Lest it maybe misunderstood as something on the lines of Three Musketeers or something, let me assure that the title epitomises my journey back to Hyderabad from a
short lengthy vacation. Due to ravaging floods back on the Orissa – WB border, my train had been cancelled and I was forced to pick up the only available alternate accommodation - AC II Tier on one of the boring-est, dull-est, un-happening-est trains to ply on the East Coast! The status while booking was showing an encouraging 3 berths being available; so methinks it will be full and hence not half as boring as a normal AC II Tier journey would be. I’ll digress a bit here so as to propound as to why such a journey would be boring – people are cooped up behind curtains; windows are clammed shut with immovable glass….not letting the outside environs nor the platform’s exuberance through; near to zero vendors and salesmen pass through; passengers will be shut-up like clams….in short, its everything that an Indian train journey is not!
Imagine such a journey being undertaken with just four people in the entire compartment! Yes. Just four. 4. F-o-u-r. Naalugu. Chaar. Not counting the settled-in TTE’s and the short-journey-men, the entire to-seat-sleep-fifty-three compartment had just four full-fledged passengers to Hyderabad. And they were scattered apart like the four directions…I was at #9, an elderly gentleman was at #20, an author-like lady was at #31 and a sleepy gent occupied #46. It almost as if a big party of 40 odd people had cancelled their journey at the last possible minute. What else would explain the ’3 available’ status just a day before the departure and the present blankness? Sighing inwardly, I resigned myself to the task of keeping myself occupied (and also preventing jaw dislocation due to excessive yawning!). The movies & songs on the lappy were seen & heard till the battery reached a perilously low levels of 16%….the fact that the entire compartment didn’t have a charging point didn’t help! The solitary novel was finished before bedtime itself. The newspaper was read thoroughly. There were tenders for procurement of Iron girders for the TTD, Bauxite chips for some small scale industry, electrification of a broad-gauge stretch near Alleppey and lots of job openings in the Gulf. I must have set a record for sitting for at least 5 minutes in maximum seats of a train compartment. I stopped counting after 30. Curtains were drawn and opened until I was afraid they’d rip. Feeble attempts at striking a conversation with the fellow passengers was rebuffed twice (of course, lame statements such as “train is running late, no?” & “AC is too chilly at my seat” would be met with lame-r answers like “ask the TTE” & “close the vents”). The fourth gentleman must’ve foreseen all of this and must’ve popped a sleeping pill or two for sleepiness to prevail over boredom. Alas! I had no such good fortune. At one time, on my sojourns up and down the train, I spotted an empty berth in one of the sleeper compartments and had half-a-mind to shift luggage and all unto there but the thought of non-refund of the AC berth’s price made me strike it off. To make matters worse, the train was stopped at the outer-signal-points of many a stations and that prolonged the already-long journey. The looooong and tedious journey ended an agonizing 20 hours after I’d boarded the train.Never have I been so relieved to see the approaching station .I shall surely think thrice before undertaking such a mundane journey again.
Now playing on Winamp: Akele Hain..Toh Kya Gam Hai – Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak