Spiritual journeys are not only internal. Sometimes it necessitates short or even long-distance travel to attain the goal of learning and understanding. The spiritual texts like the Vedanta or the Upanishads are mostly written in Sanskrit with commentaries by notable scholars in different languages enabling one to understand to some extent what it is really trying to say.
Nevertheless, the understanding is never really complete unless one has a Guru from time to time to enhance the depth of the understanding that is essential to further one’s thought building process, and enable contemplation.
I had developed an urge to understand the dreamer. waker and deep sleep state and the state beyond viz. Turya and it was suggested by an esteemed member of our regular Sunday study group (where we study the Vashishta Gyan) that One Acharya who visited Kamshet to teach her would be willing to take a class for a period of 7 days. Kamshet is not far from Pune and locals travel there daily. Incidentally it is famous for its ‘Indrayani’ Rice which is smooth and rich in quality and tasty.
I was thrilled at her kindness and decided to join with another member of the class who had a doctorate in Philosophy and travel daily by the local.
The train was to stop at Khadki station which is not far from my residence. But Dr. S had to travel all the way from the city. On the first day I got up early finished the morning chores and waited patiently, but Dr S was late and this was a matter of concern…I was getting really worried when finally, I spotted her on the road and heaved a sigh of relief. Actually, I was glad for her company for she is very caring and loving and is very respectful. We had earlier decided to walk up to the station but as it was already late we decided to go by rickshaw to reach on time.
The station though not far, we had to walk on the newly constructed over bridge. I was travelling by train after a long time, and I could see that the station had changed for the better, apart from being cleaner it seemed organised better. It was freshly painted and having just two platforms ,the station was small. The placement of the ticket counter had changed and as we were catching the local there wasn’t any rush. In fact, it was only the two of us. We were joined later by another youngster. This was natural as the train began at the main junction at Pune Station and was bound to be pretty crowded. This station was just the first stop and it would take few more enroute to Kamshet.
Well, the first hurdle happened to be the ticket counter for there was no one there. We checked behind on the platform and saw no doorway. This was most disconcerting and I thought we were bound to miss the train. We were getting anxious and as is natural in such situation a conversation consisting mainly of complaints was struck up by the other two commuters there. Fifteen minutes later the man shows up most casually and give us the return ticket costing a few tens and tells us that the train is late. We relaxed but made our way quickly to platform two where the train was expected.
The train, being late, we had to wait a little more. Regular commuters now started filling up the platform. Indian trains especially locals have a lady’s compartment to ensure their safe travel. However just because it’s all ladies it doesn’t make it less disturbing or rough and sometimes even funny if you are able to maintain your cool.
The train traveler is a different breed altogether. While they may have their disturbing points for the irregular traveler, they are very supportive of each other and extremely adjusting, and this is most commendable. In fact, they will also help the new comer provided she is accommodating and understanding. It’s really amazing.
The train came in and we were standing at a suitable point where the ladies compartment would be when the train stopped. Locals do not wait for long, so there is the sudden rush to the doorways, which are wide open and every one jumps in even before the train completely stops. If you ae not fast enough you will be pushed in and frowned upon for being slow and also commented on. As a newcomer one has to let that slide. After having entered there is another mad rush to take the available seats. We managed to get ourselves seated which was a relief. By then I was hot. Although it was cool, all the activity and the crowd had increased my pressure. Nonetheless I was enjoying the situation as the experience promised to be amazing.
As we made ourselves comfortable on a seat which had enough space only for three a lady told us to pack ourselves so that some room was created for her. She perched herself in the corridor side of the seat and I doubted she was comfortable but that did not seem to concern her as she chatted and laughed with her travel friends. The other seats soon followed suit as more commuters entered. I understood that this was the normal practice. The train soon started and in jumped the vendors. Other commuters sat on the floor at the entrance. There was the usual chatter among the ladies that were familiar with each other.
The train had just moved out of the station and gathered momentum when I perceived a push and pull among the standing public. I wondered what was happening. It soon became clear that the vendors with their socks and ribbons and eatables had become active and within a few minutes business was on full swing. The sale from tea to scarfs and a lot of other small items was in full swing. There were a few college going girls and the rest were mostly office workers and a few laborer’s.
The vendors popped in and out at every station and varied products were sold. Most of them were trinkets and shone in the morning sun. We bought a couple of pairs of socks they seemed good though I doubted their lasting quality…. but I was proved wrong later on that account
More and more commuters got in at every station and an equal number got out. By now we had made about four stops and as we neared a somewhat larger station I was getting really claustrophobic. Thankfully a large number of people got out and there was more empty space and the air cleared.
As I began to breathe more easily. Dr. S asked a question and for the next ten minutes I forgot I was in a train. But not for long! Another station had come up and there was a commotion outside our door. Apparently, a lady had fallen on the platform and her foot had got stuck between the platform and the train as she had alighted in haste while the train was still moving. She was loath to let her footwear go and all were urging her to do so before the train started. There was a lot of tension but finally she relinquished and the nearby ladies dragged her out. The train moved on. The sounds of the commuters’ shouts receded and fresh air came through the window. I commented to may companion that this was a really happening day and she smiled back at me. She is a seasoned traveler and this was not new to her.
We continued our philosophical musings and looked out of the window. There were only a few stops before we were to reach our station, maybe just another 20 minutes of travel left when we heard a loud argument starting at the door. A few ladies of some tribe were standing and another sitting. Obviously, there were no seats and there was a protest about something. It was rough fight and they even got physical and had to be separated. This was most amusing as the fight, we soon learned, seemed to be over a small affair of someone blocking the way. However, it proceeded to get downright personal and the argument irrationally went way beyond the cause of the fight. It was a true example of how the brain stops functioning and unreasonableness takes over. They were all over the place and although amusing to an onlooker, they were arguing earnestly and by the looks of it the fight was all set to escalate.
Thankfully the next station saw them alight and their animated assault verbal and physical continued unabated on the platform. The train took off unconcerned and it was all quiet for the rest of the journey. Soon Kamshet arrived. We alighted and walked toward the car sent to us by Mrs U. It was indeed very considerate of her to do so. Her place wasn’t far from the station. I had visited Kamshet when I was small. It was very much the same, especially the old village, just slightly bigger. On the other side urbanization had started showing its head where farm land was seen to be going under construction. Real estate had touched this place and I understood that it would not be long before it lost its pristine simplicity and village air. But for now, it was a good place, clear air, farms and a lot of greenery and a flowing river full of water. The station wasn’t clean nor was the train for that matter, but it was a typical village and a welcome change from the urban city we had left that morning.
The return journey was quiet and uninterrupted although the train did get delayed for it stopped at some point awaiting the green light. The next five days saw the same hustle and bustle but as I got used to it and became more tolerant I understood that this was the way of life for many and adjustment was a way of moving forward without ire or resentment. These daily commuters went about life smilingly taking their daily journey in their stride and did so uncomplainingly.
Train journeys do teach a lot, they help you to get in direct touch with the general public and gives depth to the understanding of what life is really all about. I didn’t only learn the Mandukya Upanishad, I was introduced to life’s lessons as well.