My fate was waiting for me at the 4th counter.
The counter guy was equally rude. It didn’t matter to him even if someone was to mention that it was her 1st travel! Anyways, I had already gotten used to it by then. A blank form was shoved in my palm how I would not even give it to a beggar. I was being one then- asking for a pen. An elderly gentleman was all set to crack his incisors out when I had refused to take the red pen- he had offered. The counter guy was not very happy to look at my filled up form. I had not mentioned the name of the train and also I had filled up the form at the side where it was printed in vernacular. The English side was empty! That was it. I had yelled back at him. Why didn’t he bother to display the details up on the window? Coyly he had filled up the remaining details, and handed over pink and yellow cardboard pieces. There were many others around who were also doused in the same problem. I had been as much announcing as much my vocal cords had let me.
While thanking that gentleman for his pen, I had sternly displayed my displeasure- he seemed somewhat embarrassed. I had then turned towards an oldman who had stopped me asking for help. I had promised that I would help him once I knew what was becoming of me. I had called up my oldie. Upon my confirmation of “sleeper class” tickets, he had made arrangements for a taxi from Jaipur. Thinking of my a/c reservation of the cancelled train and this oldman’s a/c 2 tier reservation, I had asked him to move towards the a/c waiting room.
Point of Discrimination– the passengers travelling in a/c class has a separate waiting room with attached restrooms! Remember- it was technically my first train travel? The gentleman was not letting me pickup his stuff. Not really listening to him, I had picked up one of his bags and headed towards the waiting room. The coolie was god- sent- for sure. Tipping him well, I made him promise that he comes back at 10.30pm again.
Initially, I was to travel at 7.30pm- the train that was cancelled was scheduled for that time. The “special train” from Jodhpur to Jaipur now was to leave at 10.30pm. Reaching the waiting room, I realize one of the small cardboard slip was missing. I run back to the counter and find it sitting peacefully at one corner. The counter guy was not even as much helping as to tell me whether he had issued 2 papers or 1. I had had enough- He deserved the beating. He had anyways denied me the A/c class and instead given me the sleeper class tickets. I could just not be polite with someone who is not- I just can’t. He was taken aback when heard my most chilling counter attacks. His squinted eye balls seemed to have popped out- clashing into each other.
Feeling satiated, I had headed back to my waiting room.
I had limited cash with me. It wasn’t difficult to have arranged for money, considering our office projects running inJaipur; I wasn’t keen on let any mishaps occur due to carelessness. Things could go worse any moment. I had almost stopped in the middle of that huge common waiting area to thank my stars. The oldman introduced himself as K.B. Gandhi. He was to travel to Delhi- Krishna Nagar, Himanshu’s residence area. He seemed to be bothered with me suffering of cold. I could hear him mutter that it would get worse in sleeper class. It was on his insistence that I had gone to that squinted counter guy requesting for a/c class, while buying tickets. Waiting in the “waiting room’, we had started to talk. He asked me what I did in Gurgaon. Hearing my Company name and work description, he had tried to recall if he knew someone from Ghaziabad who were also engaged in the same business!
I already said that Life has its own way of making me go through certain experiences.
Our Company is based at Ghaziabad, UP. He was referring to my boss’s uncle. A 76 years old man coupled with 33 years young girl; the rest of the travel seemed to be right out of fairy tale books. Certain magic wand was already guiding my way. He didn’t want me to address him as “sir”; so, I started to “uncle” him. A family was sat across the table travelling to Jaisalmer. Native of Punjab, the young girl Shweta was a very bright girl indeed; in her own words- “I want the entire world to know who Shweta is..” (In verbatim). So be it- Amen.
Gandhi uncle was spiritually inclined.
It was easy to converse with him. He was well traveled and talked how an educated man does. It’s been ages that I trusted a man. He happens to be one of the few. Placing me comfortable in the waiting room, he had traveled out. How unrestful and curious of him, I had thought. From 7pm till 10pm, the time flew by leaving in my mind many vivid memories, for all times to come.
- The numerous passengers lying on the floor in open in the common waiting area- almost nestling the croaking crickets!
- The army guys hurdled at the corner of the waiting room, playing Hindi movie songs on their cellphone.
- The pigeons tapping on the glass window at the ventilators. LOLsss.. They were there too. It was after seeing them that I felt that the things would get better.
- That Punjabi family. A smart woman working in Banking sector, a mismatched husband, a very wonderful granny (her mother-in-law) and a shining Shweta.. Bless her!
- People fixing their phone charger and not realizing the d/c current and switching on the fans there. Even after telling them about the d/c connection, they only smiled on their being so fool, but didn’t switch the fans off.
- That old man telling me that I should stay firm no matter what- that the train travel was not a big deal.
It wasn’t really a big deal.
That is only if you are habitual to such travels. No offence meant, but I am not cut up for such public travels or to be stranded at crowded places. I start making observations too closely for my own mental sanity. I barely am able to stop myself from analyzing people and label them as maniacs under different categories. I am a cleanliness freak for records. There were several other people, this Gandhi uncle included, who were baffled to learn about the cancellation of their train. The officers at the station were most unhelpful. Consider that as an understatement. There were people around who couldn’t communicate in vernacular (Hindi) and didn’t know how to reach their destination. They almost demanded to know how to reach the destination on time where there was a flight to board. Just about no one had time to pause by and explain them what to do, much less how to. Through the complete chaos of unending confusion, I decided to tell them what to do.
All through the time that I was buying ticket, standing in the queue- waiting for my turn, I tried break that pattern.
I had kept explaining the passengers about the cancellation, its reasons and what was needed to be done to get out of that place. There were groups of people who looked more confused and baffled than I was supposed to be. Surprisingly, I was calmer than ever. I had kept my level of anxiety buried deep within myself. Instead of feeling disturbed, I was reminding myself of the train travel that was to come. It was my first time on my own. It was a mega- combo of all the emergencies and extremes possible. I was keeping my mind focused for the travel time to come. I had to request the TT to even change my ticket to a/c class- if possible. There was this gut- feeling that had kept telling me that things would turn out into my favor- beautifully.
I was sat stoned- well almost.
I hadn’t realized that I had turned into a strange woman who didn’t smile. The Punjabi family, when asked me about my reason of travel- I had replied- an adventurous development of my fate on me!! That it was. I mean all was good excepting the fact that I could have saved a train travel. Then again- which each passing moment, I was becoming more and more excited. Uncle had stepped out asking me what I preferred and came back with a plastic cup of hot tea. Bless him.
I thanked the powers of this nature.
Sipping the hot brew, I was getting thawed. Uncle had constantly been moving in n out! This time, he asked me also along with him. He had gone straight to the Enquiry Room, asking about the availability of any other alternative. We had tickets to only half way to our destination. I assured him that I’ll ensure he reaches home safely. Till then, I had not really said that in as many words. It was only mutely understood that he would travel with me from Jaipur in the hired taxi till New Delhi. He didn’t mind even getting dropped at Dhaula Kuan and proceed homewards on his own. I had no energy left to speak up- back then, so had left it at that. He had beamed with joy when I told him that the taxi was already arranged and that I have spoken with the cab driver too. We had then walked on the over- head travelling bridge, connecting to platforms. We had even taken a tour up to the platform that the train was expected to leave from.
No signs of any rumbling engine.. still!
Yet another trip to the Enquiry office told us that the train that was to come from Indore- Intercity express, for which the tickets were denied; had all the desired seats available then! People had cancelled their reservations because of the prevailing riots. The Station Master advised both of us to board the train and then ask for tickets. OMG.. 🙂 Things were really turning into my favor. Excepting that I wasn’t intending to take any more “risks”. The oldman and I had both laughingly approached that corner counter where that squinted fellow sat. “She happens to be my daughter.. We have been booked separately.. Any chances that she could also be put into the a/c class..?” This time the squinted fellow looked better. He behaved better too. He affirmed that I could step right into the same compartment as that of the oldman, the tickets would be changed on board..
Of course that’s what we had decided to do anyways. But being confirmed by none other than the man giving tickets, wow!! It couldn’t be any better! Just as we had started to leave, he had called us back. I could get into the same compartment- he said! I had then stepped out from the hiding to confirm if what he said was what I had heard. He said this- “Step into the same compartment as this old man’s and get your tickets changed. There is space in the same compartment. The TT would be happy to help you..”
I was becoming brave by then.
(..to be continued..)