It was the dark, dark night of
My father quickly found out that my train, the Patna Secunderabad Thirupati Express was delayed by three hours and was expected sometime around . It was not yet . We had two options; either wait there in the station, or go back home and come back at three. However, the railway enquiry had misguided us more than once before (which was the reason why we had not called up railway enquiry but had come directly to the station) and it was too risky to go back. My parents and sister deposited me and my luggage on an iron bench on platform no. 9 (actually between 9 and 10… more like 9¾) and reluctantly left for home.
Now I had the task of spending the night there on that bench, not falling asleep when the train came and protecting my three luggage items from theft, for there were several “highly suspicious” characters sitting around me. Apart from that, I also had to be careful about mosquitoes. With dengue and chikungunya spreading across the country, I couldn’t risk too many bites. Even if I (and the mosquitoes) were to believe the experts that the mosquitoes responsible for spreading these diseases bit only during the day, our good old malaria was always there. It seemed the different species of mosquitoes were working in shifts.
I kept the suitcase on the ground between my legs and the kit bag on my knees. The problem was with the misshapen polythene bag that contained mostly food. I kept it beside the suitcase. Then I realized that this position would ensure the security of my luggage, but expose my feet to the deadliest creature on earth. Apart from that there were large rats roaming around on the platform that didn’t seem too friendly either. If having the food bag stolen was bad, then being bitten by a rabid rat was worse. So I pulled up both my legs on the bench and folded them under me. I took out a steel chain that I was carrying and tied all three bags together and to the bench. But again the food bag posed a problem: it was after all a polythene bag whose handles were tied by a steel chain. A person could very easily cut away the handles and take away the bag if I fell asleep. To prevent this, I put a reminder alarm in my cell phone at 15 minute intervals. This would ensure that I never slept more than 15 minutes at a stretch. It would also ensure that the train wouldn’t come and leave without me.
Just before I started on my first 15 minute snooze, it was announced that the train was delayed by 5 hours and would be here at Then started a series of short naps, punctuated by the ringing of the alarm and my hurried switching it off, and dozing off until the next one rang. The people around me weren’t too happy about this periodic beeping in the middle of the night, though. While nobody told me anything on my face, it was evident from their irritated murmurs that they disapproved of my methods. Some time later I had to take out my half sweater and put it on.
Anyway, the night passed quicker than I had expected, probably because I was longing for each of my 15-minute sleep periods to last longer. In the meantime the train’s delay had increased by half an hour more. As dawn broke around me, the platform became more and more crowded. The sun emerged as a beautiful orange disk from behind a mess of overhead wires. came and went. The announcements pretended that train number 7092 didn’t exist. Finally the train came at . It left one hour later, at . Almost everybody, including me, immediately went to sleep, waking up after several hours. I came to know much later that a bag was stolen from the family in the seats next to mine during this time, most probably when the train had stopped in Satna. This bag had their cell phone, camera, wristwatch, and ATM cards.
The 27 hour journey to Secunderabad was more or less uneventful. There was a girl about the same age as me on the seat above and we started talking. It turned out that she passed ICSE/ISC in the same year as I did from another school in
The person with whom I was supposed to share my RAC berth never turned up and I had it to myself. My misshapen food packet (whose size steadily decreased) was a pain while sleeping, but otherwise all was fine. The train finally pulled into Secunderabad at on the 29th. Although I had spent most of the time in the train sleeping, I still slept for almost whole of the rest of the day on reaching home. Ah yes, I almost forgot to write, I had the usual fight with the auto driver while coming home this time too.
And I think I should mention that my holidays were fabulous. I spent such a long time with my family for the first time after June-July 2005. We also visited Chitrakoot. My aunt had come with her family and we enjoyed every moment of it. Thanks to all my readers for their wishes. I'll be writing more about my experiences soon.
[After staying up till 3:oo last night and typing this all up I found that blogger stopped responding in my house. So I had to mail it to myself and publish from office.]