It's summer and vacation time for children. Before the cricket and other summer camps became a rage, children used to put away their text books and bring down their comics and Enid Blytons from the shelves.
The family pet's tail is wagging overtime as he gets more attention from the children.
Trips to the library, playground and friend's house get more frequent and prolonged. A movie or two or a picnic are thrown in.
The man of the house then heads for the railway station, and after hours of standing in the long line, comes away with those old card board journey tickets.
So the old metal trunk is packed, the holdall rolled and loaded on to the old Ambassador taxi and after reluctantly parting with the mongrel, the family is off on another annual summer vacation.
The big steam engine hisses and hoots into the platform, hauling the long train behind it.
The porter loads the luggage into the compartment and the children scramble into the train, trying to grab the window seats.
After a while, the train chugs out of the station, headed for its long journey, with the children straining to get a view of the engine every time the train negotiates a curve, the wind blowing their hair back.
After a while, the cool wind turns to a hot blast and that is indication that Bangalore and its pleasant climate are far away and the vacation has begun.
After hours of relentless chugging, it's time for the old iron horse to refresh itself and it crawls into a station to replenish its water stock for the rest of the journey.
And that gives enough time for the passengers to head for the refreshment stall and unpack the newspaper packet containg steaming idlis and spicy chutney on plantain leaves.
After man and machine get their fill, the journey is resumed till it's time to change trains at the big junction for the next stage of the journey.
And after the meal is consumed and as the children fidget and fret as they wait for the connecting train to resume the journey, the father cheers them up with a bundle of books he picks up from the Higginbothams stall on the platform.
And as the big old clock indicates the hour, the train whistles and huffs and puffs out of the station towads its destination, going past villages, where the farmer tills the black soil on his bullocks, through rocky cuttings and over bridges.
And finally, the train arrives at the destination, with the cousins waiting on the platform to receive the vacationers.
After the vacation is spent with other cousins who arrive from other towns and after visiting some famous sights around, it's time to head back to good old Bangalore.
The train traces the journey back home, and the signs of the children's favourite city show up as the cool wind rushes into the window and instead of the black soil outside, the farmer is working on his farm of red, fertile earth.
The children are back home with soot from the engine in their hair and eyes and the sadness of a vacation ending soon disappears at the sight of the family pet and its new litter of chubby pups.
m vijaysimha@ newindianexpress.com