Even a decade ago the local trains represented the city’s lifeline in Mumbai and regular office commuters would vouch for it being the most efficient way to travel in the city. The trains zip in and out at startling frequencies like clockwork and during peak hours you would not wait for more than 5 minutes to catch your train.
So when I moved back to Pune and bought my own flat near Khadki Railway Station it was a no-brainer to opt for a ‘First Class’ pass to travel for 10 minutes to reach the next station, Shivaji Nagar, and take a brisk 5 minutes walk to Office.
But things thankfully happen at a more leisurely pace in Pune and the train frequency was not what I was used to in Mumbai – typically you had to wait for 30-45 minutes for the trains and timing ones walk to the station would never quite work as the trains tended to be erratic in maintaining its scheduled timings. The great plus was that the trains, unlike Mumbai where you were packed to the rafters, were not very crowded and definitely in the First Class compartment you could always a find a seat and travel in comfort.
Eventually I figured it out that I usually spent about an hour in managing my diurnal commute. And I just had to do something to while away the time. I was never keen on listening to music on my mobile phone – you would often end up with a numb head.And those were not the times when the Smart Phone had arrived on the scene to take you to the blessed world of digital nirvana.
Voila! The best thing was to catch up on my reading. A book is handy and easy to carry. And reading to a bookworm is an activity that one can start and switch off in a jiffy.
Fiction in particular is easy to read in ‘start-and-pause’ manner and I particularly favoured the books written by Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Kingsley Amis. It was also convenient that these books were readily available at the British Library that was near to my Office as well.
Spending time at the railway station platform is a habit in itself – you find yourself favouring a particular bench, the canteen caterer starts to recognize you as get into the routine of having a ‘chai cutting’, you have a few ‘Hi-Bye’ acquaintances who are familiar faces on your route. You develop automaton functions where I would never quite even realize, how I managed to get up, board the train and then alight at the next station while pursuing my book with deep interest. Even the station, crowded and noisy, would vanish from ones consciousness as one was all lost in the imaginary world.
My Pune stint lasted for about two years and it was a possibly the best period I had with reference to reading books. Not a day went by without me catching on some stuff. But eventually I got over the craze and latched onto a new one – the addictive number puzzle Sudoku that emerged from nowhere and became a trendsetter in the summer of 2005.