That’s what SB my friend had named the journey back from Kolkata. Reason? Simple, it was a journey which technically spanned two decades but was only lasted 36 hrs. Puzzled? We boarded the train on 30th Dec 2009 and landed, No! We don’t land from a train!! Ok we reached Bangalore on 1st Jan 2010. Hua na ‘Oithihasik jatra'(tr: Historic Journey).
SB was complaining that we should welcome the new year/decade in a particular city that is either in Kolkata or Bangalore not somewhere between but as usual the tickets were not available so we had to undertake this historic journey. We had decided that we will meet directly at Howrah station. Earlier we would have said we shall meet below boro ghori or the book stall but with cell phones around who cares about the landmark meeting points. Actually we reached well in advance(2 hrs before departure time) but I find spending time in a busy Railway Station like Howrah Station not an issue at all. After meeting SB we went for the book store naturally to pick something to read for the lonnnng journey. I spotted ‘Feluda omnibas’ the entire collection of Feluda series by Satyajit Ray but SB suggested that it is more of a collector’s item not something for the journey, so after checking many options and arguing over them we settled for Ahem! Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States: The Story of my marriage. Let me mention here I have read all CB books in train journeys. Of course with due respect to CB, I think his books fit the bill perfectly.
Equipped with CB we boarded the train. Which itself was an adventure as the queue for the General compartment was covering the entrance to our A/C coach and we had to bulldoze ourselves with the luggage into the compartment and in the mêlée my mother got into a different compartment which none of us noticed. But luckily she used her brains and stayed near the gate of the compartment she got into and after some frantic searching by me we were reunited and a potential crisis was averted(She doesn’t carry cell phone). Hindsight: Badi Badi rail gadio mein aisi choti choti batein hoti hai Senoirita!!! (tr: In big trains such small things happen).
Once everybody settled down I realized that this time the compartment was primarily occupied by mostly Senior Citizens, little children and their parents. Naturally the entire journey was uneventful with SB reading 2 states and narrating in bits. One more thing I celebrated my birthday on train with Britannia Cakes and Sprite purchased from the Railways. So 31st night myself & SB had snoring co-passengers, A/C coach attendant and the Ticket Checker as company. A point to note here is since I am in Bangalore SB has always been there by my side to welcome the new year. Yes we have many ‘New Year’ stories but they cannot be put in public domain.
At exact midnight we were at Tirupati and we saw some fireworks also some houses along the tracks were decorated with lights felt good that somebody atleast was celebrating the New Year out there. As mentioned earlier the compartment was filled with senior citizens so next morning people woke pretty early and switched on the lights and created commotion to get their
luggage at the gates beforehand and jam them. I don’t blame the poor souls first time I also had the same anxiety as officially the stoppage time is 2 minutes but every time I have been able to get down quite comfortably. So we were relaxed moreover Bangalore is now a known city so we can get down anywhere and can still get home. Finally this historic journey made me realize that 31st December or 1st January is just another ‘normal’ day for many people like the engine driver, guard, TTE and all the railway staff who relentlessly make sure the trains reach their destination hassle free and on time.
This is the last post of the series which covered my trip to Kolkata. Generally these kind of vacation posts have pictures of the city or events but it never occurs to me to carry a camera to the city where I grew up and once lived.