We live in a quiet neighbourhood in North Bengaluru, in an enclave off the main road that leads to the airport, and it is peaceful, except in the nights.
At around 3am, the period when humans are at the REM stage of sleep, the deepest and most important part of sleep, when there is increased brain activity, you see vivid dreams and there is Rapid Eye Movement, a train goes whooshing past our community and the train driver, blows the train horn continuously, that screams like a banshee.
When I was growing up in a suburb of Secunderabad (the twin city of Hyderabad), everyone went to sleep at 8pm and the streets would go quiet and deserted like there was a pandemic.
Far away I would hear the faint whistle of a train chugging away into the night and I would dream of adventure in faraway strange lands, anywhere, but where I was.
(A colleague who lived in a small town in Australia and moved to Dubai for a job, also spoke about how deadly boring her township was. I suppose when you are young, wherever you live is a suffocating place).
The three-bedroom apartments where we are living in Bengaluru were selling for Rupees 1.5 crore (Dh720,960 or $196,286) in 2006, before the times of Coronavirus, and before the great economic collapse, two years later.
The rents here (pilots of various airlines and aircrew prefer living here as the airport is just a 15-minute ride away) had collapsed even before travel and tourism took a hit because of the virus, but it is a beautifully landscaped community.
I grew up on trashy American novels, and sometimes when I read the classics, the poor characters in the books usually lived on the “wrong side of the tracks”.
Covered with broken glass
We are not exactly on the wrong side, but when we walk our 2.6 kilometres every day for exercise, we pass through another community nearby called GKVK Layout (most names in south India are a foot-long and equally unpronounceable, so people shorten their names to alphabets), and just next to our walking path is a wall, the top of which is covered with broken glass, and over the wall is a railway track.
I jumped up and down to see a train passing and sadly, it was an electric train, not the romantic steam engine of yesteryears, but its horn was ear-piercing.
Just to give you an idea how ear-piercing the train horns are, an Indian SUV maker fitted train horns on its vehicle and tested it on the roads.
Cars, pedestrians and cows generally ignore the constant honking of horns, but when this train horn went off, it scared everyone silly and you could see some people holding on to each other in shock.
I checked the train timetable and about 70 trains pass by us to reach the busy Yelahanka station. The trains go to interesting places like Mysuru (Mysore) where you can see the ill-maintained palace of the former Maharaja.
The trains also go the other way, to Secunderabad, my former hometown, which is an overnight journey away. I then realised that despite travelling thousands of kilometres and across continents and seas and oceans, I am back again home, sort of.
Some expats in our community have moved away to quieter places. One of them has moved to a community that is accessed through a village and is practically in the wilderness.
But my wife has found a better and more workable solution. She has bought us noise-cancelling EarPods. And now when trains pass in the night, they pass to the tune of soothing smooth jazz.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi