'Here, have some cake. It is my daughter's first birthday.' The woman went around offering fellow passengers as the train pulled out of the station. Another relative, blew up balloons trying to bring in some festivity in the train compartment, while another heaped food into paper plates for their large family travelling together.
While it was quite charming to see a little girl celebrate her first birthday on the train from Mumbai to Jodhpur, the large family seemed to have taken over the entire train compartment at the expense of other travellers.
Encouraged by their strength of number, they screamed out to each other across the compartment, laid out food on the seats of some disarming passengers and pushed themselves on the berths of others so that they could discuss fashion, food and family politics.
They were a noisy bunch, carrying excess food and throwing soiled packets under their berths. To the poor family from Dubai on their way to visit relatives in Ahmedabad, the birthday girl's mother asked as many questions as she could.
"How come you are on a holiday, does your child not have school?" The lady replied politely to all her questions and must have been so anxious to get off that she left a bag behind on her seat, until another passenger ran after her with it.
Text: Archana Masih | Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
Also see: On a Hanuman temple trail
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