A resolute blackness has fallen outside. I’ve been watching a child munch on various kinds of chips for three hours now. The child has emptied several chip packets, two of them called Chinese Noodles and Chut Kure. Yes, Chut Kure, I kid you not. At sporadic intervals, a relative of the child has been throwing the empty packet outside the window of the side berth in the train. There is a continual chugging of the train as it snakes its way through some part of Gujarat. And as I sit here, I think to myself that long distance trains should either have dustbins or better still they should have dustbin bags that people can use. Such discriminate littering of tracks, and therefore, our country must stop.

These and some other musings struggle their way into the crevices of my mind which are not enthralled by the darkness outside and the black silhouettes. Largely, I can’t seem to have enough of looking at my country that seems sketched by a stylish fountain pen using royal black ink. Pardon me the repetitive use of the adjective on this blog, but I find no better way to describe the beauty that I can see. While I write this, people in other parts must be carrying on with their lives. Women must be making chapattis for dinner and men must be flipping channels on tv. Children must be wrapping up the day’s play and the youth must be Facebooking. But for me, I sit amidst a painting created my nature in black and I feel nothing short of alive and full of palpable excitement about what the rest of the night will paint for me.

This morning I woke up to P. Chidambaram explaining some clauses of the budget to a journalist. While I tried real hard, I couldn’t shake off his voice and what he was saying. Content aside, he displayed an amazing command over the language he was speaking in-English. If it was a speech, I’d have my reservations, but he answered his questions in such impeccable English, I felt that all was not lost with this government. Some minutes later, Amitabh Bachchan came on screen and went on and on in flawless Hindi and I felt reassured some more. When I boarded this train, a man was on the phone and talking away to glory in what, I think, is the most clean Urdu I’ve ever heard. While the conversation was supremely hilarious, for he said, “Koi to vajah hogi yu laut jaane ki. Bewafa yuhi koi nahi hota” (I swear he did) it didn’t have a shade of adultery. So, while I sit in this coach and think about all the wonderful things in life, because the beauty around me compels me to do so, I think of the three children I taught yesterday. I spent a happy 60 minutes explaining the story The Last Leaf by O’Henry to the children supported by my office. There was some trepidation at first, then some hesitancy and then there was thawing; those kids made me feel like there was more to life. While we read the story from their text book, they asked me meanings of words. “Didi, ‘silly’ matlab?” “Fierce kya hai?” “Afford matlab?” I stopped a while before explaining in Hindi what afford meant. And when I went back to work, I kept thinking how I could have explained it better. And I felt the need to get a better grasp on my language. I felt the need to know Hindi better, so that I can articulate better to those children who ask me meanings of English words.

A woman in my compartment is the talkative sorts. Very enthusiastically, she went on to tell us how the berths are allocated according to age. She also said how Ratan Tata’s wife has recently expired! (Yes, she did.) And she is the kind of woman who feels like she needs no introduction. I chuckle a bit. Why don’t I have such an uninhibited character, I wonder. And then I smile. Again, I think all is well with the world.

While this train meanders through Gujarat to get to its destination, I sit by the window and try not to think but just gulp the monochrome scenery. The darkness in this world, the darkness inside us, the darkness that fills fear is nothing but one side of a coin. For on this beautiful, black night I am rest assured of the beauty of life and the magic of travelling in this country.

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