Most probably, I think, we will reach Chennai by 8-9; from there, it takes at least 12 hours from Aluva. Actually this train will not go to Santraghachhi, so we will go to Rourkela, ok? From Rourkela we will take the train from Bombay. I mean, we have bought the tickets like this….. all those trains that go to Santragachhi are overcrowded. This is not a direct train for that line [= for West Bengal], that is why we could still find seats. You know what would have happened if we would have taken that train? People would be hanging all around the wagon, those that have got a seat would sit, but there are so many people that on this seat, where three of us are sitting – on that seat there are even just 2 –, there would be seven persons.
Now, if we’ll see that it is possible to travel by train again, we’ll go to Sealdah, but we might find that we should not go by train but by bus… we’ll decide this only once arrived, after getting down from the train there. If we manage to reach Sealdah by 1:10 in the afternoon, then we will get a train from there. We would get the train for Behrampur, and from Behrampur it’s a fare of 20Rs till home. As travelling by bus would mean a lot of jerk for our bodies… That road is now yet completed!
…and due to Durga Puja, there will be a lot of jam on the road…
Yea, there will be a lot of jam…
We’ll arrive in Rourkela by this train; from Rourkela we will have to buy tickets for Gitanjali Express and board that.
So you do not have tickets?
No, we have tickets till Rourkela, but we’ll need to buy tickets to travel from there. We’ll need tickets from there to Santragachhi or Howrah.
How long does it take to reach Murshidabad from Calcutta?
From there, it is a journey of 6-7 hours.
Then it will be night by the time we reach, or Saturday morning…
If it works out, we’ll reach on Friday night, otherwise in the early next morning.
Do you all take the same train every time?
No. I have travelled for 6-7 times and this is the first time I am taking this train.
What other trains are there?
Other than this, there is the Guwahati Express, the Shalimar Express… or we break the journey: we go from here to Chennai, and from Chennai we take Coromandel Express… it runs daily. I am taking this train for the first time; the ticket checker might come at any time – do you think he’d let us know when he is getting on?? If we had come after tomorrow… I have bought the ticket and there I have paid money… and what if now again I have to bribe?!? If [the ticket collector] wants a bribe from me… take a simple boy on this train… they might take him money even if he has got a ticket! …will he or not? We at some point thought we might buy tickets without having to pay a fine; today night, when there was such chaos, half of the seats remained vacant [as passengers with reserved tickets did not board the train; Shahabuddin had paid for a ticket but had only been wait-listed: he and his fellows had occupied vacant seats without having being assigned those]. I mean, if we would have boarded tomorrow morning, there would have been many left seats… then the TTs [ticket checkers] call people and sell the seats to them [illegally charging an extra fee]…
You see, I have my own ticket; now there were some boys who had bought tickets but they did not come, and exchanged with someone their place, that is, the name on the reservation list wasn’t changed but someone else has come in their place (they must have thought that now, it would be a hassle as there is so much rush that the train wouldn’t reach)… when we come here [in Kerala], we actually decide on a date to go home; after a month or two, we fix a target as to when to return; in the contrary, when we go home, it so happens that we change plans – I won’t return this week, but in the next week, then again in the next week I am confronted with such a problem that two months pass by –, that’s why we cannot reserve tickets for the travels to Kerala. But we do reserve tickets to go home…
This time I had planned I would stay back for a few more days and then travel by plane once…
To return by plane to Kerala?
No, from Kerala to home. I had this plan in mind. I was the one who came up with the idea and in fact, one of my kins travelled by plane. In fact I, one of my kins and a friend, some 4-5 people, decided we will travel by plane: we even gave money to a person to buy tickets… but then, my own kin went away by air [before the others], another person said he had some problems back home… If I buy a train ticket, I can return it till the time of departure, but airplane ticket cannot be returned. So, this person went away and I was left alone… my friend told me to go with him, but I needed to travel before the date of his flight… so everybody travelled by plane and only I missed. I regret [afsos theke gelo mone], but I will once try…
Refund is possible…
Yes, but they won’t return the entire money, because it is not government, it is private – it used to be owned by the government but a private company bought it from the government and is doing their business… if it were of the government, it would not have mattered, but since it is private, they try to bring as much pablik [meaning resources, power] as possible within their hands, and that leads to their success… if they return money, they would face losses – whereas they make profit, whether I travel on the planned day or not.
So you could not understand the language here?
We do not face much difficulties; we do not face much of a problem because we have been living and interacting with people of this place for a long time.
Do you speak Malayalam?
Yes I can speak; we do not face much difficulty in interacting with people here, suppose, if you utter ten words in that language, I will be able to tell the meaning of seven, perhaps I will miss 3.
Did you travel in Kerala?
Sure, I have been here for a long time… almost 8 years now.
You are here for 8 years??!! What is your age??
What will be my age… 24.
So you came here when you were just 16??
I came here once when I was 16; it was in the year 2005 when I came for the first time, but I left after three months. I did not even know Hindi then, I could neither speak Hindi, nor the language of this place, so I left after three months. When I came next, I stayed for two and a half years. After that, I went home and stayed there for 26 days. Then I returned again and stayed for 14 months. I did not enjoy my stay at home any more. Thus I stay here. This time I am going home after 10 months.
Do you now go every year for Eid?
I try. We cannot make it every year. Like, I could not go last year; this year I missed the other Eid, therefore will have to make it this time.