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Despatches
JLF Jottings
On the way to Jaipur, our books editor captures the literary sights and sounds: first on the station, and then on the train
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New Delhi railway station's platform number 2 where the Ajmer Shatabdi is just sliding in looks more like the India International Centre lobby this morning. Bemused coolies are hearing a lot of lot of 'excuse me's, 'beg your pardon's and 'may I's than the usual cries of teri maa ki, abe ch...ye, hat na. The fumes of Paco Rabanne and Dior battle with the natural 6 am aromas rising from the tracks. After a lot of 'after you's, a polite but firm argument breaks out at seat number 38 as to who the window belongs to. A few heated words but nothing anything remotely edging towards 'abe...'. The lady next to me is absorbed in her Kindle reading This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. The gentleman is hidden in the pages of Guardian Review. Diagonally across the young lady is oblivious to the service man's query of veg or non-veg as she turns the pages of a thick book which for some reason is wrapped in brown paper which could be the collected essays of Edmund Burke (or it could be the complete works of E.L. James, though it’s still very early in the morning). The accents in our train compartment this morning could beat those in a Geneva conference.

A swish couple gets in at Gurgaon, she in a slick trench coat, he in a fawn sports jacket, she hesitant to hang her Longchamp bag on the rusty hook near her seat, he rinsing the railway cutlery with a little mineral water. Some new writing sensation pair, she a chicklit czarina, he self-help guru? Or hotshot literary agents? Or new kids on the e-publishing block? But soon they start talking about the new stamp duty norms in sector 62 and they are not going to Jaipur as I had mistakenly assumed everyone in the train is. They are going to Ajmer where the train is bound for, to tie a thread at the dargah praying a new deal, which will make or break them, goes through. On the seat behind them another couple has set up a small office on the breakfast trays: a laptop, an iPad, three smartphones, chargers, adapters, wires, batteries, headphones. They seem to be on a conference call. These have to be hotshot literary agents. ‘Do you think they will fall for it?’ ‘It’s tough, there are already too many Germans in the education sector’. ‘I told you we should have started something more focused like autism or even Alzheimer’s, that’s were German funds are going now.’ ‘Ok, there’s a ping, check, check’. As the train races through fresh, dew-drenched mustard fields, after all those veg and non-veg breakfast packets have been cleared, it’s rhythmic sway and rocking brings in a heavy somnolence.

Snoring is a great leveller. You may have been reading Mephistopheles or Manohar Kahaniyan, you may be a poet or poseur, you may have eaten cutlets or caviar, when a train sways and rocks, we all breathe the same.


Also See: JLF Jottings: how to get invited to a Lit Party

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