another random conversation. this time the person was the one who operates the railway gate in the meenambakkam gate. often one sees them and pass by with a smile or a nod but never really talk to them. their personality is so subsumed by the railway lines and the gate that they ofter seem part of the railway landscape. last night while waiting for the railway gate to open, i struck a very casual conversation with the gate operator. he along with another man were doing the night shift which starts by 9 at night and ends by 7 in the morning. he tells me that he has been doing this for the past 25 years. in the given day and time when one shifts jobs as a matter of routine and satisfaction quotient, this man seemed happy and content doing the same job for 25 years!! (reminds me of a song which also has the number 25. for 25 years living next door to alice) well, he seemed proud of the job he was doing. he patiently explained as to how there were two levers and both have to be used simultaneously otherwise it will lead to a confusion of signals and the trains cannot move. it almost seemed that he and his colleague were the reason for the trains to move, stop and proceed without any hassle. the man (i am very apologetic here as i did not ask his name but then his identification lay more with the trains, the railway gates than his name). he told me that he will be retiring next year and that he has only six more months to go. i innocently asked him, 'what will you do after that,' for which he replied, 'i have done enough, what more will i do?' i felt rather sheepish asking that question to him. the small room that is provided for the two people is quite anything but a room and there is a mosquito coil emanating fumes through and through choking one's breath. i asked the man whether they knew all about the trains and their timings to which pat came the reply, 'no' as the trains can be delayed or cancelled so one cannot say the exact time (i would have used this opportunity to proudly exhibit my total knowledge about all the trains passing but he chose not to - a lesson learnt).
well, that was one memorable tete a tete with a person of the railway landscape. connecting with him that night made me humbler in many ways. contentment, joy and a very no nonsense attitude is something quite hard to find these days where 'my space,' 'my individuality' rules the order of the day.