A few years back, I had made a gaffe of not checking my train ticket after it was booked.. The result – one of the most memorable journeys of my life :-).. What a contradiction both these statements are!!!
I reach the station after conducting a three-day residential training program in Bangalore (I was heading to Chennai where I was residing then).. Though I was stimulated intellectually, I was physically tired given the long training hours.. I was longing to get into the train and put my feet up..
I was in the station at 9.35 PM for my 10.30 PM train (or so I thought) and was checking for the confirmation of my wait listed ticket, in the charts prepared.. And I did not find my name in the charts.. I saw the charts more than a few times and even then my name did not miraculously appear.. Wondering if ‘I’ was not able to spot my name, I asked another passenger standing next to me to check the chart.. He saw the chart and then my ticket and said, ‘But madam, this ticket is for the 9.30 train and the train just left a minute back’. I was shocked and was rooted to the spot.. My thoughts at that moment were, “What do I do now? I cannot stay back in Bangalore. I need to get back to Chennai as my two kids will be waiting for me (my children were about 5 years and 2 years respectively)”. I went to the Train Ticket Examiner who was in the platform and he told me to see the Station Master who would be able to help me to take the 10.30 PM train..
I literally dragged myself to the Station Master’s room and I actually thought he will give me a ticket to board the train, in one of the second class compartments.. Some wish!! He signed on the ticket, giving me permission to board the unreserved compartment of the train..
The train had just then arrived in the platform and I walked upto the unreserved compartment and the first thought that came to me was, “What have I got myself into?”
There was no space to get into the compartment, let alone move inside.. Too many people were sitting on the floor of the compartment.. I looked at them and then at myself.. I looked at my bright yellow salwar, my shoes, my bag and my handbag and then I looked at the passengers seated in the compartment.. I was certainly ‘far from the traveling crowd’.. For a moment I just wanted to run away!!! But where to?
Mustering all my strength, I boarded the unreserved compartment and moved inside, ‘on my toes’.. No pun intended!!! 🙂
Gaining some confidence by then, I started to look around for a space to sit.. Finally found a few inches of space in the single upper tier.. But this space was occupied by a few plastic bags.. I further mustered some more courage and asked people who those bags belonged to.. No one answered.. I asked the person seated next to the bags to move it aside so that I could climb up to the upper tier. It was time to say a big thanks to all the rappelling stints I had done, in the training programs – that is what helped me to look for the smallest of gaps, and lug myself and my bags to occupy the few inches of space..
I sat in the place I had got for myself and realised that I could not hang my legs down.. Why? Well, they will then touch the head of the person sitting in the lower tier.. I cannot sit cross legged either. Why? Well there was no space to do that. So what was the choice left? Stretch my legs and make it rest in between two people seated in the opposite side.. And this was how I traveled for about 6 hours in the overnight journey..
I was praying that I would not get the need to visit the washroom.. Why? Getting down and then walking it up to the washroom is a challenge by itself.. And I was not sure if I will get back those few inches of space if I move from there. Some prayer indeed!!! 🙂
It was a few hours of ‘sitting on a high pedestal’.. As the hours ticked by, and with very little sleep, it was a time to observe people around me and a time for observing myself.. For someone who dreaded getting into the unreserved compartment, it was a peep into how another section of the society lives.. Valuable hours which taught me many a lesson.. Everytime I cross an unreserved compartment in a railway station, my mind wanders into this journey in my life, and I have one of those big smiles which radiates from me…
Looking back, wonder if my not checking my train ticket was a gaffe after all!!