Sunday Stories are more of a train of thoughts on travel and travelers . I start this new series from a train ..

I write this from my window seat of the Brindavan Express as it chugs along from Madras to Bangalore , leaving behind glimpses of interior Tamil Nadu . A general lull descends as the passengers are caught in a late morning snooze .The door opens and in comes the aroma of a home grown masala vada with a dash of chutney, tickling my nostrils and sending me on a trail of thoughts to my childhood .

We were a motley lot of kids, chaperoned by our mothers , highly excited as ever, en route to Bangalore on the same train. The journey was always the exciting part and the objects of fascination were the vendors and the many goodies that they used to serve – from hot masala dosas, spicy cutlets, crispy vegetable puffs..It is often the vendors who amused us more than the goodies. Their sing a song voices announcing their wares in a chorus, the twinkle in the eye, their costumes with the long flowing cap…all made the journey more memorable. Starved of entertainment such as cartoons on TV or visits to fancy malls or gorging pizzas or chaats at fast food joints, these humble fares at trains were delicacies to us. Lost in the aromas of the past , I drift off to sleep when a voice cuts through my reverie..And then the journey I realize will never be the same again..

A deep throated voice exclaims “Everything is management and we live and die by it!” “ The train jolts a bit as I look up to see if someone had spoken to me. My neighbour rubs his eyes in bewilderment and glances at me with the same quizzical look., But the voice continues like a trombone, “Wear a smile..the man who wears a smile will always win a deal .”We finally locate the voice . It is right behind us, from a fellow passenger . He entertained me to the hilt, though he did not speak to me throughout the journey and his primary audiences were one girl and a boy .

He talked non stop , neither a moment to breathe nor a pause in his monologue to acknowledge their umms and aahs . I first heard him hold forth on astrology, on how to break bad news to someone if you have perceived something wrong . Like a Guru teaching his unsuspecting students the power of positive thinking, he highlighted case studies to prove how positive thinking and communication could even change his own negative (read wrong) prediction ..A boy had asked him if he would do well in his exams. Our soothsayer could not see a positive result, but he told him , “Don’t worry, all the best , you will do well.” The boy, according to the story came out with flying colors and my passenger attributed it to his positive communication … adding that maybe the boy didnt get what he expected , but thats alright…

A great story teller, the man without warning or any transition started talking about engineering colleges, then on how to run an engineering college , to balancing sheets of an engineering college run by his friend and how losses are so common in such colleges and that is usually according to him the way all colleges do business..Then he moved on to articulate his views on corporate life, how to make presentations, who is fit for a corporate life and how and why XXX and YYY are not fit for the same studies punctuated his monologue,ending with his vision for an organization and how he is right and others were wrong and how he has no scruples in saying he is right and others are wrong.. A common phrase is “we will learn..keep learning will understand. Marketing and technology were his favorite topics..In an hour, he had given umpteen tips on how to be a good professional and hold your own in technology – from ISO to IT ! UFFF !! (Im just not able to keep up with his pace )

He knew the nuances of holding an audience captive to his views..The punch lines were dramatic enough, the pauses non existent and the tone was perfectly right to ensure that you listen to him . I have been entertained and enlightened for an hour on how to be an entrepreneur from idea development, to organization management, to capital generation to loss management to organization skills to balance sheets. The monologue moved to banks and loans ,and boy, do I need to an MBA ? “Whats one crore for a bank ? You cant call that a loan..Everything is management ,everything is… he concluded again, only to start a discussion about the” BIG 5 companies and his role there ..”My job is to show the path and way to make money..but if I did that earlier,,what will others do ?

We tried in vain to sleep, my neighbour even tried to exchange seats , but the voice held us “in thrall.” The topic suddenly shifted without warning to handwriting analysis to numerology to language debate between Hindi and English and then with no logic to Deepika Padukone and Om Shanti Om. At this juncture we were interrupted by the vendor who brought in hot masala dosas, We had crossed Jolarpet and half the journey was almost over. I bravely ventured to get a better glimpse of my en lightener and was trying to practise the expression I should portray ..Bored , irritated, indifferent, shocked, angry… my reflections did justice I think to my acting skills and just then I stole a glance at the girl ..and she looked extremely familiar..The masala started tickling my nostrils again when I caught her staring at me and suddenly we both blurted …arent you .ABC from XXX school ?

So in the midst of management tips , movie stars and masala dosa,.I had discovered an old classmate from school… We let old times interrupt the monologue from her uncle and after some pleasant smiles and a bit of silence while relishing the masala of the dosa, I try going back to sleep when it starts all over again …..Everthing is management, you see…”


  1. Anil P 20 April, 2008 at 13:36 Reply

    Imagine having to listen to the voice without getting to see the face, how powerfully it would’ve communicated.

    He must’ve been quite a character.

  2. backpakker 20 April, 2008 at 21:31 Reply

    Anil – Complete character …my piece doesnt really do justice to him.I should have written in Tamil …especially with all those nuances of language.

    Arif – Welcome to backpakker..true stories dont always give something new..its only the experience that matters ..


  3. Arun 20 April, 2008 at 21:35 Reply

    Must be a guy who really knows things.

    “Wear a smile..the man who wears a smile will always win a deal .”

    Right he may be, it sounds very dry to me.

  4. backpakker 21 April, 2008 at 00:31 Reply

    Arun – I really dont know that..but he had his two bit on everything..I honestly get a bit put off by Mr.Know it alls and a public speech in a train and that too on dry subjects…well, not my idea of an interesting journey

  5. backpakker 21 April, 2008 at 10:27 Reply

    Sameera – I used to enjoy Brindavan too ..but know shatabdi has made it very convenient..anything fast today goes, I guess…and coincidences happen in the most unusual situations as well 🙂

  6. Mridula 21 April, 2008 at 16:59 Reply

    That is why I like train journeys! They always let you meet new people, sometimes discover old ones and you know not what it holds in store for you!

  7. indicaspecies 21 April, 2008 at 19:26 Reply

    I liked the way you have written this post on that ‘enthralling’ discourse, or should I call it monologue?

    Finally what was your overall opinion of your classmate’s uncle? If you had to choose: impressed, irritated, or neither?

  8. backpakker 21 April, 2008 at 20:04 Reply

    Mridula – Train journeys are fun ..lots of weird people and even train romances 🙂 but nowadays I dont have patience for long journeys..a victim of the “fast culture”-fast food, speed , what next attitude 🙁

    Matt – Glad you enjoyed it..irrespective of the days..

    Celine – haha..thats a tricky one..I think I was irritated in the beginning which then led to indifference

  9. bendtherulz 22 April, 2008 at 14:21 Reply

    Will repeat the sentiments of Mridula. Train Journeys are like that. I love them. One of my friend has promised that we will take this “Super slow” train from Delhi to Rishikesh which will stop at all the tiny weeny stops 🙂
    And yeah we will go General Class….!!
    My idea of super fun !!

    Loved the image – may be its the place – its very neat and clean picture….! I do hope its Indian Railway track… :))))

  10. AJEYA RAO 22 April, 2008 at 14:26 Reply

    Train journeys are so much fun….i think one needs to travel by a train to know India better…I have found the co travellers in train get more closer than in any other mode of transport.

  11. backpakker 22 April, 2008 at 20:10 Reply

    Indrani -Thanks..idlis, vadas and dosas are always home grown to me

    BTR – good to see you after a long time..travelling in trains are fun if you are in a group ..solo and a long train..well, my patience dries out..and sorry, the pic is not the Indian railway track 🙁

    Ajeya – you are right…its almost like a family and the proximity gets you talking


  12. shah 4 January, 2009 at 04:53 Reply

    That was an interesting one.Its part of life,it does teach us about personalities ina queer way. Now here is a middle class guy who has education with a decent job and is an armchair world traveller who gets his news from all sources newspapers,TV news channels and is seen imparting to his young audience.
    Even though u were bored of his antics but still you captured that essence of his fluid lecture to his young audience.
    I am sure one of these days you will embark ona coffee table book on travels with your clicked exotic pics and of course those gems of comments.
    Well liked your blog hope to revisit it.

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