Sunday, August 14, 2011

Train Timing Inc

Well, there's something new about trains that I learned last week.

Was traveling in West Bengal / Jharkhand last week (yes, of all places!), and was on road, when a railway crossing closed right in front of us. Since it was countryside, we decided to roam around for a few minutes and stretch our legs, till the train crosses over.

I wandered around to the signal station on railway crossing, and invariably started chatting up with the guy who manages the barricade.

As a child, I used to think that there are automatic electric means and modes that connect all such railways crossings, so that the operator gets to know when a train is nearby and the barricades have to be closed. However, there was one fundamental flaw in this theory - that electricity is available everywhere. In reality, there are countless crossings in India that would be devoid of any electric supply.

I had further thought that in absence of electric supply, there would be some sort of morse code devices that would be used by these railway crossing operators to communicate with the central room, to know when to operate the barricades. I was always fascinated by how sophisticated the systems would be, that enable these operators across the country to know minutes before any train reaches their junction.

While I was chatting with the operator, these long lost thoughts came running back to me, and I ended up asking him how they were so skilled.

The answer was surprising, and as simple as it could have been - it is a normal 'telephone' that they use. Each crossing calls up the next one when the train crosses theirs, to give a heads up.

How simple is that!

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Continuing with yesterday's badminton session, today is PS' happy waala budday. PS and I were baddy partners in college. I remember that during college, SR/AS made the unbeatable baddy couple, and all the while through the tournament, the quest was mostly for who would finish second! Everyone believed so, me included. But not PS!

PS has this uncanny notion of doing things other won't even think of. PS had the belief, and even with a low seeded player like me, had the conviction to make it through the finals. And the finals were breathtaking - the badminton courts in the college had an apt location - right at the centre of the hostel, with all corridors filled with audience, cheering on top of their voices. No other complex can match the tournament atmosphere generated at this facility.

The crowd was deafening, and I do not even remember what we did afterwards. Awesome feeling, nonetheless.

That actually brings me to another such tournament, though in that one SR/AS were also in our team representing our college, when we went to IITK for National Sports Convention. With SR/AS/PS part of our team, there was no way we were not going to win the gold there. And the most interesting part of that tournament was the journey back! When we did not even have confirmed train tickets on the way back, but just a handful of us managed to takeover a full compartment, as if we owned the train. I guess AA would remember what train it was!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Trivial, Leap

Today's badminton session was a class act.

What made the session so special was the quest to jump the wall - sounds unrelated & basic, but it most definitely is not! It sure was Déjà vu!

The place where we play badminton at night is surrounded on two sides by high enough boundary walls, a huge building on the third, and a short partitioning wall (which I wouldn't even call a wall - it was not even 5 feet high). While playing badminton today, during the first game of the night itself, the short wall grabbed my attention - it sort of reminded me of the athletics wing of sports complex we used to have in our school. It reminded me of the days when jumping as much as your own height was the norm (which I usually fell short of) in our school!

So the first game ended, and I walked towards the short wall, all eager to jump over it, and prove to myself that I still have it in me! Made a few advances, but the concrete wall pushed me back - Since the wall was all concrete, unlike the high jump station & the safe landing sand pit ahead that used to be the reassuring pad at school, I kept thinking of what if I couldn't jump over, and banged my head on the ground on the other side, or the likes. I rehearsed on a few bushes on the side, which actually were higher than the short wall, and could clear the bushes comfortably, but whenever it came to the short wall, something held me back.

Thinking I might need some more warm up before the leap, I started the second game of badminton as well. But I just could not concentrate anymore - after every point, I glanced over to the wall - and there it stood, laughing at me, making me realize how plastic I had become. I finished the game, and went over to the wall again - I had a point to prove, and I wasn't going anywhere without making it.

Twenty minutes, tens of attempts, various leaps later - I could gather so much courage as to jump so much so that my feet were landing on the top of the wall - and this took me back to Circa 1992, annual athletics meet, blue house trailing the leading green house by a razor thin margin, and every medal counting - and when we could just about make the gold medal in high jump (no, it wasn't me who got it - there was a five foot ten guy in our class when I was five feet two in 6th standard, who did the trick). And the cheering and noise that followed - that was almost my first tryst with passion for the team, for the house. And I could still feel it, standing over the short wall.

Trip down the memory lane - made the day.