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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rail Yatra : A Journey Of A Life Time

Before you go through this article, I would like to declare that this is not a work of fiction but an account of 24 hours from my life.

1st Feb, 2011. Me along with my friend Rahul was waiting for Goa Express at Hazrat Nizamuddin station. During my childhood I have always travelled by sleeper class but as the people possess a higher purchasing power and with the railway’s fare almost unchanged for many years now, the same man travels in an AC compartment with me being no exception. I was a bit sceptical of travelling in sleeper. As one says that the luck runs out when you need it the most, the same applied to us that day. Despite all jacks working for our cause, we ended up in sleeper class. We were the first one’s to enter the coach as we found almost no one standing outside our compartment. With 10 minutes left for the train to depart, I started praying that less people turn out today to board the train. Just then a flurry of people entered the coach and in a blink of an eye the coach was full. To sum up my neighbour’s in the coach; two gujjar couple’s, a Punjabi army guy with a friend, 3 agri labourers and a typical goan guy, I stared at my friend and found him already glaring at me. We had a small conversation and decided to upgrade our seats in the AC compartment. We took turns to approach the ticket checker. It was my friend’s turn first to get up from his seat. As he saw the man in the black coat a smile embellished his face and it vanished soon as he saw the length of the queue surrounding the checker.

Still he surged ahead with confidence only to be told to come after an hour. I can feel his emotions as our heads and shoulders dropped down. Can we sneak to that AC compartment? Was the question in our minds. Suddenly we saw the labour guys staring at our luggage down under our seat. It was only 30 minutes past the last time we approached the Checker, but the incident was enough to take me off my seat. I went to the TC and was told to come after Agra. I came back with my hopes dying slowly but gradually.

The train stopped on the outskirts of Agra and as usual few people got off the train. As I was sitting on the window seat, a man from outside the train asked me to pass a plate of ‘Chaat’ to his wife on the other side.  I passed the plate to others so that it reaches the lady. Finally , a gujjar boy delivered the item and told the lady that I’ve offered this to her. She turned back and refused to accept the ‘chaat’ with anger. The confusion between the couple made me a culprit. As if this was not enough, the gujjar guy who delivered the item had an impression that I am playing games with him. In no time he got aggressive and the people sitting nearby took care of him.

Meanwhile, when these incidents happened we made numerous rounds to the checker but to no avail. Soon, the two army guys started chatting with us. They disclosed that both of them are without tickets and are ready to pay for the seats as we were in the hunt for AC compartment. I again went to the TC and he asked me to wait outside his cabin for 10 minutes. Every minute was difficult to pass by as I crossed the 30 minute mark waiting outside. Finally, he appeared only to tell me an inflated price for the up-gradation which I promptly denied and with that our hopes vanished. Now it, was clear that we have to survive the night among the unsettled environment of the sleeper coach.

One problem ended and just then another started. The army guys!! They want our seats and we will not vacate them. We explained them the scenario and they agreed to it. Suddenly, the things started to ease off. Everything was going on smoothly until the dinner time, when the two army guys hopped on to our upper births and started drinking alcohol. We were not very optimistic that we will be able to bring them down. Soon, they offered us the drinks which we politely refused. Both of them, since the start of the journey were speaking a word ‘JOGA’ and we were not able of crack its meaning, but now we realized that it meant alcohol.

All credit to holy spirits, they climbed down and agreed to sleep on the floor. But then, there were more surprises left for the day. As we prepared  to call it a day, another gujjar boy of around 20 years came yelling at his friends with all sought of abuses coming out of his mouth. Soon we found out that he was slapped by 15 army people for misbehaving with girls. He called up his friends to fight but no one was in a mood to fight 15 man strong army group. And then appeared the army group surrounding the gujjar boys. I was thrilled and my eyes were all set for a battle royal. But here came the twist, army group apologised for their misbehaviour and everything was settled.

The lights were turned off, everyone asleep, I laid back on my birth with earplugs on listening to soothing music and hoping that the longest night of my life must end now, but it was a day when nothing went my way. I was lost in the music, when I saw that all the lights were turned on again, everyone getting up from their seats in a state of shock and suddenly there were smiles on everyone’s face. I removed my earplugs and discovered that 3 homo sapiens were snoring so loud that it was impossible to sleep with that noise. I decided to ignore anything which happens now on, listening to music my eyes closed and I slept unknown to the fact that not many people slept last night.

Next morning, people started to de-board the train at their respective stations. The coach was half full now. I sat back on my seat , looking through the window and thinking about the people I met during the course of this journey. I still don’t know anyone’s name, but they were a part of the 24 hours of madness that I will never forget.

That’s why it was a “Journey of a Life Time” !!


Anonymous said...

me lucky to witness that journey!!


Ankit Saxena said...

and m lucky too

Anonymous said...

hahahaha...happened with me few time too..

- Navneet Bhatt

Dhanya said...

no matter how bad the trains are or how poor the conditions of the berth is we( or atleast I ) love train journey .. its very nostalgic for reasons unknown ..

its almost like u unite to something u left back

Ankit Saxena said...

@Dhanya : Thanx for commenting and yes i too love train journey's that's why i've written my experience here...also the title says a journey of a lifetime :)