Subramanya’s brother had come to the Bangalore Railway Station to pick him back home after we returned from our trip to Jammu for a cricket tournament for our employers. Subramanya was happy to see him there at the Station as it was many days before we left our homes. That was around dawn, December 1983. I had planned to go with him so that I can visit his house before continuing my journey back to Mysore later in the day.
Bangalore then was not as crowded as we see today. Passenger and autorickshaw queues were not yet felt necessary. It was on the verge. We threesome boarded the three-wheeler. It was jam-packed with luggage and our legs while we sat under the weight. It was still the 'holdall days'!
Subramanya's brother was curious to know how the tour went and how we had fared in the games. By the time we could answer him with a few details, the house at Basavanagudi had already arrived in just ten minutes.
Those were the days of telegrams. Even if STDs were available, we had no phones at home to inform our families about our reaching a distant place or our welfare if the tour was more than a week. Nowadays, we inform our families back home even if we sneeze two times - through mobile phones!
Sometimes we used to write postcards on alternate days and searched postboxes to mail them! It was quite a thrill. Often we used to arrive home quicker and read them ourselves! As such, once we were out, we were literally disconnected from homes and they would not know the goings-on of our tours. The details were only revealed on arrival to curious family members.
We alighted the autorickshaw and the brother helped with shifting the luggage inside. Suddenly I discovered that my suitcase was not among the other pieces of luggage that came home with us. He did not remember! But I clearly remembered having taken it out of the train bogey, carried to the autorickshaw stand. After boarding the vehicle we did not verify if we had taken in all of them.
The missing suitcase puzzled us. We tried to rewind our memory to each and every move we made, frame by frame, from the time we got out of our bogey and it was showing clearly the suitcase was in my hand. It still showed up as we waited for the autorickshaw. After that it was blank.
The suitcase was a new one bought just before the tour at a ‘factory seconds’ discount sale. I had another old kit bag and hold-all. The newer generation wont know what it is. It was bulky, heavy and had the capability to 'hold all' including the bed and pillow, hence its name! In those days sleeper class train seats were of wooden planks and a quilted bed was a necessity for long journeys. Only later, cushioned seats came into vogue.
So, we arrived at the conclusion that the suitcase must have been left behind where we boarded the 3-wheeler. Most of the passengers had left the spot before we found our vehicle and that got us to worry more about it. It contained all the purchases I had made for many others also and had become quite heavy with walnuts, apricots, etc! It was the first time I had gone on such a long tour.
Leaving me behind, Subramanya pillioned his brother on his motorcycle and headed back to the spot where we boarded the autorickshaw with a very faint hope of finding it, even though only 10-15 minutes had elapsed.
My wait for that little over half hour till the brothers returned was like half a day with umpteen things crossing my mind. Losing things I had bought including the suitcase itself was a main worry, my cricketing attire included. I had spent up most of the money and losing cash was not an issue on the mind. The few rupees left in my pocket was enough for the journey back to Mysore excluding the railway ticket, which was already up to Mysore from Delhi.
Hands behind my behind, I walked here and there, like a caged animal in the zoo. Family members at Subramanya’s knew the density of the situation and just observed. After a seemingly long while, I heard the sound of the motorcycle stopping in front of the door and I very eagerly looked out in curiosity.
“My box of gold” was sitting in front of pillion Subramanya’s tummy! I went out and received the heavy suitcase with both hands as he got down from the seat. My joy knew no bounds. They were also very happy that it was not lost.
The satisfaction and sigh of relief I experienced at that particular moment defies description. It does not probably even measure up to such news as winning a bumper lottery!
What had happened was that after they loaded luggage into the vehicle, I being the last, had failed to carry my luggage in. That critical period of time shows a ‘blank’ in memory! Perhaps these things happen to everyone at one time or other and they always happen when it least 'expected'!! We call these as 'bad moments' and they go unexplained. The 'auto' had started and moved and probably I had no 'neck space' to turn and see out after sitting.
The policeman who was on duty near the Autorickshaw Stand had found it lying there. Had it been today, it would have been a 'suspicious baggage' due to bomb-scares and no one would have touched it! Sniffer dogs would have been summoned! This policeman had kept in his custody knowing that the owner would retrace the steps back. He handed the suitcase to them only after being convinced that it was indeed ‘theirs’. Whoever that policeman was, I doff my hat to him in gratefulness, even after 26 years since this happened.
Very rarely are things returned to owners after being lost or left behind. I count myself lucky in this instance. I have named this suitcase as ‘Left and found’!