It’s a tale from the days when Iwas young, enterprising & still very fearless. The word enterprising came from the fact that,despite being ignorant about the uncanny ways of “great Indian railways
”, I playeda gamble & set on ventures on my toes.
One such venture was my trip fromNagpur
. Yes, for the first time in my life, I went to a railwaycounter, booked 3 tickets for mom, one aunty accompanying her and yours truly.We were going to meet my younger brother at his military college in Nashik andas the norm goes my mom carried a carton full of eatables for him & hisfellow hostel-mates. Ah, all sorts of edibles including “Gajar ka halwa
” (carrots)!In all the ignorance, we deferred booking the return tickets & wentcompletely oblivious to the fact that getting reservation in Indian railways isbig achievement in itself and travelling without reservation is definitely, nota wonderful thing that an urban middle class family should ever try toespecially if it involves night journey. So as the word goes, we had anexperience of lifetime and a tale that I can munch on to my grand children.
The overall trip went well. Wemet chotu dearest at his hostel, delivered all the box of cookies to him andeven went to Shirdi
for the divine Darshan. Why I said divine, is something youmay need to keep reading my blogs to find more.
And then the incredible tripbegan from Nashik railway station, on our return to Nagpur.
As I told you, we didn’t havereserved tickets for return. Albeit, we have to return as it deem not right forus to stay back in an unknown city, with no purpose and with a “bad debt” auntywho has not let loose a single penny from her pocket in the entire trip. Unknowncity, three women- two in late thirties and one, a an “enterprising” teenage girlwith an artificial leg, all made to be a perfect setting for a fiction screenplaybut didn’t make a good box office prospect. So we have to return back on thesame day oops evening.
Our taxi guy & coolie “abundantly”advised us to get down at station and buy a normal ticket from the counter and thenrequest the ticket collector for reservations by paying extra bucks. Those werethe days of no mobile, no internet and on the spot decisions. Like a Bollywood
loving true Indian, we parked all our hopes on good old TT uncle to come asknight in shining armor & rescue the three damsels in distress.
Doable, agreed, we bought thetickets and landed on platform. The clock ticked and the station was filled withall kind of people from peanut seller to vada pav
vendor to lock & keyhawker to chaiwala but no TT was in sight. The train came but still no TT wasfound. There were so many people in black & white but no TT.
Then we met three men in thirtieswho claimed to be co passengers sailing in the same boat & assured us tohelp with the TT. The bollywood goodwill rang a bell again and we got few moreknights in shining armor. It was about time we waited for the TT to come andtrain was about to depart. The engine chug and my mom asked me to board thetrain rather do a DDLJ
(Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge) for the TT. The bogieswere empty so chances of getting reservations became strong and we boarded thetrain. We got in to a clean, empty non ac compartment which that day lookedlike a heaven and with baited breath; we waited for the TT uncle to come. The threemen also parked themselves in the same compartment, sitting on the same berth andstarted a conversation to make us shift away from the tension. As the timepassed, aunty & mummy dozed off on front berths and I was awake tosafeguard our luggage and meet the TT asap.
The rabbits we're gonna get and I, I get to tend'em
The conversation moved fromNashik city to railways to my leg. They started asking the same old question asto what, why, when happened. With the evening turning to night & no showfrom knight in shining armor (TT), almost empty bogie and over inquisitivestrangers, I began to get uncomfortable. It’s only when the strangers (Henceforth the rabbits) tried tosit too close and one man put his hand on my knee asking about my leg, my heartsent a strong signal to brain that something is not too right. There was achink in the armor and I must do something tactically to avoid any adversesituation, peacefully. What can I do in the moving train to stop thetrespassers without blood & tears? Without much ado, I shifted the topicand the conversations went like this-
Rabbit no 1
:- Ohso what is the level of amputation, is it full leg or half leg (Full half? Ordering a chicken inrestaurant??!!)
The cautious Me: It’s from knee,uncle. (Moving myself a bit away to showdisapproval)
Rabbit no 2: (Kept his hand on my knee suddenly and said) Thisportion? Oh that’s so bad TSch tsch.. How do you manage, it must be difficultfor you to walk…
The overcautious Me: (Removing his hand from the knee) Eh!Well No UNCLE. It’s big deal. I am totally mobile and fast. (and then changing the topic & showingconcern ) Why this TT is not coming. Is the train running late? Will itreach on right time?
Rabbit no 2: No problem,this train is late by 1 hour but pick up in the night. Where exactly do youhave to go in Nagpur?
The overcautious Me: I have to goto Tilaknagar. It’s expected to reach by 8:00am and I have planned my dayaccordingly. If it doesn’t reach on time I will miss my class and students willleave.
Rabbit no 2: It’s okdon’t worry, it will cover in time. How does it matter if you get late one day.So, when did this accident happen and …
The overcautious Me:
No uncle. Itdoes matter and I don’t want to get late for my classes tomorrow. I have weeklyclasses and “my” students will miss the class. There was the special emphasis on my students!
Rabbit no 3: This trainreaches on time. There is nothing to worry, we travel frequently. We have asetting with TT. You want tea? We are there, we shall take care. You havetuition classes? Which subject? It must be very difficult for you as a girl foryou are quite young and pretty girl and do not look like an accident victim atall. It must be difficult for you to travel like this.
The cautious Me: I am very usedto it uncle and my life is quite normal. By the way, I don’t go for tuitionrather I take classes for karate & martial arts for college students whoare definitely not children
Rabbit no 2: Karrrrateclasses? How do you manage that?
The cautious Me: Yes, karate. Iam a black belt in karate. And that’s what give my parents confidence to let metravel like this. So I want other girls to also learn the same thing if not foroffense atleast for defense, you see.
That last sentence did the trickand the over friendly uncle(s) become suddenly formal and excused themselvesaway gradually. In some time, I saw them getting down at Bhusawal stationwithout fanfare and cry. The train was soon filled with passengers like a rabbithole. And yes, the TT never came until midnight when an elderly co passenger advisedthat we shouldn’t approach him as he can fine us for travelling withoutreservation and make us get down at next station. One gentleman allowed me alittle space at the extreme end of his seat whilst my mom and aunty, spread thebed sheet and parked themselves in the space available in middle of the twoberths at ground. I spent the entire night journey seating acrobatically inmidst of lower berth and middle berth of the 3tier sleeper car while, all otherpassengers slept away in glory, maximizing the return for their ticket costs.