First time I was going out of the state for official work. First time I was travelling by AC 2-tier. First time I was carrying a laptop with me in train.
The train was supposed to leave by 11.40 PM. I left home by 8 for office as I had to collect the laptop and workbooks from there.
"How many workbooks are there?", I asked the program co-ordinator on my way to office.
"Only seventy five.", she replied.
"Seventy five! Yesterday you said sixty."
"We are providing some extra books, just in case."
"I hope the books aren’t very heavy."
"Not at all and one more thing I won’t be able to pick up your calls now, I have some work."
I should have taken the hint but I didn't.
I reached office building by 9 pm. Asked the auto driver if he is interested in taking me to Bandra Terminus. He replied in affirmative. I paid the fare and told that I will be back in ten minutes. I saw a man sitting in the office. He jumped with joy after seeing me. He gave me the laptop and a bundle weighing as much as him.
"These are the books." he said.
"Great, don’t look very heavy.", I said sarcastically.
He made me sign some papers and I went down to see the same auto waiting for me.He took me to Bandra Terminus. His meter was running as fast as Usain Bolt. When the auto reached Bandra the meter showed Rs.104/-. I wanted to argue with him. If I had time I would have threatened to take him to RTO to check his meter like I usually do. But I didn't want to pick up fight with some bearded auto driver while carrying someone else's laptop and more than half my weight of books in a dark alley.
I paid him and told, "Masha Allah, your meter runs very fast, what do you feed him?"
While going to the platform I wondered if my voucher of Rs. 104/- would be cleared or will my manager feel that I am one of the lakhs of people who overinflate their travel claims.
There was an hour for the train to come. I took out Chetan Bhagat's latest novel and started reading it. It was a pirated copy. I always believe I am a better writer than him. He doesn't deserve to be here. He just writes novels about losers who always manage to find a hot girl. That doesn’t happen, I am still single. What better way of revenge than reading his pirated book? The bugger won’t get any royalty on a pirated novel for sure. On second thought I felt that every writer chuckles when he sees his pirated books selling. As some one said, "Imitation is the best form of flattery." Chuckle and get flattered Mr. Bhagat, I have read all your books in pirated form.
I thought of buying a bottle of bottled water (Is that grammatically correct!) for my trip. I clutched the laptop close to my heart and paid for a bottle. In the next stall I saw "Cremica" biscuits. I had read an article a few days back mentioning that Cremica guys produce some one lakh buns every day for McDonalds. (http://businesstoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=67&id=12717§ionid=22&Itemid=1). I had never tried their biscuits so thought of giving them a chance.Excitedly I went to the other stall and bought a packet of Cremica strawberry cream biscuits. I kept it in my bag and resumed reading the novel. I felt thirsty. That was when I realised that even though I had paid for the bottle I didn't pick it up!
I went to the stall and told the vendor about it. He said, "Someone would have flicked. You want another, pay for it." I grumbled and paid for the new bottle. Twelve rupees wasted, I could have eaten two wada-pavs.
Whenever I travel by train I always fantasize about two things. One that my compartment would be very close to where I am waiting and two that I would have a beautiful girl for company. The former has never happened and the latter happens only when I am travelling with my family. This time too I saw my compartment going past me and it kept going away and away. I carried my bag, laptop and seventy five books to compartment A1 of Avadh Express. The compartment was on one end of the train, frankly speaking I had not seen the compartment number very clearly. What if when I reach the compartment I am told that it’s on the other end of the train! Luckily the compartment was on the same side. I saw my name written on the reservation chart pasted outside and marched in.
I had travelled by A/C 3 Tier many times but never by A/C 2 Tier. I found my berth, tucked my bag and books below the seats and kept the laptop with me. I saw three people from the same family as my co-passengers. Just then a policeman came inside. He stared at me and asked, “Are you with this family?”. Looks like from my face he judged that I dont look like a person who can travel in 2-Tier. I thought of having some fun. I felt like saying "Yes." and then cover it with "All Indians are my brothers and sisters, so every Indian is a part of my family."
But for some reason I didnt do it.I said, "No I am alone."
"What work do you do?"
I got pissed off. Do I look like a terrorist?I thought of saying, "I make bombs, you have a problem with it?"
But I said, "I am an engineer."
He gave me a look and went away.
The man sitting next to me asked, "So you are an engineering student?" He had a very strong Gujarati accent.
"No I am working in XYZ company.", I replied.
"How much salary you are paid?"
The more I want to stay away from generalising people, the more it comes to me. Do Gujaratis only think of money. I mumbled my humble salary to him.
After that he told me his Bio-data. In which college he had studied, which year he passed out, which companies he worked for and how much was the salary in every company. He followed it up with the Bio-data of his sons which were as comprehensive as his. One was in Australia while other was in USA. I started feeling that now I know more about his family than mine. I dont really know when my father completed his graduation but I know this guy got his diploma in Electrical Engineering in the year 1969. Then all of a sudden he asked, "Are you married?"
His detailed introduction mentioned that he had only two sons and no daughters, so I thought this question would be safe to answer.
"No, I am still a bachelor", I replied
"Why dont you get married? How old are you? Twenty eight?"
"I will get married soon. And I am twenty six."
"Very good haan, very good. You see I am travelling with my family and there are four of us. Three seats are here and the fourth one is the side berth over there. Would you mind swapping your berth with our side berth so that our family can stay together."
"What the hell!", a voice inside me screamed, "Whats the point in travelling in 2-tier if you have to sleep on a side berth?"
"C'mon, you are getting a chance to get rid of this man and his irritating conversations", another voice said, "Plus its always better to help other people."
"Yea sure, why not?" I told that man. "I will be getting down at Vadodara, what time is it expected and where are you getting down at?"
"We will also get down at Vadodara. It should come by 4.30 am."
"Sir, I have a bad habit of oversleeping. Please wake me up by 4.00 am, incase I dont get up by myself."
"Arre Beta dont worry.We travel on this route frequently. Not only will we wake you up but will also push you out of Vadodara station if you want." He said and started laughing as if he had just cracked the joke of the century.
I smiled and said, "So I will leave now, feeling a bit sleepy."
"Arre, lets talk for some time, I am enjoying your company."
"Uncle, I am feeling very sleepy. Lets chat in the morning." I lied on both sentences. Neither I was feeling sleepy nor wanted to talk with him in morning. Luckily he didnt notice that I changed my statement from "bit sleepy" to "very sleepy" in just a second.
I went to my exhanged berth clutching the laptop, put an alarm of 4 am and tried to sleep. The train was vibrating and all those vibrations were coming in my stomach. Good, I will not need to exercise my abs for some time. Thinking about some relevant and irrelevant things I went to sleep.
I got up with the alarm of 4 O'Clock snoozed it and went to sleep again. Can anyone tell me how to get rid of this habit. Is there an organisation called as "Snoozers Anonymous."
Luckily I woke up when the phone buzzed at 4.10 am. Hurriedly I went to the washroom and brushed my teeth. After a few minutes the train halted at Vadodara station. I was about to board off, then suddenly remembered that Gujarati family. I went to their compartment and saw that all four of them were sleeping as one sleeps after giving his last exam paper.
"Dont wake them up." , a voice in me said, "Let the big mouth get his lesson. What fun it will be when they will get down somewhere in Rajasthan!"
"C'mon dude!" another voice said, "This is an old guy with his family. Would you really make him suffer? I know you wont."
I woke the old chap, "Uncle! Vadodara aavi gayo."
He woke up and with him the other three and all of them were repeating, "Vadodara aavi gayo." as if it was some spiritual chant.
I got off the train and before I had walked ten steps one policeman came to me and asked me to show him my bag.
"Do I look like a smuggler?" I thought and let him check my innocent belongings.
When I crossed the bridge and was about to move out of the station another policeman checked my luggage. This time I was a bit furious. I asked him, "Why the hell is every policeman on the station checking me?"
He said calmly, "Sir, Gujarat is a dry state and young boys like you are notorious for bringing alcoholic drinks. Its our duty please dont mind."
So not a terrorist, not a smuggler but I look like an alcoholic from face.
I went to the Auto Rickshaw stand and told one guy my destination.
He said, "Forty Rupees."
I abused him loud enough for everyone to hear and asked the next Rickshaw driver.
"Twenty Rupees," he said.
"Should I abuse him too so that the next rickshaw driver will take me there for Ten Rupees", I thought.
I went against that thought and boarded his rickshaw. What else will I get to see and experience in this new job now?"