General ravings

Surviving the Indian Railways: perfecting the Pajama Hop

 Guidelines for Indian Railway travellers on how to change into pajamas at 130 kmph

Some years ago, O gentle and hapless reader, I’d drawn up a set of guidelines for the intrepid male Indian Railway traveller, on the fine art of shaving on express trains without performing involuntary self-circumcision or castration.  [Click here to view]

Now, bowing to widespread demands from orthopaedists, podiatrists and orthodontists who wish to remain anonymous, and ignoring thy vociferous protestations, I present a similar set of guidelines on how to change safely into pajamas during overnight train journeys…a process that is normally, and in the interests of public decency, undertaken in the toilet. For the sake of simplicity and brevity, these guidelines too are directed at male travellers: however, they can be adopted, with slight adaptations as needed, by travellers of all genders.

1 – Enter toilet with pajamas securely wrapped around neck, or tucked into waistband of trousers. Bolt door.

2- Carefully open up pajamas and tie them by the string (naada) to the clothes-hook behind the door. Use a good, strong knot like a square knot or clove hitch (you may click here to learn how to tie these knots and/or tie yourself in knots). Note: do not simply hang the pajamas from the hook, because the slightest jerk of the train will dislodge them on to the yucky floor.

3- Roll up both* trouser legs to at least 6 inches above the ankles (*if three-legged or more-legged,  roll up all trouser legs). This will protect your trousers from the swirling muck on the floor, and also make removal of the trousers easier.

4- Remove trousers, step by step and leg by leg as outlined in (a) to (d) below. [Warning: This entire process demands patience, extraordinary courage and lightning reflexes, to counter the violent lateral movements of the speeding train and to guard you against the perils of falling headlong into the W.C., and/or injuring various limbs, bones, joints and appendages]

(a) Lift right leg and use left hand to clutch on to clothes-hook or pajamas tied to hook, in the absence of any alternative dependable object to clutch. Note: do not attempt to clutch edge of washbasin, W.C. chain or pipes, for these may suddenly disengage from wall, plunging you into W.C. Also, do not clutch tap of washbasin, as the tap might open, soaking you head to foot in spray of water that adds to slush on floor and undoes all the gains of Swacch Bharat Mission.

(b) Balancing on left leg and lengthening the spine, take several deep breaths (depending on freshness of air) and then slowly and cautiously draw off trousers from right leg, using your right hand. Be alert against losing balance and lunging head-first into wash basin, wall or W.C.

(c) Clamp your teeth firmly around the rolled-up bottom of removed (right) trouser leg. Lower right leg to floor. Carefully replace the left-handed grip on clothes-hook with right-handed grip. Then, breathing shallowly through the trouser-leg clenched in teeth, lift your left leg and draw off the trousers from that leg, using your left hand.

(d) Open jaws and grab at the falling (right) trouser leg with left hand. Ensure that you have not inadvertently pulled off underwear along with the trousers (a chill draft in the nether regions is a sure indicator of this unfortunate situation – in which case, you may retrace earlier steps and start afresh).

5- Sling trousers over the right shoulder, taking care that you do not sling them into W.C. or allow any dangling portion of trousers or self to touch the inundated floor. Regain balance and composure by taking several deep breaths (if possible).

6- Untie pajamas from clothes-hook. The process of undoing the good knot(s) you tied earlier requires you to use both hands and possibly your teeth as well; hence, extreme care is advised.

7- Sling pajamas over left shoulder (taking same precautions as you did with trousers on right shoulder). Now, remove trousers from right shoulder and secure trousers to the clothes-hook by belt-loops, or fly zipper if loops are not strong enough.

8- Roll up both pajama legs to half their lengths. Then, lean against door for support, and with pajamas pressed against the left hip, execute a series of small, kangaroo-like hops till you succeed in slipping your right foot into right pajama leg. Note: All too often, the hasty traveller inadvertently slips right foot into left pajama leg, setting off a catastrophic sequence of agonized leaps that invariably ends in strained muscles, sprained joints and worst of all, ruined pajamas. [Tip: use fluorescent marker pen to mark right and left legs of pajamas before-hand (rather, before-leg)]

9- In similar fashion, slip your left foot into left pajama leg.

10- Lean away from door, and standing upright, use both hands to pull up pajamas and knot them around waist. This penultimate step is also the most dangerous, as with both your hands occupied in tying the pajama knot, chances of diving into the W.C at various angles are maximum.

11- Remove trousers from clothes-hook. Clutch hair in agony as you see your cellphone drop from the trouser pocket into the W.C. Pull chain, open door and exit.


8 thoughts on “Surviving the Indian Railways: perfecting the Pajama Hop

  1. Mani, you killed it man!
    Just a few of days back I was on a 4 hour train trip between Trivandrum and Ernakulam. There was no requirement to change from a trouser to a pyjama however, even to pee required one to be a gymnast.To add to all that you have mentioned , there is now a steel mug almost as large as you and me with a chain that gets entangled in your feet . The new dry toilet or bio toilet has been superimposed on the existing floor and so you have a loo with two levels ,and for those with unsteady/shaky knees etc etc, like most of us, as you enter the loo, in all probability you would end up with a twisted foot or a major fracture. This was on a train that travels at 60 kms an hour just imagine ones fate on the BULLET TRAIN of the Indian railways.
    And please do ask your friend who comes to receive you at the Rly Stn to have a stretcher, wheel chair of crutches ready, gone are the days of reception with a bouquet of flowers.
    Keep it going friend.

  2. Hilarious Mani. Been there done that a few times with catastrophic results before wiser counsel prevailed and I realised that it is better to sleep in my trousers rather than having a pair of trousers (and pyjamas to boot) soaked in all the glorious things you have outlined!!!

    P.S. : While I have executed almost all the steps you have spelt out, the one thing I didn’t dare to do was breathe!!! So when you say take a few deep breaths, I wonder how many will survive at the end of it!!!

  3. The mother of all bowel shattering acts – a hatches open bombs away act on an Indian style toilet in a moving train . The easier part has been done with . The rest is a nightmare. You’re blessed if you manage to exit the hell hole – pun intended – in one piece . I know of a guy who lost his glasses dentures and a slipper when he finally managed to exit .

    1. A terrible tale re. the black hole devouring your colleague’s glasses, dentures and a slipper, Rontu…did he sacrifice the others slipper too in Gandhian tradition?

  4. Mani, I chuckled all the way through this! Alas I have never had the experience of actually wearing the said garment in a moving train.
    However, as the daughter of a railwayman , I have lived with the family in “saloons” for weeks on end. Can recollect many unladylike manoeuvres under similar circumstances!!
    Thank you for this wonderful dose of nostalgia and humour…
    Sigh, I miss trains…

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