Singing in the (T)rain

Train Singing: noun, org. India. Singing songs in a group during a train journey, as loudly and lousily as possible. Song repertoire may include old and new Bollywood film songs, Marathi hits, Bhajans, accompanied by beating of train walls, briefcases or ghantas.

Train journeys seem never to be complete without a song. Long distance trains have their blind singers, or child artists singing some soulful numbers on their way from compartment to compartment. Some college group on a picnic would invariably find their way next to your seat and sing all the way from Manmad to Mahabalipuram, till some uncle tells them to shut up! Walkmans, Ipods, and mobiles take up the rest of the time.

When it comes to aplya locals though, train singing (refer definition above) seems to be the norm. While the group in question may joyfully enjoy the process, the sufferers are simply too many, and inevitably…too silent. I am one of those who like to travel with minimum of noise intrusion. And if I do want to listen to music… I trust my gadgets WITH headphones.

My heartfelt sympathies to first time travelers who accidentally find their way into this cacophony. It needs a bit of intuition to know which kind are about to break into a song, and the alertness to move out of that space once you sense it. Here is a few I have heard and withstood over the years. (It’s not comprehensive though, given my ad hoc train traveler status.)

Ambernath -VT Fast / 8:00 am
Ladies Compartment / Some years ago

For a certain amount of time, me, and Meg used to travel in this train together. One section of the middle ladies compartment used to seat some regulars. They were young, unmarried, employed, and also mates from my college. Out of some remnants of college/school/ tuition loyalty I sat with them the first day. And that my friends, was when I saw, felt and experienced the enormous impact of the phenomenon called “singing in the train…”

The next day onwards, I quietly made my way to the other end of the compartment, with Meg.

Over the next few months, I and Meg heard some of our favorite songs being mercilessly murdered. The group employed a combination of hoarse voices, high pitches, wavering notes and some good songs to destroy our day. They had a set of standard songs to sing. “Sara pyaar tumhara maine baandh liya hai aanchal mein…”, “Maine tere liye hi saath rang ke sapne chunne…sapne, surile sapne…”

The worst was when we had to suffer cloyingly romantic songs being sung repeatedly as if to endorse their dream of the perfect romantic husband and marriage. And as if dedicated repetition of the song would somehow make that dream come true! The Ranjita- Sachin song “Ankhiyon ke Jharonko se…” was the perennial favorite. I cannot remember the number of times I and Meg must have rolled our eyes, and gritted our teeth at the crap dished out….not just in terms of singing, but in the expression of the singers. AHHHHH!!!!
Most of this group has married and moved elsewhere. I wonder if anyone is continuing its tradition nowadays.

11: 18 pm Fast from VT
General Compartment

Late night train. Men. “…Garja Maharasthra Majha……Garja Maharasthra Majha…” Accompanied by train-wall-and-side-panel percussionists. I have heard this group only once, though K has been a regular listener.
Best to stay away for sanity, or stick close to them, if you enjoy that sort of a thing. (Where do they find the energy after a long day’s work, I wonder)

9: 30 am (approx) Dadar Station.
On a fast train to Churchgate; Western Rly.
General Compartment

Forget intuition, your ears should be good enough for this. The entire compartment seems to be in an uproar You could probably hear this compartment blaring its bhajans, complete with a dhol and ghantas singing vigorous hindu bhajans right from Matunga. I used to listen to this standing on the opposite platform!

9:00 am (approx)
Kalyan Station / Ladies Compartment

Would you know what a kitchen is in local-train terms? The small section, at one end of the compartment, with one long seat, and two seats facing it…, a seemingly dark, enclosed space..? That’s the kitchen.
Well, in the train I am referring to a group of Malayali women sing paeans to Lord Jesus in Hindi, and Malayalam. Sometimes Shirdiwale Saibaba, and Vaishnodevi Mata also get a song for themselves.

Most Trains/ All Times/ CR , WR and Harbour
General and Ladies Compartments

A new age alternative to group singing has arrived nowadays. Its individual, original and just at irritating. Its odd how people take the liberty to keep their mobile headphones at home, and ply songs with the speaker on! Here you are, being crushed senselessly in the evening crowd, and from somewhere from the deep bowels of the train, do you hear Himmesh Reshamiyya singing from some fool’s mobile phone. This has been by far one of the most irritating singing syndromes to hit local trains. Its uncouth, and uncool to subject your fellow passengers to some duh songs from your phone. Plug your headphones NOW!!


About whizkid

Photographer. Procrastinator.
This entry was posted in Bombay, Commuting Woes, Local Trains. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Singing in the (T)rain

  1. Gopal M S says:

    Off topic.

    Which Main? What Cross? says:
    Thanks. I tried to avoid the bikes and I do have a picture without them. But the depth in the picture isn’t that great. Since you asked, I will post that tomorrow. 🙂

    I use a Canon A530. Digital camera. I have cropped the picture amd adjusted brightness and contrast using Picasa.

    Whizkid said…
    you have caught the light quite beautifully. I don’t know about the bike in the foreground tho’…especially since there is a bike in the distance. could you have avoided it?

    (btw, may i know which camera you are using?)


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