‘Good morning’ I said to the old man of Hemingway. I think he responded. Or was it an obstinate grunt?
Periyasamy served tea with a delightful smile and easy chit chat, which made up for an inhospitable guest. The puppy nibbled at my feet as I sat trying to read the newspapers. Periyasamy stood over us both waving a finger in a disjointed attempt to bring the puppy to heal. With each failing instruction, the puppies needle-like teeth dug deeper into my toes. I think the puppy enjoyed the irony, and sniggering, growled at us both.
The train was late. I booked the only available seat, a bench from Dindigal to Madurai and a 3rd class sleeper onto Cochin. In the Cochin bound sleeping compartment I found I was in with a collection of porky people! I was the token narrow one; as if there had been a mistake with my booking and I had been added to the wrong list!
A porky daughter sat with her porky mother (might have been a porky niece with her porky aunt) and spread out their blubbery flesh to each end of the lower sleeper bunk as if they were walruses sitting inactive each side of a rock.
However, they were well dressed. Both appointed with attractive makeup around their chubby faces, this was a pleasant addition, and both wore bright saris and shiny bling Indian jewellery covered them from head to foot. All this camouflage disguised their fat well, keeping it held in where it would otherwise have budged out on a more humbly dressed woman. Over large stones in yellows, reds and greens festooned their fingers and toes, elevating the overall package, but it could not draw away from the reality, once they undressed and stood naked they would attract few men.
Once they were settled and chatting merrily, the space between became a small table. They swiftly opened a three-tier tiffin box and enjoyed an evening meal which seemed to take forever, either to kill time or to make sure there was no cost to their weight during the long journey.
A porky father and his daughter joined the carriage. They were no bigger or smaller than the mother and her daughter already here. His daughter climbed onto the bunk above me. Every time she wobbled about the bunk’s straps creaked. I was in fear the Indian engineer had not designed the straps with such weight in mind. The father stood between the bunks. He was clearly too porky, awkward and unfit to risk climbing up to the top bunk.
I could go on and describe each of the porky people on the seven bunks (I have the eighth bunk) which made up my sleeping compartment. But I have said enough.
The train rattled into Cochin at 3.30 am