This had to be done... There aren't enough cynics around

Psychedelic Express

The Indian Railways promises us a unique experience every time. The last time I went, it was the absolute disgraceful excuse of a railway station that took much of my attention before my friendly medicos took centre stage threatening the sanity of the entire train by discussing off-beat MCQ topics nearly reducing the other passengers (who were mostly doctors) to tears. Sadly, a few other aspirants took cheating to a whole new level causing the authorities to call off the exam. I had suffered enough and hence I didn’t dare to join the band (or take the exam) as they re-took the exam and possibly scared the bejesus out of a new unsuspecting group of PG aspirants.

This time around, it was a trip to Coimbatore, en route to Ooty in order to cool before the results of NEET PG (finally) came out to knock me out of my senses and drove me to the brink. The train had an extremely odd look to it; it was not painted as other ‘normal’ trains. It looked as if the guys in charge of ‘colouring the train’ decided to use psychedelic patterns seen by ‘stimulated’ and stoned hippies. Either that or they had an extremely odd taste. How a pattern strongly associated with drug abuse was cleared by the censor board to transport uncorrupted youth (like me) is a question I would like to raise using ‘RTI’ act.

Surprises were not limited to the external appearance. As a relatively fresh doctor, even my untrained eyes could see the link between the external sign and the internal findings. The inside of the allegedly executive class compartment strangely resembled the subway connecting Central Station and Government General Hospital. The metaphorically rotten insides were consistent with chronic abuse of Amphetamines and LSD. Anyway, seated alone, I, as ever, waited in anticipation expecting an attractive seat-mate. Given my luck these days, it was not quite a surprise that the adjacent seat was occupied by a man who personified the typical nouveau riche Indian.

He was intrigued by the Tamil book I was reading. After exchanging pleasantries which mostly involved him telling how his daughter and son-in-law were more than well to do software engineers in the ‘US of A’. He had his usual criticism of the Railways and I couldn’t help but agree with him. After being disappointed that an English paper was not available, he immersed himself in a magazine given to us. Then we were offered drinks. That was a unique experience where the Railways played with my senses adding strength to my ‘psychedelic train theory’.

I could have sworn that the man said it was ‘Coffee’ and I was 76.98% certain it smelled like coffee and 56.71% of neurons in my visual cortex reckoned it looked like coffee. But the moment I took a sip, I realised I was ‘illusionating’. It tasted just like Rail-Neer albeit a bit warm. If you think something was wrong with me, the snarled expression of the gentleman in the adjacent seat testified my claim (sadly copyrights law prevents me from using that picture of his).. We were then served different versions of Rail-Neer masquerading as Sambhar (88% certain), Dhal (71%) and even Paneer Butter Masala (12%). This was followed by more sensory mismatches. I am damn certain that the light was loud and the sound was too bright or was it that I was hungry because I was starving on account of “what my mind couldn’t handle, my GIT couldn’t digest” theory?

Were we subjects of some top secret Government initiative to distort senses making a seemingly normal person question his sanity? Or was it just disregard for quality and plain bad cooking making the people that pay their taxes (and for the ‘food’) idiots? Either way, despite making me hungry and tired and late, this was closest I had gotten to getting ‘high’. Also I heard that the government is planning on increasing the railway costs to make the experiences more unique.

To think that to err is human is right, but to err is not a human right. High time the aristocrats and bureaucrats realized the reality of the situation and did something about it.