Confessions of a Jinxed Train-Traveler
Confessions of a jinxed train-traveler
I do hereby swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Behold! Today people outside my family shall know about me and my train journeys. Some meet new friends on trains, some discover their passion for travel, in my case trains conjured up happenings beyond commonplace. I am not superstitious, but trains possessed me! I entreat you to enjoy my journeys.
Laugh at your own will
Ridicule at your own revel
Sympathize at your own peril
Judge never you shall
Trains had always fascinated me since childhood. There is something magical about trains, full of life inside and out. I grew up in the temple town of Tirupati. Many trains terminated there. Sleeping on the terrace, I could even listen to the whistles of trains as they shunted. Later those whistles were replaced by whining mosquitoes.
Trains haunt me!
Story 1: Omen
When the first opportunity to travel alone came during my Engineering days, I was thrilled in anticipation. And it was the mighty Grand Trunk express all the way to Delhi!
I was to board at Gudur where it stops for just a couple of minutes. Somehow Railways either thinks that 2 minutes are sufficient in the smaller stations for these superfast trains for people to alight and board or that people from these places don’t make these travels. This was a time when the position of the bogie on the platform was not displayed. I would say even if it’s displayed, it’s not that the coach stops right at the slot always. God forbid if you are catching a train in the night, you may find the doors shut too! For security’s sake of course! Then the traveler would bang on the nearby windows seeking help or run to find an open door in the adjacent coaches. All within those 2 minutes!!
GT express always arrived on platform no. 1 at Gudur, until I made the travel. When it was about to enter the station, there was an announcement that it would be on platform no. 2. With my bags I couldn’t cross the tracks and so looked for the foot over bridge. It was quite far and so I ran. By the time I reached the steps huffing and puffing, the train arrived. Climbed with all my might and ran ahead. When I reached the platform 2, the train started departing. I was still running hoping against hope to make it. Just then a god-sent porter reached me, took my bags and pushed me into an AC compartment whose door was luckily open. He ran along and hurled the bags inside. I quickly handed over whatever cash I could pull out.
The AC coach TC looked at me as though I was an urchin or a vagabond. I was in a mess, so no wonder. When I showed the ticket, he asked me to go to my sleeper coach. When I said the vestibule was shut, he advised me to get down at Nellore and board my coach. Thankfully he gave the foldable coach attendant’s seat to wait. At Nellore, I again had just 2 minutes to run with the bags. Better sense prevailed and I boarded some sleeper coach before the train left. And dragged myself inside I don’t know how many coaches. The struggle was bearable compared to the retrospect of missing the train itself. So much for the start of a dream come true long journey!
Little did I know that this experience was the omen of my future love affair with trains.
Story 2: First shot at fame: Travel to Calcutta
Fast forward by a few years.
Now, there was a direct train to Howrah from Tirupati. But that was known to be a train of ‘Thieves’ that would take forever to reach destination. So, I traveled to Chennai to catch the East Coast express. The onward journey was beautiful especially as it passed near the Chilika lake, it was a beautiful setting.
Idea was to arrive in the morning, freshen up in the station itself, attend the interview at the Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management, have Kali darshan, go over the Howrah bridge, spend some time on the famed Calcutta metro/trams and come back to catch the return train the same night. It may sound a long list for a day, but it was a doable pucca plan!
Group discussion and Interview went off well. But the college canteen warned me about enduring 2 years. Such clarity with the aspects that decide where to pursue an MBA!
A rickshaw took me to a Kali mandir and to this day I am not sure if it’s THE temple. Prayed for the well-being of all and for a quick return home. Got on and off a tram and went to a metro station. Since the time I had watched Mile sur mera tumhara, Arun Lal and another gentleman adjusting his hair while coming out of a metro, I wanted to board an underground train. Now it got fulfilled! Came back to the famous Howrah station well in time to catch the return at 10 pm.
Around 8 pm went to check the platform where the East Coast express was going to start from. Nonchalantly asked a porter and he responded with an incredulous look on his face. The train has departed already! I couldn’t believe what I heard. Yes, that thought of ‘I know my stuff’ was still there. Took out the ticket and checked the departure time. It was 20:00 hrs. Yes, I must have been 20:00 hrs when I booked the ticket and when I last saw it too. Now please don’t ask me how I cracked CAT exam or how I registered that time as 10 pm. Let me tell you, both happened.
How do I go back home to Tirupati from Calcutta!! Ran to the enquiry and the Kali maa within the counter told me: There is a direct train to Tirupati at 9 pm. Yes, the same ‘Thieves’ train. No other go, I ran to the place where Ticket Examiners were resting. One of them promised a berth if I paid extra. I did so immediately. Ran to the current booking counter for a ticket. Wanted to also cancel my other ticket so that I will get some refund at least. Couldn’t find any forms there, so wrote on top of ticket, ‘For Cancellation’. When I handed it over to the booking clerk, he threw it back on my face! Before I could utter anything, he demanded how dare I write on a ticket!! Must have done some grave sin indeed. Not just then but during my previous birth too! Kept it as a memento of my Calcutta trip and returned to the platform for the Thieves train. Berth was allotted so I could peacefully return at least. As the train left the station, eagerly waited for company. No one came. In disbelief I went around the coach, there were a handful of people in the entire coach. Now can you imagine the feeling having paid extra for a berth in the vacant compartment of a god-forsaken train?
Reached home the next day night. Woke up the day after with Malaria!
My next long-distance travel from Tirupati to Mangalore was surprisingly uneventful. In fact, the journey fetched a very dear life-long friend and an admission into T A Pai Management Institute, Manipal.
Story 3: Summer project. Mangalore to Chennai.
Now for the MBA class, whether I did pre-read and assignments or not, had to be dressed well. Bought myself a few new pairs of clothes and a frameless set of spectacles. They felt light and elegant. Sporting these I boarded this train along with a few classmates who were headed to Chennai as well.
It was hot and humid. Shorts weren’t yet in vogue then. Even a lungi could have helped. But we were a decent lot especially with a few girls also travelling with us. I thought water is the best way to cool myself. So, went to the rest room, the Indian style, to wash my face. As I splashed water and simultaneously wiped my face, I felt something coming off my face and ears! Before I could realize what it was, the light and elegant frameless specs were flying straight into the pot hole! Even a Michael Jordon couldn’t have aimed it so well with his back to the basket, but I managed.
Learning: Frameless not meant for the absent-minded!
Story 4: Inter business school competition. Mangalore to Coimbatore
Now I was wiser from these experiences, or so I thought. It must be possible to break the so-called jinx by being aware and conscious of things in general. Looked at it as an opportunity to prove it for myself!
So, back again in the rest room to wash my face. Removed my specs and kept it inside pocket. Removed the wrist watch and was about to put it in the trouser pocket. Come on! Where is the test that would prove you are mindful of things? Looked around and hung the wrist watch from the hook on the back of the door.
Washed my face and promptly returned to my seat. In about 5-10 minutes, jumped and ran to the rest room! The hook was intact but there was no watch.
What would you call this? Please don’t tell me, it was unbearable!
Story 5: Exciting new life at Hyderabad. Secunderabad to Tirupati
Vinayaka Chaturthi time and I booked tickets to go home. My first journey from Hyderabad to Tirupati by Train. It was Narayanadri express from Secunderabad that departs at 6:25 pm. Proceeded to station directly from office. Got stuck in traffic but managed to reach the platform by 6:10 pm. When I enquired with a porter on the foot bridge for the platform no., he said 4 but immediately added, the train was gone! I ran to the platform and caught hold of a TC. In utter disbelief I asked him how the train can depart sooner when it is to leave by 6:25 pm. He asked for the ticket and looked at the departure time. It was indeed 6:25 pm. Now it was his turn to wonder. We together wondered.
At least he was more practical. He said “if you want to go to Tirupati, there is another train Venkatadri express that will depart in 10 min. I can give you a berth if you buy a current booking ticket”. He was my Vinayaka at that moment! Wiser, I ran across the platforms through those dirty tracks and reached the counter. Requested people to let me in as train was leaving and they obliged (Note: People are generally nice but we have to ask nicely). Came running back as the train started to move. Memories came rushing! But the friendly TC was beckoning me like Sharukh from the door and I managed to get in without taking his hand! After settling me down in a berth, the TC enquired about the 6:25 pm ticket again. I took it out and showed him. He saw it closely and exclaimed, “Sir, this is Tirupati to Secunderabad!”. I said, “oh, that’s the return ticket. Let me show the Secunderabad to Tirupati ticket”. Saying so I picked out the other ticket. He saw that and this time mocked, “this is also Tirupati to Secunderabad!”
I will leave it there. What can I say!
Run the distance
Story 6: Friend's wedding. Chennai to Hyderabad
Let’s move on. This time it was a friend’s wedding in Chennai on a Sunday! So, booked the tickets to catch a train on Friday evening at Hyderabad and to catch a return on Sunday from Chennai Central. This time checked the from and to locations and also the departure times.
Wedding went off well, met friends and had fun. It was time to take leave. One of them asked me to check the ticket. I smiled within myself, how come he is saying that…does he know me? With a tinge of confidence took the ticket out and verified once again. All is well...well, except the date. The ticket was for Saturday, the day before!!
Come on!! There is a limit to even idiocy!
During such embarrassed times in life, met my future wife! Thought my wheels of fortune have turned! And then she told me, her father worked for the Railways!!!
No, it couldn’t be possible! Yes, it was! It wasn’t clear whether I was above the wheels or under.
We were to travel to Cochin after marriage in a train. I couldn’t gather courage to prepare her for eventualities as we embarked on our life’s journey. At least one doesn’t want to appear stupid so early in the honeymoon! I did double and triple check all variables on the ticket. What remained was being careful with belongings while travelling.
Fortunately, no dents to esteem as a newly-married, there were no untoward incidents!
Story 7: New Year Eve. Swindon to Manchester
We moved to Swindon in UK for a project. A dear friend invited us to Manchester for the New Year’s Eve. From Swindon we were to catch a train to Bristol and then catch a connection to Manchester from Bristol. Time gap was 30 minutes between the two trains.
Arrived at Swindon station well in time to catch the train for Bristol Temple Meads station. Then there arrived a train for Bristol Parkway station. I thought reaching Bristol sooner would be better as the time gap was only 30 minutes for catching connection. I enquired with someone there and we boarded the Bristol Parkway train. By the time we arrived at Bristol Parkway, the train to Manchester was in 20 minutes! And it starts from Temple Meads! It was a long taxi ride from the northern suburb of Parkway to the central Temple Meads, as I learnt later. For an additional cost of 90 pounds for the taxi, we were deposited at Temple Meads. We ran in with the bags to board the Manchester train just in time! Japanese envy me!
Story 8: Deepavali & Crackers. Tirupati to Secunderabad
Deepavali is a festival that I love to celebrate at Tirupati, for old times’ sake. And we do that big time. For that year, I had planned to buy crackers from Tamil Nadu to save some money. I recalled a time I bought crackers from Hosur, while working in Bangalore. I would repeat that plan. (Please don’t raise your eyebrows, we are pretty passionate about crackers in my family. And you don’t know how many options have been tried. Sivakasi is the only one left now). Moreover, my sister and brother-in-law were joining us this time. I went ahead -traveled from Hyderabad, procured the crackers at Hosur, managed to transport from Bangalore (don’t ask me how) and celebrated the festival at Tirupati.
There was still a train journey to be made back to Hyderabad from Tirupati. That was a lovely trip, full of fun and frolic. We arrived in time for the working day and took an auto back home. Just as we were about to reach my apartments, did I realize that a shoulder bag containing cash was missing! It was left on the upper berth I had slept in!!
Big sum it was, many times more than the money saved during Hosur buy.
Lesson: Don’t waste time complaining to Railway Protection Force.
Story 9: Jinx Extension. Wife Joins.
Like Nava Grahas that decided my fate, I will end my stories with the ninth one. It was one of those trips to Tirupati during festival time. Train was almost approaching the station when my wife decided to wash her face. When such thoughts arose, I should have had the urge to stop. But I didn’t. That’s how it is. Now when you are possessed, it usually is a package deal…a family offer. Either that or she took the vows during marriage of being ‘Saha dharma charini’ too literally in every sense!
She went to the rest room, removed her Fossil wrist watch, found a hook and hung it. Déjà vu right? She happily refreshed herself and promptly returned to alight. Not until the auto turned the corner of my street, did she remember the fossils left behind!
Will it end?
I have desisted myself from relating to a few other journeys here, lest you get bored. There is another unique one which is a story in its own right, will share that later.
There was a time when parents would give sane advice and provide behavioral guidelines to their daughter when she leaves home after marriage. Today my family gives me similar dos and don’ts every time I take a train journey. If I am traveling alone, my wife lights a lamp and sits in front of god. My father in law has since retired from Railways. Not clear yet whether Railway god was waving green or red!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Seek Inwards Yogi