The Historic Journey


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.

Saga of the Sandwitch Berth


Before getting any further with the post just have a look at the picture on the left. Do you see the blue arrows pointing something? Yes I am going to talk about that seat or rather berth. Those of you who have traveled by sleeper or AC III-Tier coaches of Indian Railways must know about it rest look at the picture and try to figure out.

The berth is called ‘Middle Berth’ because its in middle simple. Incidentally its the least preferred berth due to obvious reasons. Since the time I have booked railway tickets I have always somehow managed to avoid the berth. This time fate had something else in store and my mother was allotted the dreaded berth. Though could successfully convince one gentleman for the lower berth who had already traded his middle berth with a family that was separated by coaches(Quite complex right? Nah! Its a  normal procedure if you travel by Indian Rail). Quite naturally I had to forego my favorite upper berth in the deal.

My worst nightmare was coming true and I was to spend 2 whole nights dangling between two other people. The inconvenience was aggravated considering I am a tall man. What 5’11 should be by Indian standards Huh? Normally I enjoy traveling by train but this berth fiasco was making my journey worrisome. After much calculations I figured out that once in the berth I have to stay in there come what may. So without much of a choice I climbed into the berth surprisingly with less difficulty actually my height(you know right?) helped with the job.  Once I settled(I mean lied down) in I found it was not that ‘dreadful’ infact it was cosy as the AC was not directly pointed to me like its at the Upper berths(by the end of night you are frozen unless you are wrapped in all the covers provided by Railways). The light and other switches were easily accessible. The best part was the cell phone charging point was completely under my control so I took charge of it and drifted into the lalala land.

In the middle of the night I woke to some hushed voices and some hand groping near my head searching something. I would have jumped in normal circumstances but remember I was in a train in the dreaded middle berth where one cannot even situp straight. So I moved my head slightly to look what the issue was and saw a PYT(ahem well she was not so young but she was pretty) smiling sheepishly. She politely said that she needs to charge her phone and the cell phone charging point under my control was supposedly the only working point in the vicinity. Had to oblige with a smile and said that She can come back after sometime when the phone’s charged. But she continued to wait right there saying that in her earlier journey the cell phone was gone when she returned after sometime so she was fine keeping a watch meanwhile I can continue my sleep.

Sleep! How can a man sleep peacefully with a pretty woman standing at your head. Still I closed my eyes but kept twisting and turning till she was gone for good.  I woke up early in the morning but could not climb out of my berth because everybody else was sleeping and once out of berth I would not be having any place to sit(take a look at picture again figure people sleeping! Clear!). Rest is history as they as say. So thats the end of the story because the next night was eventless and I got a somewhat peaceful sleep in the middle berth.

So whats the moral of the story? I think at times in life things are not thats bad at it seems and sometimes when we are left with no choices then we should make best of what we get. I can’t get preachy and all that, so never mind the lesson. Finally if you are just curious about what happened to the pretty woman well I gave her some free advice on how to bring her boyfriend in line 😀 so that he marries her soon.

PS: Ok the last line is purely fictional in reality we never spoke again the entire journey. But my mom played the Agony Aunt and did give the necessary advice as she was asked for one. Ever heard it happens only in India!

PPS: This is second in the series …wait for more ….