Please pay attention-the Sealdah bound Rajdhani is late by 13 hours.Sorry for the inconvenience.13 hours!@%f*@#-the choicest of abuses were jostling for space in memory to be directed in turn towards the Indian Railways,the weather,the fog(wait that’s a part of the weather itself,right?)..not necessarily in that order.More importantly I just realised-I was screwed.Or was I?I weighed the options.
1.Rush back 2 campus in Ghaziabad.Come back early morning.-Costly,energy and money wise.
2.Seek shelter from some buddy in Delhi for the duration.Tried-but realised all were on campus tonite.
3.Stay in and around the station.
Option 3.Hands down winner.
I drag my suitcase along to the metro station-it is not an easy task I tell you-the wheels are weary,nearly 3 years of service now,coupled with the lack of escalators at the most steepest places you beg for it to be present in.Somehow manage to reach the next station in Connaught place-drag my feet to the park alongside Palika Bazaar.Suddenly one single scene lit up my mood.This 13 hour wait wasn’t going to be that bad after all.
A Chinese kid was almost effortlessly exhibiting his juggling and balancing skills with queer objects of all shapes and sizes,strange as it was,I seemed to be the only audience to his amazing skills-and he didn’t mind the lack of an attentive audience at all-he played on,with a serene smile on his visage.I continued to be spellbound at this spectacle as I occupied a corner of a green bench at a corner which provided a panoramic view of the surroundings.My huge suitcase panted alongside,relishing the respite from the torturous journey from one metro station to the next.
I looked around-the next thing that struck me was the presence of couples,of all types,ages,shapes and sizes.This was strange cos some were positively married,but their definite attempts to ‘you know what’ made me wonder whether they were indeed married to each other.The next type was the strange combination of the guy in a suit and the gal in a salwar kameez,providing a near perfect example of chalk and cheese out there in the open.One such suit guy was so deeply engrossed in the,well,eyes of his salwar gal that he totally disregarded the gooey freshly released excreta of a
bird on his shoulder.
My voyeuristic observation was broken by the ‘excuse me’ from a high school kid who asked me to shift on the bench.I did,but then realised he wasn’t alone,he had his coochey coo high school girlfriend with him,and a real plump tag along girl too.So there we were,from right,the tag along plumpy slurping on an ice cream bar,the coochey coo girlfriend finding the most impossible of angles in the corners/angles of the hero,who was 3rd in the row-and finally me.Some scene we made,I thought as I desperately tried to focus on anything but the happenings beside me.
But horror of horrors,the two beside me turned out to be bongs too-and how could I miss the guy assuring his girl that the guy sitting on his right wasn’t a bong,and they could continue their intimate conversation and practical case studies in bengali in the fading evening twilight.Holy hell,didn’t I look like a bong?They all said back in college too,high school kids are all stupid=I concluded and then tried to form a new playlist on my phone.
The 2 slurp slurps continued for the next 30 odd minutes,the plumpy on her ice cream bar,and the two cosy kid bongs on each other I ‘logically worked out’.I had had enough,also the golden arches in the distance gave that all familiar feeling a new fillip.I call this the ‘hungry for the sake of being hungry’ feeling in your stomach.This is the feeling that all KFCs,McDs.Subways,Burger Kings and their like thrive on to continue their business.I wheeled my reenergised suitcase into Ron Mac’s CP store and grabbed a corner stool to munch on the fries and sip coke.
30 minutes later I was back to the station.The waiting room was stuffed beyond imagination,the cloak room being closed it meant I had to drag my suitcase into the waiting room itself.The man on the PA system seemed to have mistakenly stepped into the railways announcement system from his usual IGI airport office-with his anglicised accent,his pronouncing ‘doo-rawn-tyo’ and ‘sam-park-auntie’ just furthered my suspicion.
The waiting room was a classic study in human behaviour all over again.All the seats were occupied,the vacant ones had strange handkerchiefs,tissues,newspapers strewn on them-much like Armstrong’s proud star striped banner on the moon-‘the passenger was here’.
One almost ironic image was a half hanging ‘Incredible India’ image on the wall in front of me.I stood and surveyed any sign of weakness-where could I pounce upon at the slightest sign of a vacant spot.It was then that I saw it-the faint glimmer of hope.
One man had clearly misunderstood an announcement for a 6 hour delay of his train and was rushing his family of 2 along to join him to catch the train in time..as he lifted his enormous luggage,I swept past him,cornered the spot smoothly and settled on my newly found throne.The man didn’t even notice,sad thing-he had no clue that he was going to be receive the biggest thrashing from his better half in a few minutes time.Shit happens-I sweetly told myself as I closed my eyes in delight.
One more bong family was there beside me,they were happily chatting in bengali criticising everyone around until I arrived there.Somehow they felt the express need to start conversing in english about the tiniest of details.Poor illiterate me.One family of 5 from Bihar arrived next.They were totally prepared for the adverse conditions it seems-what with all the mattresses,blankets that they had brought along,they set up a mini refugee camp in 5 minutes flat right there before me.All 5 members seemed totally unconcerned of the presence of people around them-in their own little ways.The wife decided to promptly lie down using someone else’s bag as pillow for her well oiled head.The husband was busy terminating a pack of mumfali,deriving real joy in spraying the empty shells on everyone around.The youngest of the 3 kids seemed hell bent on trying to pee on the corner of the room-while his slightly older brother patiently chewed on the chain used by a passenger near to him to tie his suitcase to a chair.
Hail Lalu,Rabri-I could totally see why they were idols back home.Meanwhile a new predicament stuck me-how could I go and visit the restroom without giving up my seat to the next predator in waiting.Somehow managed the impossible,asking one of the 3 bihari kids to lie down on my seat for 10 minutes-he obliged,only after I handed him an eclairs.
As the night went on,the trains started to saunter in-6 hours for the train to rest and get ready for the return journey.One smart alec couldn’t help quip that 6 hours was too long a time for the train to get ready,it was especially significant as he gave meaningful glares at his wife alongside possibly drawing a similarity to the numerous delays imposed by his better half in getting ready for all the social gatherings over the years.
People slept,in all sorts of torrid angles and ways.The sheer cacophony of snores all around me,made me believe I was this new Sivamani composing for the next Rehman Grammy winner.I refused to sleep-less out of choice more out of fear of missing the train when I was this close to surviving the 13 hour ordeal.I kept the music on at its loudest,had the umpteenth cup of coffee-the clock ticked on-finally the misplaced airport wala anglo announced ‘Sealdah Rajdhani leaving from Platform no xx in 30 minutes’.
As I wheeled my faithful suitcase to the designated platform,I suddenly realised that I was going to kinda miss this ordeal.
Willing to swap places,anyone?