The Curse of the Upper Berth
I glare at the computer screen. My entire mood of making that train trip vanishes in an instant. Not again.
B4. 54. UB.
The Indian Railways has this peculiar penchant of allotting me the upper berth whenever I travel. And I hate having to crawl up this cubby hole.
There are at least six pairs of eyes glaring at you with amusement as you lift your not-so-beautiful bulk gingerly on those small ladders at the side. And as always some part of my clothing gets caught on the edge of that ladder which makes me look more contorted than I already do.
And then there is that perennial problem of whether to climb up facing the ladder or away from it. Once you manage to get one leg on that berth, you have to stretch yourself quickly to avoid dangling your girth on some passerby’s head. Do you prefer a languid slide up the berth in the prone position? Or do you want to do a Sergei Bubka style backward flip and land on your back? The trick is to keep pushing your bag and bedding simultaneously to the end. In any case your legs won’t fit and will have to keep projecting out like a misaligned missile. Once you do that wriggle as much as you can to get the sheet over you. You need that as the A.C. vent will be directed to the centre of your very being.
I’m grumbling as I reach my compartment. And desperately hoping that today someone will call me Kaku or Aunty and swap their lower berth with me. I won’t mind those terms today. Just my luck. Two Kakus are already stretched on the lower berths. And worse, they have real un-dyed grey hair and are dressed in sarees. No scope for any berth swaps tonight. I look around hopefully and an elderly gentleman offers me his middle berth instead of mine. I thank him profusely and gladly accept the offer.
Two hours after I’ve been comfortably snoring the train stops somewhere and a young lady walks in with an aggressive gent. “Who’s on this lower berth“, he hollers in a tone which means he’s not in berth exchanging mood. Turns out that the elderly gentleman’s wife was sleeping on the lower berth, which was not hers.
Solution? “Wake up the middle berth Kaku”, says a female voice in the dark. Me? Yes. “Ask her to shift!” I’m the scapegoat. Pick up all the bedding and baggage again and do the trapeze act to reach the empty upper berth on the other side. Hold your bladder till the people on the middle berth wake up and you can climb down in the morning.
I’m wondering of the advantages and disadvantages of being in the Kaku category in the morning when there is a buzz in my compartment. Someone has spotted a pride of peacocks in a field. I forgot you could do bird watching even if you are on a train.
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