It was in January 2013. I remember it clear as day. I was bound to catch a train from the city of Ahmedabad to Jaipur. To the people unaware of the whereabouts, the distance between the two cities is roughly 660 Km and it takes 10 hours to cover the same by an express train. The two cities are polar opposites when it comes to the climatic and cultural differences. The food is nothing less than a cultural shock. While Ahmedabad rarely sees winter, Jaipur has its days.
I was traveling through Ashram Express. Scheduled for 6.30 P.M. the train was well set and ready to depart. I hurried along the hoarded platforms and roughly managed to jumped on -in an a.c. compartment. Jolting down the corridor, I threw my suitcase under my reserved seat and hopped onto the berth. Little had I imagined, the adventurous journey that I was embarking upon.
I made myself comfortable on the side upper berth, while the fellow passengers relentlessly kept adding to the global warming (well- hot air rises up’ if you know what I mean).
Well adjusted and prepared to sleep I got a call from my dad-
“Are you comfortable? “(he asked)
“Yes I am, but not for too long!“ I replied. “The Global Warming is catching up with me.” As another gas leaked.
Laughing’ came the reply “Either way, you can do nothing about it. You have to step off at Jaipur station. The train will reach there by 4.25 a.m. Set your alarm clock and wake up on time.”
“Aye aye Dad! Don’t worry, I’ll make arrangements.” I replied, all sounding like an arrogant teen. “I will ask a fellow passenger to wake me up at the previous station (Ajmer).”
Done with the talk, I asked a fellow passenger to wake me up at Ajmer. Since he was traveling to Ajmer- he accepted the proposal.
All set and relieved, I went back to my berth, plugged in my earphones and slept. All tired, I stepped into my lala land. It was in the midst of the journey when my mobile started ringing. Opening up my eyes I picked up the call:
Sounding all sleepy “Hello“
“Wake up. Have you reached Jaipur? ” came the voice from the other end.
All dreamy and still sleep deprived, I replied “Not yet Dad. The train is yet to reach Ajmer.”
“Knock it off. It’s 5.15 a.m. Check it with the train attendant”, he replied.
Suddenly, eyes open wide and all awake, I climbed down to confirm with the fellow passenger. I reached his seat and removed the curtains only to find a lady screaming back at my face. That guy was nowhere to be found. Full of apologies and seeking forgiveness I realized that the train had left Jaipur an hour back and it had reached a town called Dausa (दौसा). Afraid and sleep deprived, I grabbed my slippers in one hand and the suitcase in other and jumped off at the Dausa railway station.
5:20 a.m. Still dark and foggy. Standing at an unknown station. I took out my mobile. (Battery dead). I checked up on my wallet (empty as always). Unable to contact my parents. I looked up at the strangers and the strange eyes stared right back at me. Here, I stood at an unknown place on a winter morning in shorts and a t-shirt totally ill-prepared.
As I came back to my senses, I ventured towards a tea stall to ask for directions. Before I could reach it there was a power outage at the station. It became pitch black. Coming out of the momentary blindness I tried to figure out the way. All but contemplating, I heard a voice with heavy breathing- भैसाहब टाइम के हुआ है? “What time is it?
Afraid, I looked around to find a shady figure looking at his watch and asking the time. Seemingly odd, I informed him of the time and ran off to a distant bench. Afraid and scared, I checked my backpack and found some change which totaled into Rs. 10.
“It is not enough. You cannot reach Jaipur like this.” Said a person coming from behind. I had no clue how he knew about it. I had no idea what he looked like. All still pitch black. Pretending to be brave, I asked for directions from the person and steadily reached the tea stall.
Still no electricity, I informed the person at the tea stall of my situation and handed him over Rs. 10. Call it out of sympathy or kindness, he handed me back a glass of tea and asked me to pray to god (sic). Interpret it howsoever, but the tea did help, so did the prayer. (Apparently, someone did pray for me- I assume) For it breathed into me a new life. And it brought the electricity back to that little station. Consider it a miracle.
My first reaction was to search for those two persons whom I had encountered. Believe it or not, they were nowhere to be found.
Reading the sign boards, I reached the inquiry section to enquire about the Jaipur passenger. If you don’t know what a passenger train is, let me help. These are snail-paced trains which stop at every village en-route which you have no idea exist on the map of this earth. If it takes you 1 hour to reach from ‘A’ to ‘B’, a passenger would take 3 hours to reach the same.
“At what time will the next train to Jaipur come?“I enquired.
The guy at the window looked at me. After scanning me from head to toe, chewing on his tobacco, spitting it out, chewing -spitting it again, he replied- “In the next 4 hours. that too if you can wait” (emphasis applied).
With no penny to my name, nothing to bargain upon, I decided to hop on a train without a ticket. If there is a god, apparently he was on my side.
I heard an engine rolling over and slowing down at the station. It was Ajmer-Chandigarh Garibrath. Counting on the pros and cons, I climbed onto the slowing train and embarked upon my return journey to Jaipur. Lucky enough, I didn’t encounter a soul again until after reaching Jaipur. All at peace, I did manage to reach home!
It has been 3 years since then, but all these years the moment remains fresh in my mind- “भैसाहब टाइम के हुआ है?” (What time is it?)