Journey within a journey

There is nothing spectacular about a journey in a train, one may say. But the fact remains that for a man with an eye for discovery, every journey can turn out to be spectacular. But this is not about the journey from a starting point to a destination. This is about a journey within the train – a journey within another one.
I woke up and my friend, a man with a liking for the crazy, held me by my hand and led me on the path of my sojourn. In a train bound to Chennai from Delhi, there can be quite a lot to see from the northern to the southern stretch of the country. Besides, on a cold foggy morning, when the train seems to be moving at snail’s pace in a non-descript area, you have nothing much to do.
From the last boogie of the sleeper-class compartment, where we were stationed, we began moving towards the other end of the train. To be frank, the journey through the sleeper class was the most tiring as it never seemed to end. Even in real life, the journey from sleeper class to first class often takes a lifetime, the irony being that by the time you reach there, you lose interest because by that time, you prefer a flight to train.
The train was littered with passengers who had strewn their mattress near the doors and the toilets, travelling with and without tickets. Cuddled in blankets, they looked like huge sacks and cartons placed on the way, obstructing the path of travellers like us. The journey was still inchoate.
Walking, we reached the pantry, where the breakfast was being prepared. It was tempting on a hungry morning but our goal was clear and we moved on. Passengers were slowly lifting their blankets to see what time of the day it was, before realising the watch tied to their wrists. The area around the basins were crowded with some diligent travellers, who, unlike us, never ate or drank anything without the fragrance of fluoride in their mouths.
Giving a tough competition to the chaiwallas, we paced on. We reached the end of the sleeper class and entered the AC three tier compartment. It was extremely cosy and comfortable there away from the biting cold, which had turned my fingers numb. “The aim of an AC compartment is not to keep things cool. The aim is to keep things comfortable and better than normal” came a repartee from my friend, which it seemed, was to my thought.
Walking together, we reached the completely silent AC two-tier compartments. The passengers were ensconced completely in their private worlds, hidden behind many curtains. There were hardly any passengers littered around in an AC compartment, though we still found a few travelling while still on waiting list. But these were exceptions by all means. We moved on and reached the fag end of the AC two-tier compartment. We opened the glass door to move into the privileged and much sought-after first-class compartment.
“Where are you guys going?” came a stern and serious-looking senior citizen. My lips were locked in silence, scourging for a reply. I turned to my friend, who it seemed, had almost entered the privileged class, for a fraction of a second though. He turned back and stepped back, looking sheepishly at the gentleman. “We are just walking” he replied.
“Walk by all means. But you shall walk that way” the man said, pointing towards to where we came from – the sleeper class compartment. We smiled with a half-minded “OK”. Our progress and sojourn abruptly came to an end. “Sometimes you simply don’t get what you want even if you put all your efforts behind it” said my friend to me as we reached where we actually belonged to.
(This piece is dedicated to the friend mentioned in this write-up)

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