Thursday, December 17, 2015

Train Journey from Bengaluru to Surathkal

I have to catch an evening train out of Bengaluru to Surathkal today. I decide to leave my friend's home early. I am glad I spend the day at home yesterday. The best travel advice I ever got, was that when you are on the road, get a lot of rest. You need all the energy you can muster up for life on the road. If you are tired, take a day off. You do not have to do everything that the guide book tells you to do in the city. Sometimes, a simple conversation with a local can expose you to all the experiences you need to explore around the city. I remember traveling with my family as a child. We would often just visit archeological sites and click pictures in front of these structures. No one knew the significance of the building, its historical context and more. We just wanted the picture, then we could go home and tell the world how cool we were and that we had seen the world. I leave my friend's home early and thank his mother for her hospitality. M next destination was an engineering college in Surathkal. I had to sneak in and maybe also attend a few classes.

My friend studied at a university in Surathkal. I decided to go and visit him there for a few days as Surathkal was not too far away from Bangalore. But today, I had no specific plans. I decided to go to the Forum Mall and just spend the afternoon there before heading to my next destination. Walking around malls has been one of my most cherished pastimes for a long time. I spend a lot of time at the bookstores and music stores and then just observe people and window shop for the rest of the time. It is a real fun activity. There are so many different types of retail stores at the mall. Sometimes, I am just fascinated by how retail stores advertises and markets their products differently. 

The use of colors for branding, the way the products are displayed, the discount and pricing strategies. Some products were not just products. They were communicating so much more. Also when you observe the people in some of these product ads, it seems like the purpose of their life is to use this company's product. They have no other worry. It is like they are part of some distant land, where everyone looks just right, and there is always joy. Why don't we have ads with sad people on them. I never understood marketing and advertising. By making a product look better through promotion and marketing, you do not make the product better. It seems like every store is out to loot you. How do we extract as much money as possible from this customer? But some brands tell stories. They don't just sell products, they sell human emotions too. I often feel like fiction book writers and advertisers tap into this vast reserve of human concepts and ideals. Most humans remember things through concepts. Everyone has an image of what a chair must look like at the back of their mind. Everyone has an image of what being in your early 20's is like. By a simple trigger, of a familiar human concept, through an ad or a book,  (an image or particular statement) various emotional centers of the human mind can be stimulated. Then we connect to these ideal notions of life. Everyone wants to be fit. Everyone has to look good. Everyone has to eat healthy. Everyone needs to enjoy life. Everyone need to go to Mauritius for a vacation. If you do not adhere to these standards, you are missing out on something. Something important. Something really cool. I walk into another fashion retail outlet, as these thoughts cross my mind.

"What are you looking for sir. How may I help you?" asked the salesman at the store.

On the 9 hour train ride from Bengaluru to Surathkal, I am told to shut my laptop and go to sleep. The ticket collector tells me that laptops cannot be used at night. You must only sleep at night. Stupid ticket collector. Grr.

I wake up and the train has reached Surathkal, I pack all my things quickly and jump out of the train. Gosh I was lucky there. I set my alarm for two hours before the arrival time. I overslept. If I did not get up, when I did, the train would have carried on to the next destination, which was somewhere in the middle of Kerala. Phew. Imagine getting up in another state, and not having any place to stay, or anywhere to go to. My mother, had got me quite paranoid about interacting with strangers on train journeys.

'Don't talk to strangers. They will be dangerous and may rob you.'

Mothers. Aren't they the cutest things in the world. But I was in Surathkal now. The plan was to sneak into one of the best technological universities in South India, and to understand what learning and student life is like there. The other objective was to just spend time with some of my childhood friends who now were engineering students at the university. I catch a public bus after a long half hour wait and end up at the entrance of the university. I am not a student, so I had to sneak my way in. I have to walk another kilometer or so, on a hot afternoon in Surathkal, with 10 kg's of luggage. I wish had worn shorts today. All I want to do now is lie down on a bed, in a cold air-conditioned room, with a big jar of lemon juice placed on the table right next to me. Ah!


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