Bread, freshly baked at our school

Some times travel brings life changing experience, especially train journey.  Many of you may have such impactful experiences during your travel.

The purpose of the residential school where I studied is to promote students take up military service as their career.  We were 13 or 14 years of age then.  Our class went for exposure visit to one of the best defence academy in the world, near Pune.  It was a two day journey to reach there from our school.  An incident during this journey remains fresh in my memories.  It continues to push my conviction.

We travelled in our school uniform, including the shoes not allowed to be removed.  In spite of that we had enough excitement during the journey.  To some of us, diesel powered engine for the train was a intriguing experience, when compared to our encounters with steam engines, during our vacation travel back home to down south of the country.  You can stick your neck out whenever the warder is away or extend your hand through windows without getting your face blackened of coal smoke.  We still missed those large chunks of black smoke with coal dust along which gave us feeling of going by train.

We reached Pune railway station in the morning and having our usual breakfast, slices of bread freshly baked at our school bakery with jam, butter and egg.  The school organised to carry our ration for the complete journey except for the time at defence academy.  However missed the dhal we get at school mess that breaks the tedium.  Some of us missed experimenting with different blends of butter, jam and egg to make differently tasting spread.  The bread we had at our school remains the favourite for many of us even these days.  We relish it every time we go for old boys association meeting at school.

Every time school friends meet either as class mate groups or at old boys association meeting, we chatter the same set of stories about our masters and our waywardness.  Anybody else other than school mates watching us for the second time will get bored.  Our family members hate our get together, especially spouses.  However, spouses of some friends have become like school mates and enjoy such narratives every time.

Pune railway station is a busy junction and it still remains so.  Railway lines from three different directions meet.  Though the platforms were fairly maintained, the drainage between the tracks were not, rather it was abused.  At the platform, somebody discovered that we get a dozen plantains just for rupees three.  Most of the students horded the vendor and there were very few of us left in the compartment.

Many students were getting bored with the bread we had and not hungry as well.  One of us started tossing bread slices out of the window while waiting for friends to get some plantains.  The slices were falling into the drain and were getting soaked in black water that stinks of all possible waste.  Like a sponge it absorbed the drain water and became black.  A man walked down the space between two trains.  He came near our compartment window.  He picked up those slices of bread from the drain, squeezed it dry and started eating them.

All of us were stunned witnessing this.  None of us had wildest imagination that the man will pick up those slices of bread and eat.

I was born in an unjust society and I am determined not to leave it as I have found it.


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