Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Train boarding cliff-hanger

In 2007, our official biennial cricket tournament was in Chandigarh.  It was a long travel of 2 days from Mysore by train. Other team members had left a day before.  My team mate Shivu was to accompany me on the travel.  We were to board the train leaving at 9.10 pm to New Delhi at Yeshwanthpur, some way away from the main Bangalore Railway Station.  

Since there was no suitable train in the evening from here, we chose the road journey to reach Bangalore as buses were available every 5 minutes.  About three to three and half hours would be this journey. So we decided to start at 4 pm. If all went well, we would be there by 8 pm, more than one hour ahead of the departure.  

When I reached the bus station on time, Shivu was NOT around the spot we had agreed to meet.  Half past four, no Shivu.  Five, still no Shivu.  Now I started searching for him in all the moving bus windows as bus after bus were snailing out of the station.  Quarter past five, it was status quo.  My train tickets were also safely with him!!  

"I was here", waiting.  Buses were choc-a-bloc that evening and not as thin as it looks in this old Google image. [Click to enlarge].

Strange thoughts crossed the mind several times because this Shivu had a reputation of being careless. Suddenly there came the familiar voice from a bus window, Shivu calling my name in a tone of relief!  It had been almost 80 minutes since I stood there. He had a seat next to him.  I had to believe when he said he was searching for me all the while before he decided to board that bus!  

This was another instance where a mobile in my pocket would have solved the issue!  See my other blogpost where I have had to face yet another small confusion. [Click]. 

The bus was moving.  Half past five and now just three and half hours left for our train.  When the conductor came to issue us tickets we anxiously told our plight. He reassured us that we would reach by half past eight.

From Bangalore, Yeshwanthpur Rly.Stn was some distance away which meant some more precious minutes! Bangalore is notorious for its traffic jams.  It was half past eight and 'on time' and had "almost reached" the destination. 'Almost' because we had reached the deadliest, narrowest bottlenecks leading to the Bangalore Bus Station. 

Look for TCM Royan Rd. towards the left in this screen capture of the map. Look for 'Jam'.  This was about where we were jammed! 

Traffic in this dense jam was inching its way so slowly that it would have taken half an hour to get out past the traffic signal. We were at the half way point and we noticed that smaller vehicles were moving ahead more easily.  We now had 25 minutes left for the train departure.  Each second would count for us from now on.  Any delay meant we had to return home because it was a long distance travel and our team would have suffered a shortage of players. 

Just at that time, we saw an empty autorickshaw stop right next to the foot board.  Since traffic had stopped and there was some 'road space' to get down, we decided to hop on to the autorickshaw.  He had agreed to take us to Yeshwanthpur Rly. Station after we explained our urgency.  We soon agreed to his fare when he assured he would take us there in 15 minutes at the most, through a shortcut.  Luckily, the smaller vehicles were escaping quickly and more easily from the side and there were tens of them ahead of us.  Very soon, we were out of this jam.

I cannot count the number of times I looked at my watch that evening.  True to his words, he took us in 15 minutes flat.  Now, ten minutes left when he left us beside the station in a by lane. We thanked him profusely.  Every nano second would count now.  We had to cross the road and walk, nay run, some distance [with luggage] to get into the Station.  Eight minutes to go. We briskly crossed the road, already perspiring.  From where we crossed the road, we saw the tail of a train.  The station gate was many metres away to the left.

I tried to visualize that scene on paper now.  Remember it was 9 pm and dark. This is what we saw before we crossed the road:

There was a compound wall which was slightly taller than my shoulder that looked surmountable and the nearest route for us to be 'on some platform'!  Much younger Shivu climbed first after keeping the luggage on the wall.  We climbed the high wall like thieves escaping to safety.  I had to pull myself up, holding the edge of the wall, right leg first up, stomach scraping the top of the wall, sitting, jumping down, picking up luggage and running for the train.  Which train, where was our train?  Time, 3 minutes left.  

We dreaded the fact of searching and running to another platform or crossing tracks. But to our luck, the train we had seen was ours!   The board displayed on the bogey showed it!  This was about 40 feet from the compound wall we had just jump-crossed. To add to our luck, even our compartment was right there, in front of us, may be the third or fourth from the last!!  And we need not run anymore at all!  What a relief!  No sooner had we settled our luggage beneath our seats, we felt the jerk.  The train was moving. The time was 9.10.  We had made it!  Call what you may, cliff-hanger, filmy style. 

We had spilled all the 'cushion time' in Mysore itself.  This post need not have been written if I had a simple mobile phone and established contact with Shivu.  Ha, now suddenly I recall that I had attempted to contact him from the public booth nearby at half past four but "switched off" was the message.  What to do?

 The tournament from our team's perspective turned out to be one not to remember.


Let me tell another 1994 story in brief.  
Our club cricket team had gone to Kumbakonam.  I was to join the team 3 days later for further matches.  Mohan Ram was accompanying me in the bus journey which was about 12 hours total time.  We expected to be well ahead early morning for our match at 8 am. We had started at 4pm. On the last stretch, the next morning as we closed in to the destination, some farmers' agitation had blocked traffic for 2 hours.  I remember we brushed our teeth during the blockage, beside the road. When we landed at our hotel, it was quarter to 8 and when we rushed to the ground after dumping the luggage and quickly changing to our cricket gear, our captain had made the toss and we were to take the field.  I played almost right off the bus...the engine sound still ringing after the overnight journey by ordinary seat.  We won the match and eventually after two more matches in the next two days, we ended runner-up.


1 comment:

Kumar Sharma said...

Very interesting to read Dear Dinu! Loved every bit of it, sitting on the edge of my seat - real cliff-hanger! What an anticlimax - you are like Alfred Hitchcock. You were raving about the advantages of having a mobile and you ended saying that though you called up from a booth, IT SAID "SWITCHED OFF"! In my opinion you are an excellent story writer and your stories are real-life happenings. All the Best - looking forward to more such blog-posts. Kumar.