 He’s not above that sorta thing!

    You are the only one who can manage this – I am truly amazed.
    Like many others here, it typically reminded me of the long journeys that mom and I would take every year during summer from Chennai to Calcutta. And I still keep asking how she managed me + atleast 7 baggages on her own without my dad’ help.Those were days when we would not get too much South Indian stuff in Bengal and mom made it a point to carry all kinds of stuff from small onions and drumstick to murukku and sweets from Madras. I was awake all night on my trip from Blore to Chennai early this year as Aditi was unable to sleep on the first class AC coach berth!

  28. Ok, I have to admit this. I was never happier than when I started earning and could actually fly instead of take a train. Now, I could possibly take a train for a 4-5 hour journey but never more than that and never an overnight train (I have been known to visit the bathroom only once in 36 hours of the Gitanjali Bombay to Calcutta bit though).

    So I’m puzzled: you seem to be anal about cleanliness, order and stuff. How do you deal with trains, esp train loos?


    Me: I hate flights. my ears ache. the check in and waiting process is such a waste of time. you can do nothing but hang around. on the other hand, i feel my holiday really begins in the train because its enforced relaxation. You can just lie back, read, sleep, eat and recuperate from the work week. I HATE the train loos, because you’re right, I AM anal. But its a small price to pay. For one most of the places we visit are easily accessible by train and would end up being very expensive by flight because they’re small places. And for another, I do so want the kids to experience what I did. Long train rides. We used to go down south twice a year almost 4 days. From Alld to Madras to Coimbatore to Munnar. Crazy loooong trips. Taught us patience and to enjoy the journey as much as the destination 😉

  29. Waiting for the next part in G’pa and Nani’s house 😛 That should be fun. Did the mad-sibling also join in?

    Me: coming up soon!
    Mad sibling is too far away sadly 😦 my biggest grouse.

  30. I loved the post MM, and some of your post so inspire to put my experince into writing as well..

    I had to wait similar hours during Christmas break from DU, and would take similar trains to Ranchi. Alone, I would finish business and sports magzines cover to cover including all the ads!! Couldn’t even think of getting Femina because of all the pics in it, with such crowded space would not want ppl peeping into hot pic !:P Only saviour were the awesome parathas which kept good in the winter cold to much relief..

    I loved Beanie playing with the weight tickets ! I still get a blast from the past 😀

  31. reminded me of my younger days when me and my family used to go on long train journeys…donno y but somehow a flight journey just doesnt bring out the same kinda excitement as one on train!

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