Trains,stations & rail tracks ..

Awkward moment, a much awkward moment indeed! The whole compartment was full of passenger watching us, while we were surrounded by rail police and a rail magistrate. Our crime was traveling without a ticket.

Okay let’s rewind the scene half an hour back. We won a six-a-side football match but the opposing team didn’t appreciate the result. So they started teasing us, ending up in a fight, which we also won. We had to run away though, as they gathered more man power. And that’s when we decided to jump to this slow moving train by the football field, which resulted in us getting caught for travelling without a train ticket. The great escape: as we didn’t have enough money to pay fine or buy ticket they dropped us off at the next station which was pretty alright.

Okay, end of nostalgia. I don’t know why I began with this old memory about trains when I have tons of other memories to begin with; maybe this is the only shameful one!

And speaking of nostalgia, how about I give you little bit of younger version of me. He loved his colorful train books in his family library. So that kid, wanted to be a train driver for a while. Then he changed his mind and decided to buy a train when he would grow up. But building a train track became tricky. So the train project didn’t last long in his venturous mind, after all. Also The Bridge on the River Kwai and a few books about railroads made him downcast.

 

Especially if we look into the world railroad history, I’m sure that will leave us all to a mixed bittersweet reaction. In most parts of the world railroads were built by enslaved workers, prisoners of war or locals with very limited access to basic food, salary and choice. But let’s not bring politics into this, not right now. We all know the world history and know both sides of the story as well. Let’s remember those beautiful souls who died to make the world modern and more convenient,if i may say so

Are we not fascinated by the old steam train! First the smoke then followed by the kuu kuuuu zhik zhik train. In some parts of the world they still run heritage train services. On my bucket list, I would like to add one or two train travel from here.   

The longest train journey I had was 46 hours in India, travelling from Kolkata to Bengaluru. Every station differed in vibe from the others; smell, language, food, color, people, culture wise. The very first modern train trip I had in Singapore, from Singapore city to Jakarta. A very smooth  train journey but passengers acted as if it was an aeroplane. Or may be my bohemian soul didn’t like too much of luxury!

Even in back home train journey always put me in right mood. Chasing the sights, shadows, the vast horizon always made me more mystic than I ever been. Watching sunrise-sunset, rain-storm or traveling in train in a winter night does put me in higher thoughts as well.
When you search Bangladesh on google,there’s an obvious photo of an overcrowded train that pops up, which always bothers me. Because that’s not everyday Bangladesh at all. That incident happens only because of Bishwa Ijtema. The venue is on the other side of the city and about 3km radius no regular vehicle is allowed, therefor people walk. And there is the train station near by with special train service. There are frequent train services for the pilgrims but don’t ask me why my fellow countrymen jump on the roof and don’t wait for another train to arrive. I guess after their devoted time they feel immortal. But the occasional accident proves that wrong!

 

That same sight you’ll get to see once again during Eid vacation. When half the of capital’s population wants to go home to celebrate. Train tickets become scarce, even on the black market.

 

Corrupted rail staff provide ladder services; you pay money and they provide a ladder for the train roof journey. It’s an unofficial-official system despite the justification.

To be honest with you, I really want to travel on a train roof one day. I did travel on the roof of bus, truck and jeep already and it’s another level of traveling if you ask me! Sitting comfortably in train seat is a normal occurrence but how about traveling standing or sitting by the train door. It’s all about experiences and how you make the best of the situations, right.

My grandfather was a railway station master although we never got to see him working. But he did bring us to main central signal station,showed us around. The old railway morse code machine always make me nosy. After his death we brought his dead body to our countryside home by a train, what a tragic end, eh. One of the slowest train journey I ever had.

Once I overslept in the train while travelling from Dublin to Shannon and forgot to change at transit station and ending up in Cork. But ticket checker was nice enough to allow me to travel without buying the return ticket!

One thing I always do during train travel is walk from one end to the other end and if it’s a long journey then you know me; a few t i m e s! That’s the most definite thing I always do no matter what. A few times I found some of my friends while I was at it. I often talk to strangers and in the train that works wonderfully. You get to know someone and all of a sudden they’re gone except for the time you both had. Time travelers..?!..

It would be incoherent if I don’t write about train stations here. I went through these  stations  numerous times on various occasions. Why are so many homeless people around train stations..? Is it because it’s government space ..? So that civilians can’t ask them to move out ..? Has our government finally realized that that these people have no other place to sleep..?!   

And there are rail tracks throughout the Dhaka city. Yet again, we see homeless people take shelter beside it, local markets; drug zone and even random slums stagger around rail track. I got the chance to see the life around rail track in my interpretation job. I felt grief-stricken to observe the life out there and found positivity to see the hope, determination in many people’s eyes, who lived there and fighting hard to stay pleasant inside!  

In the countryside though, the atmosphere is a bit different than the city life. It may be because of the laid back lifestyle but still you’ll find homeless people, Trans and prostitutes living nearby. Why has it became a regular sight at our train stations..? I know there’s a history behind it, an ugly side of the history. I will write about this very topic soon!

I’m sure it will be hard to find, s/he doesn’t like to walk on the rail track! Ohh the amount of time I walked on rail track with friends and cousins! I still do though on my own. Even a couple of months ago I was walking on a rail track for a while, I didn’t pay much attention to the on lookers though. They don’t know what they’re missing out on. Do they feel any hesitation to join themselves..haha..too bad.

So many memories to share still i’m struggling to find something unique. Everytime I hear the word, Train…my mind floats in some remote shadowy place. It’s hard to put those moments into words, may be one day you can reach there while having a cup of tea with me, yes…      

When I hear the engine pass I’m kissing you wide The hissing subsides I’m in luck

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society as norm

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The other day I watched a long due controversial (?!) bangla short film. Well, I guess I wasn’t ready for it when it first came out in the cinema. But since I tried to write down my thoughts about Transgenderism I decided to watch it and from there some thoughts came into place. I wanted to check my stance and if I could be considered progressive, conservative, obstructionist, or conventional in respect to recent fuddy-duddy gender issues. Oh yes also I definitely want to write rather than ignore or hide on this topic.  

The film I watched is called, ‘Ghetu Putro Komola’  aka Pleasure boy Komola. The plot is described in Wikipedia as follows:

 

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“The story takes place 150 years ago during colonial era in a village Jalshuka, Habibganj. During that time a musical group was created called Ghetugaan where young boys dance in female clothing’s and those dancers were called “Ghetu”. Soon they became famous among people but the landlords wanted them for sexual desires and the theory of gay marriage was recognized in the society. The Ghetus were used to get hired for the flood season. The story is about a teenage boy who is hired by a colonial era landlord to entertain his sexual desires until the annual flood is over.”

After watching the film some abstruse thoughts bothered me, which I will explain below:

  • The plot might sound common enough but there’s more to it.
  • It certainly makes you feel disturbed towards secular society.
  • Being poor is hard but you can’t blame everything on that.
  • How can those kids grow up after severe abuse  ?
  • What were those parents thinking as they sold their kid for child sex?
  • How the the hell does society tolerate those pedophile like that landlord in the film?
  • Curious to know that impact of the film on my natives.

Anyhow, I don’t know what else to say about the film. I thank the writer and producer for bringing out the severe truth from the past. I believe public reaction was eloquent and took them a while to digest!

333Consequently, here is the unfinished talk about transsexuals as I mentioned in my previous blog. I spoke with two trans aka ladyboy in Pattaya. One is my neighbor-shop owner, Tai.  Koy is another one whom I randomly talked to while grocery shopping. I was curious to know their growing ups and their current lifestyle. Surprising as it may be it turns out they didn’t have much insights to add. In another ward they kind of surprised me.

I will share the findings of my conversations in the listed overview you find below:

  • Tai was born as trans and Koy first discovered her real self at the age of seven.
  • Their family was fine with their new discovery.
  • They didn’t find much difficulty growing up.
  • Their social surroundings didn’t bother much about them and did accept them.
  • They didn’t go to college for higher education.
  • Tai spend lots of money on eye, nose job as well as an operation on her body.
  • Tai is happy in life and doesn’t have a steady relationship.
  • Tai looks after her little sister and mother from the money she earns from the shop.
  • Koy is from the Philippines and is currently living in Bangkok. She also spent a large amount of cash to become herself properly.
  • Koy works in a travel agency and Bangkok’s LGBT night club area is her favorite spot. She is looking for a long term relationship.
  • Koy doesn’t have much of a future plan as she spends all her wage over the weekends. She’s happy that way.   
  • Both of them get annoyed by the tourists’ eye rolls and sometimes face questions about their gender.
  • They are happy as they are.
  • Both of them were shocked to hear about other trans lifestyle in some part of Asia.
  • They agreed to talk with their community to raise awareness and funds for other less fortunate transexuals in various countries.
  • In both cases their gender is marked as female in their passports . So they don’t use heavy makeups or usual dress when they use airport.     

To be honest with you, growing up trans certainly sounds like it must be difficult for many people. But over here in Thailand is certainly different. As I spoke with a local senior citizen regarding this topic he told me he fears that in a few years there won’t be any girls left, only ladyboys!? I really don’t know what to make out of this remark.

The matter of the fact is, that ladyboys are the highest paid entertainers here. And even though I do have the utmost respect for this society, there is too much of it here. It’s way too commercialized and polluted. I get fiercely annoyed by the ladyboys over here as they like to pester passersby. But since I started to greet them regularly their teasing has no longer been directed at me, thankfully.

The point I am making is not about whether it is right or wrong to feel what they feel and express it the way they do. The society here has largely been shaped by them and must be what they sought after. The thing I am trying to emphasize here is that it is a rough world for Transgender people in many parts of Asia. There is a lot of hatred for them and quite often they are deprived of the most common rights. My thoughts always go out to those who need the support most! These people don’t need any special care or support, in my opinion! Just the most basic thing: equality! Is it too much to ask from the society..?

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Monk’s footprint

 

 ‘Om mani padme hum Buddham Saranam Gacchâmi, Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi,  Sangham Saranam Gacchâm

This chant is the sound I wake up to every morning! It is the prayer monks bring to my next door neighbor, who’s a devoted Buddhist. They always keep something for the next morning to give to the monk in exchange for his prayers and blessings.

Although I did spend some months in a Bhutanese monastery in my childhood, monks here are bit different. Seeing the monks walking about on their bare feet always sparks my curiosity as to why and how they do this. My own memories to walking barefoot barefoot are mostly ones of wonder and enjoyment of the textures of mother earth. I recommend it to everyone.

Besides the positive memories and my personal wishes to someday feel ice and snow underneath my feet, there are also more painful memories. A very strong memory I have is one I will share with you now.

It happened when I was getting back from the countryside by train. It was a local train so it was naturally overcrowded and stopping in every single station.

So, during one of those stops I was having a slow cup of tea and waiting for the last whistle to blow. The idea was to jump in at the last moment to secure a space by the train doorsteps. Travelling on the roof of a train is another excitement but that can wait for some another time.

So when the last whistle sounded, people started rushing towards the slow moving train. Oh there were a few other smart heads like me, who wanted to sit by the door. Trust me it’s great fun! I watched the train start to roll and with a sharp calculation I marked my door. As I jumped for the entrance, I felt a woman grabbing me to hold her balance as she jumped in after me. As the train picked up speed she couldn’t hold on to me and fell off!!

I screamed and asked people to pull the chain but nobody listened! As the train was overcrowded I couldn’t get inside to pull the chain myself. Some people even advised me to keep it quiet to stay out of the trouble. Can you imagine how self centered we are?!!

In all honesty, I wrote the following part differently at first. I wanted to hide the truth even from myself! Here’s the honest version, anyhow.

The train didn’t stop; it continued ruthlessly! Everyone acted as if nothing happened. And speaking for myself; I was horrified and lost my senses. What if the crowd point me out as the guilty one in this accident!? There wasn’t another station for hours regrettably, and I knew the train would stop!

I did not hear her screams or sound of broken bones, so I just held on and hoped she was OK…

I don’t really have anything else to say about it. I froze up and and carried on hanging by the train door until the next station, despite the shock. I heard the Ticket checker talking about that a woman been taken to hospital but not sure of her condition.

This collateral inconsolable event still haunts me until this day! After reaching my final destination, I was so devastated that I failed to notice that I had lost my shoes along the way. Therefore, I walked home completely lost in thoughts and on bare foot, just like I had come into this world.

 

I walked barefoot, like the monk did, but was in no shape to give out blessings or prayers. I was the one who needed comfort and release from my conscience.

Footprints in the sand

heading that way as it

leads away it leaves a

tale..

(Footprints in the sand by Robert Roberts.)

Alien, nowadays ..

I come from a great old forest

I think it is now a field

And the people I once knew

Are not there now…

I got confused with introduction here; how about bit of documentary   before I actually begin?

To share a bit of my insight (if you could call it that?) about aliens with you, let’s start out with a bit of history!

No, I won’t bring much statistics of past centuries here. How about i share history from my own native land. The horrors of war are beyond all words.

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I heard many true stories from the elders about refugees. Hearing about these accounts makes you wonder about humanity and where our moral standards have gone. Shocking stories that touch you and encourage you to be better.

Independence didn’t come easy for us (I guess it never does), as we were ruled by two different powers over different periods of time.

Our first freedom, didn’t last long. I call it, political independence (?!) .

Our final true liberation was achieved on 16th Dec,1971. In our dire situation many countries helped us and  support came from various angles, I honor those!

Some of my own fellow countrymen would most likely raise doubts about our honest freedom though. I don’t agree with them; didn’t we progress and achieve many goals throughout times?

Anyway folks, let’s talk about current times. Recently we have been made aware of boat tragedies in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Italy, Greece and many other coastal areas of Europe. They have shocked many living soul, right!

On my  investigation regarding boat tragedies over here, I found something irritating. We still have a refugee crisis back home, which needs proper care and attention. In this context, I really hoped Aung san suu kyi would come forward. But with utter shock, i didn’t see any movement! May be it’s the election time in Myanmar, political propaganda  or because of this....

But are these boat tragedies only happening since this year or did they only catch our attention after they reached recent news headlines? Why is it only getting the attention now like??

Weren’t we horrified enough; by the news of minefields, child soldiers, illegal drug tests, famine and what not ?!

It’s breaking news for us but a devastating life fact for many, hah !!

Even look at me; sitting by the balcony with notebook  !?

Who are we to judge their motives for abandoning their homeland or why they chooses this uncertain destination through such a life threatening journey?  

Have we forgotten we also fled to shelter in India in ‘71? We knew at the time we would be back, but these people’s fate aren’t the same!!

We all noticed that people are running away from Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and pouring into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (mostly). There are also people fleeing from Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia due to direct/indirect war.

And did you notice the official quietage performance of Saudi Arabia!! Hah, too much to show some humanity; dear holy Saudi Arabia!? Is it because of Shia-Sunni differences or the fear of economic instability? Although you engaged in war in Yemen but of course you had your motives then, eh!!

Nor humanity, nor the religion; you pick the so called tribal-regional selfishness !

Who wants to deal with the refugees, hah! Although there is the bitter experience of Palestinian refugees for some!

So these exiles who are fleeing for safety to Europe, are getting proper attention nowadays, finally! Some reached ashore and a major number still waiting on the other side of the sea to cross!

I’m delighted to see many countries coming forward to receive them, although there are few other confusing parts there as well. In addition to that, some countries are playing high stake poker though!

So if you hold a certain passport, the world is open to you! Then you can move anywhere to live,earn and live as long as you want!! But if you don’t have that passport privilege then you are no more than an immigrant or migrant or a refugee!! So much for one world, eh!

I won’t bore you with recent refugee updates as you must know already.

Also some of you are participating with good gestures to help/support them!You all are true human and I’m spiritually always beside you!!  

Specially, I’m proud of  Epi ! 

I’m having an epiphany right now, which i would like to put in my next writing.

But before you go, how about  have a cup of lemon tea with me…