Mumbai to Bangalore Cantonment 1999
Grandpa had made it through the night quite happily, comfortably rocking back and forth in his white vest and pyjamas on the bottom bunk of the 2AC carriage that had carried us over night from Mumbai to Bangalore. For a man in his eighty-fifth year, he was still in remarkable shape. I wish now that the dirty windows had been cleaner and we could have enjoyed more of a view during the day time. The 2AC carriages in India with their enclosed air-conditioned bogies and soft seats, covered with pressed white sheets and soft pillows, are much more comfortable that the three-tier sleeper class trains with open windows that I now travel by but they disconnect you from the world as India passes by.
As the train slowly pulled itself through the outskirts of Bangalore and passed the slums that have grown over the years since he left, grandpa noticed the station name of ‘Bangalore East’ and he said “come on, let’s get ready to get off at the next station it will be quicker”.
We never questioned if he was right or wrong, he insisted that we got off at Bangalore Cantonment, which he said was one stop before the train would eventually terminate at Bangalore city station. We collected our belongings and as the train finally came to a halt Vicki jumped off first, followed by me and then my grandpa. Grandpa almost fell through the gap between the train and the platform, his small frame was left dangling, his hands gripping the metal hand rail on the outside of the bogie, his feet kicking the air as his toes desperately tried to make contact with the floor.
We composed ourselves after almost losing him under the stationary train and I asked him “What was it like to be home?” He just calmly and quietly replied to me. “Yes, I supposed it is isn’t it”. We never gave it a second thought to check the address of our Hotel in Bangalore as we arrived, so none of us had anyway of knowing if stepping down at Bangalore Cantonment had in fact helped us or hindered us but as if by divine provenance, our Hotel, the Victoria Hotel was with in one mile of where we had just got off. During the taxi journey to the hotel grandpa still insisted in trying to direct the driver to our destination. Shouting at him in Hindi that he was driving the wrong way and that we should be heading in the other direction, the poor driver was left trying to explain that the street we were now driving along was one way and he had no choice but to go the direction he was facing.
This was a journey that he told me he had done so many times, that he couldn’t remember the exact number, he just commented when I enquired. “Every other bloody weekend”. The last time he made that trip was fifty years before and he was in his early thirties with his wife and young family.