Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Not till I actually got onto a train to go there did I realise that i do not have a ‘real-life’ picture of Kanpur at all. For me, my reference scales for the city are either farcical (saying there’s a strike in Kanpur when one cannot hear. Kan=ear, pur= place. Got it? You are supposed to laugh!), or tragic (stories of the siege in Kanpur, often written by ‘A lady resident’). And now that I have been there, I still do not have a real-life picture of the place. I was there for a day, much of which was spent indoors. What I saw of it was either before the world woke up, or as it was laying itself down to bed. But here are my impressions:

  • The area surrounding the station (as one goes towards the cantonment) is called the ‘Rail Bazaar’. This instantly makes one feel as if one is travelling between the pages of a rustling, fragrant Theroux novel.
  • In the car. The driver was playing one of those cds that appear only in the glove compartments of rented vehicles. This one has songs in that English which consists of Hindi sentences translated word for word. However, as occasionally school graffiti agrees with one’s philosophy, one of the songs made me smile as I recognized myself. Here it goes:

White-white face when I am seeing,

My heart is dance making.

Oye, happy in my heart,

My heart is dance making.

“Oh yesh, absolutely!” says my dance-making heart.

  • And finally, dinner. I took me to the rail canteen, but was studiously ignored. Finally deciding it was not worth it, I went outside the station to an omelette stand I had noticed on my way in (yes, I notice these things. It is a finely-honed survival skill). As soon as I went there, the omelette maker pulled out a bench, and made me this amazing, sizzling-hot, scrumptious egg-and bread dinner, chatting all the while. When I was done, he asked if I want chai, and got it for me from somewhere- after a long discussion about the quality of chai in the station and at the stalls. For 15 Rs or less than half the price of a canteen thali, I got warm hospitality, conversation, lovely food, chai, and a warm and comfy place to sit. And I am still smiling happily as I write.


Anonymous said...

I think in such dabas you get tastier food than you know what i meen

Anonymous said...

If i know you enough you are the person who is at ease with rihsha drivers to cantees boys or Prince charles but sometimes it may be dangerouse so be careful in places un known
Uma vishwanath