With time hanging on & the wife wanting some time without interference for Divali cleaning, shopping pushed me into visiting Baroda (Nay I refuse to call it Vadodara & there is no MNS there).Since I was travelling alone, decided to travel by train after a long time (7 years). Booking thru the irctc site was easy & with a confirmed ticket was all set!Reached Borivali station on a Saturday afternoon, the crowd waiting for local as well as upcountry was spilling all over.The train came in just 10 minutes late & got in. Even before I could put my bag in the rack & identify the seat, a NRI said, please sit on the other side so that I & my wife can sit together. Mind you this was not a request tone, but wearing a shorts, university T shirt & keds, with pouch hanging screaming (NRI/NRE whatever) gave him the right. Having booked my ticket, specifying a window seat, since the aisle always ensures you get banged into every couple of minutes, I respectfully declined. Immediately the NRI started speaking to his wife in Marathi (whilst I am not a complete marathi manoos, can definitely understand & make myself understood:)) “India will never change”; we should have flown; there are no manners, so on & forth. Finally in disgust, a gentleman commented that you should have flown & if you have a litany of complaints, why have you come back to India!!! Bravo….. Quiet went the couple….Settling down & exploring the seat (quite comfortable with push back working); signage showing kms to next station; AC working pretty good, got a little snooze till the smell of good masala Chai (tea) woke me up….Lovely, steaming hot, with masala, cardamom for only Rs. 5/- brought back memories of college studies & work in Baroda, Ahmedabad, Calcutta!11102008042.jpg11102008043.jpgSoon Vapi came & I had someone occupying the empty seat. A young gujarati gentleman, who thought his life’s purpose was to share all his secrets & ask for mine. So we went at it with rapiers, parry, thrust, parry, with me determined not to part with any secrets…..he going with a set of standard questions & not feeling bad since most of them he provided assumed answers:Where are you from? London, America?What do you do? Business man, rightGoing to Baroda/Ahmedabad for social visit?What do you invest in? How much did you loose during the bloodbath? Etc. etc.Try the cutles….good better than other train. Taking a deep breath, I ordered just a plate of bread butter(having had exposure to cutlets during my hotel tenure, generally avoid ordering it anywhere, unless left with no option) & another cup of masala tea.Off he went again, sharing his background (diploma in engg) CTC (cost to company); daily allowance(the reason for his travelling 4-5 days a week)investments etc.Before I could get a word edgewise though I constantly was fiddling with a novel, which I had been hoping to read, I was rained by advice on which stocks I should pick up now!!!Thankfully Surat came & a group of young lads came on board, similar in age to the engineer & they started off on World Economy; Stocks; Divali; Government; Companies etc. in no particular order. Giving up any attempt to read, decided to take a snooze.Along came Bharuch famous for peanuts. My friend to fulfill his mission woke me up to try them. Now with no option but to pretend agreeing with them, if not joining them, nodding my head, hoping to see Baroda soon, passed the next hour & half.Phew!!!Finally Baroda, where he insisted on waiting with me for someone to pick up…..here the suspense was revealed. A couple of phone calls received by me, wherein he had heard me speak in English, which meant I was a NRI whether I wanted to be or not.With promises to keep in touch (having been given his card, with private nos, email id written on back)finally bid him good bye.Slowly walking the platform, watching the differences – good ones – made my way out where a friend was waiting for me!A nice journey, where trains, service, quality has changed over the last 7 years but the consumers have not changed at all!!!!!The return journey by Sataphdi is another story by itself:)

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