Finally, I sit in the train from Kottayam to Coimbatore – together with a huge and heavy suitcase and two bags which instead of becoming less heavy seem to double day by day: a lot of presents and a bottle of water are the last things I had to add. There is no way to deny what a good Indian friend offers to you …
But my carriage problem is solved quickly: here in India people are very helpful. The friend who came with me to the station has put my heavy bag even inside the coach and up to the place where I sit. I just thought the train would leave before he could go out of the train again.
My stay in Kerala was fantastic, no doubt about it. Now it is time to go back to Tamil Nadu, the region where I will stay for the next five weeks.
The train is rather empty. There is just one man sitting in front of me. He has observed the luggage scenario and the kindness of my friend that helped me into the coach. As soon as I sit – this damned heavy bag will not fit under the seat – he starts to ask where I come from and what my good name is. An uninterrupted 6 hour conversation follows – that’s India and its people. We talk about Germany, my family and how they “survive” without a woman in the house – I am sure they will 🙂 – , working life, India, politics and politicians, the German highways and infrastructure, the strange behavior of travelling alone without any male – not just to the next village but through the entire world – and about himself, Tamboo, the teacher. Tamboo lives with his 93 years old auntie. He is teacher in a college. He is returning from a city in the South where he has met students and other teachers who worked together 20 years ago. It must have been a nice meeting with speeches, a lot of good food and many pictures he has on a pen stick. It is by chance, but I have similar 30 year school class meeting pictures with me and so we start to watch them on the laptop, the Indian and the German photos. The final group photo of both school events just underlines that there are no huge differences when it comes to old school days’ memories: A lot of emotions, friendship, good and bad storytelling about past times and a happy end – after all these years.
Tamboo has published a book recently. 12 short stories. We take some pictures of him and his book. No doubt, he is very proud to give me one of his books, written in Tamil, with a personal dedication. Thank you, Tamboo! That’s my first Indian book. It will me take years, before I will understand it, however, my Tamil learning is still part of my daily tasks.
I think it is rather unusual for Indians, but he is very attached to a cat. His cat stays in the house. That’s why his book cover shows a cat, as well. In the meanwhile I get the third Chai tea… every 5 minutes a Chai and Coffee seller comes along. The Chai is fantastic. Riding a train in India is like a sightseeing tour – inside and outside the train. I spend some time watching out. The doors are open and what you see seems a summary of Indian life… Afer a while my Indian teacher joins; he had slept and was worried about my absence. So I go back to the coach and we continue talking.
Then, at a certain moment, he gets extremely sad. He tells me he is feeling bad about the future. He grew up with the auntie and he is still living with her, 93 years old. There is no one who cares about her and her deafness, just him. He will show her the pictures of our travel together and tell her all about our conversation. “She will be very happy to hear how you live in Germany and that you come to India,” he says. His openness makes me surprise: He worries what will come when she will die. He never married. “This is a bad situation, in India at my age it is that difficult to find a woman who cares. What will happen when I am getting old? My brothers and sisters will be old, too. No family member will take care of me”. He likes the idea of a house sharing community. “But this will be difficult to realize in India,” he says. He is not looking for the love of his life, not to get married, but for a caring person. What is this Western love all about, what we need is caring people around” he explains.
Two stations before we arrive in Coimbatore a middle-aged, rather well-being Indian couple joins us. The wife interrupts our conversation and asks about the different roles of German women and men – cooking, cleaning up, and caring the children. Somehow I have the impression she is very clever – does she try to convince her husband that supporting her at home is not that strange?
When we arrive Tamboo thanks me a lot. I am surprised. He tells me that he laughed and enjoyed the travel very much – since months he had not such good hours. He thinks I am right when I told him that we never know what will come, and often huge problems get smaller – if we change perspective. He will start to learn new things, get into the new technologies of pads and languages. ”I definitely should, shouldn’t I”, he asks. “I have learned and seen that much from our discussions, this train ride was not coming to me by chance.”
I think I did not really understand well what he meant, however, I have understood that Indians are one of the most emotional-driven people I’ve ever met. And yes, the world is big. We need just to discover it.