A Quirkish Train Experience
Pune is a wonderful city. Within 6 months, I have fallen in love with it. It is a kind of semi-metropolitan city; much more happening than a developing town like Nagpur, and without the tensions and risks of a big city like Mumbai. Surely a place where you can consider settling.
Since my family stays at Nagpur, I often travel between Pune and Nagpur whenever I can shake off the office work over an extended weekend. So when I got one opportunity a few weeks back, I quickly booked a ticket on the Garibrath Express, one of the few good things Lalu has done as a Railway Minister.
I remember it is thursday, a day before Good Friday. I, with my friend, were to travel to Nagpur this weekend. The train is at 5.40 pm in the evening. Since it is an office day for me, it is decided that I will meet up with my friend at the station directly and he would be bringing my luggage with him.
Over the past few days, I have had no real work in office to keep me over the minimum 8 hours that I am supposed to do. But as it happens, my manager finds extra work for me on the day when I have to catch a train! Delegating my work to some of my colleagues, I manage to leave office by 5.15 pm. A very tight schedule given the horrible traffic of Pune.
The mobile phone rings. It is my friend on the other side.
“Hello! Have you reached station? On which platform is the train coming?”, I ask.
“I haven’t yet reached station. Have crossed Nal Stop. Should be there within 10 minutes.”, he replies.
I should have known I am hoping too much there.
He continues, “Yaar, I forgot your bag at home. I had remembered…”
“Arey, Mahesh confused me totally. He got very late in coming and in all the hurry, I forgot your bag completely.”
I have no more idea who Mahesh is than you all.
“He is a friend of mine. He is also coming to Nagpur via the Azad Hind Express at 6.30 pm. But don’t worry, I have your laptop with me.”
Of course he wouldn’t forget the laptop, it being a timepass equipment for him in the train.
“But how will I get my bag? I can’t go just like that!”, I holler.
“Don’t worry, I will ask Amma to get your bag and come to station now.”
“Ok, you do that ASAP. See you at the station.” I cut the call.
I was half-expecting something of this sort to happen as my friend was involved. It is not a case of absent-mindedness with him, it’s idiocracy. But I guess I have to live with it.
I ask the auto-wala to hurry. He assures me that we will reach on time. Finally, at about 5.30, I reach the station. No sign of my friend. I call him back. He says he is almost at the gate. After a few minutes, I find him getting rid of lots of luggage from the auto. I wonder where all the luggage has come from; he had only a single bag to bring apart from my laptop.
It turns out that his friend Mahesh has lots of luggage. As his train is at 6.30 pm, it is quite convenient of him to come with my friend making him late. I decide against telling this to my friend right now. It is already too late and we have to cross many platforms to catch the train.
We hurry into the station, with only my laptop bag on my shoulders, to platform number 5. As I descend the stairs, I see the train moving out of the platform, with the big X of the last bogie staring at my face, going away and away. For the first time in my life, I had missed a train. It is a strange feeling… like a sinking boat; like a sand dune falling unto itself. A quick dismantling of all your meticulously planned efforts. It feels as if everything you have done upto this point has resulted into NULL. And you are absolutely helpless. It hurts.
We use a choice of swear words to express our dismay. A few passengers of some other train surrounding us express their concern by repeating the fact that we have missed the train again and again, not realizing that they are making us more angry.
I and my friend stare at each other. My mind is absolutely blank. I never had an experience of missing a train before. All I can think of is to go back and catch a bus. But my friend is adept at such situations. He told me that we can catch our train at Daund if we could reach there on time. A passenger train is standing on the next platform which would go the same route as our train.
So we pick our bags, but as soon as we do so, my friend’s bag tears apart at the sewing, throwing out some of the contents. A few more swear words rend the air. It is a fashion and releases tension better than counting numbers. He gathers all his belongings, puts them into the bag and holding it at an awkward angle, we rush to the other train. We find a pair of fellow passengers in the same dilemma as ours. After talking to the TT and handing him Rs. 50 each, we get into the passenger train. Fortunately, I am able to find a window seat in the unreserved compartment. As my friend and the two people start a conversation about our shared bad luck, I look out of the window, waiting for the train to move. I am in the train and I have the window seat; I require nothing else but solitude.
The train leaves and we settle down. I am looking at the scene outside flashing by every second. I enjoy it very much. It feels like I am talking to the trees swaying in the wind; the grassy plains like happiness seep into my heart; the rocky mountains reminding me of things that I have to achieve. But it seems, I am watching all this through a frame… a continous scene running on a television. It doesn’t feel that you are a part of the scene. Everything is being viewed from a distance. Probably that’s why I love bike-riding. On a bike, you are a part of the scenery and are able to feel everything you are seeing. A profound difference.
I turn my attention from the television frame to my co-passengers. A fair woman, probably in her early 30’s, is sitting with her small kid opposite me. She is wearing a bright pink salwar kameez with beaded jewels, glinting along with the swaying motion of the train. The pointed, flat-heeled sandals indicate that she is a Muslim. She notices me watching her and gives a cute smile which I return. Then the focus shifts towards the conversation going on around us. I join in, wondering aloud whether we would be able to catch the train and being more careful next time. The woman, upon learning our dilemma, shares her own experience of missing a train and tells us to enjoy while it lasts rather than worry! I reply rather morbidly that it is easier to feel so after getting over the experience rather than while it is happening live. That evokes a few laughter around. She assures us that the train will reach Daund very soon without stopping anywhere in between.
I realize that this woman is very open and friendly. An aura of confidence surrounds her. Maybe it is because she regularly travels over this route with her kid. But considering an unreserved compartment, surrounded by men all around, I am in awe of this woman. The way she helps my friend to make the bag temporarily useful also reflects her practical nature. I think to myself, this is what women should be like: smart, condifent and independent. By the time we reach Daund and run out to catch our train, she has already talked at length on various topics and after getting her good luck wishes, I bid her adieu feeling extremely happy and content despite the tension of having missed a train.
As the train slows down at Daund station, we see our train standing at another platform, few tracks across. I breath a sigh of relief. As soon as the train stops, we jump out of it landing hard on the platform and run like hell towards the train. As I cross the tracks, I realize that the platforms are quite high and one needs to be very agile to jump up and over to it. We find our coach and get in. Everything is peaceful and calm. We find our berths empty and settle into it, breathing heavily after the long run. We caught our train!