The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every soul must dream. For, thats the only way You are going to realise what You want! For eleven years, I was carrying a want, that became a dream as the years went past by. And then came another "dream", the seeds of which were sown some 8 years ago. I couldn't have asked for a time that could mix the realization of the two dreams, peppered with nostalgia and served with happiness :-)
My family shifted to the South from the good ol' North (India) in 1999. I reached Madras on the 1st of August, a Sunday, the Friendship day. Since then, I've not been further North than Thirupathi till this past December. I used to miss the good old days when I used to board the same train - the Tamil Nadu Express, either at Nagpur (around 1.30 pm - 2 pm) or at Delhi/Hazrat-Nizamuddin and enjoy the rolicking ride down South. Especially the last two of those years when I was near Delhi... The little but old(est) ranges in the central India will leave you in amazement. I still remember, as a kid, I would enjoy the time in the afternoon when the train reaches one station near the foothills, and gets an additional engine to supply the extra workforce to drive the train through the tough terrain. Then for 30 or 60 or 90 for God-Knows-How-Many-Minutes, the train would go through tunnels, and cliffs and around the hills, just like the motion of a snake on a tree. From atop a hill, it was fun to spot another train some miles away, lower down the hill, traversing the same track. WOW! Some memories do not get erased, do they?
Well, after coming to college, I was even more wanting to get on a trip all the way to Delhi and return the same night on the very same train - "TN". It never materialized. Late in 2009, after 10 years, 4 months, 23 days, I did go on a trip up north, to the West Bengal, but that doesn't satisfy me. I just had to go on MY route!!!
Towards the end of my college life, I did have a special liking to the power sector, an interest that developed over the years since childhood, but, paid attention only in the recent past (read, 8th std onwards :-P ). And there it was - a ticket to power sector, waiting for me, behind the veils of an exam of unknown level of "toughness". I had no choice but to take it, having little luck with my attempts at the two power sector companies that visited my college. This had to be it, make it, or wait, and make it, or wait again and make it... I was so sure there was no "break it" in here. I just had to put my efforts in and make them count. After all, you have to chase the dream you built, else it'll leave you forever.
So, here I was, standing with a happy-go-lucky rank in the exam! Well, I was one step away from laying my hands on the power I let slip, err, I slipped, rather...not my mistake I missed it. Nevertheless, I was here, sniffing success, and about to munch it between my jaws. And right on top of it was the destination - Nagpur, the sweet old home of mine, so long ago, 13 yrs ago, the same old lovely, largely dry, but lovely all the same, Orange City of Nagpur. i had to be in Nagpur for the counselling. And yes, yes, yes, I got my ticket booked in the same old "TN Exp"!
After a tight day at Madras, where I had to wash a suitcase full of clothes and repack them and then start to the station for the journey, it was a pleasant trip to look forward to. A downpour signaled the train's departure from the station, and pretty soon I was defending my lower berth I didn't want to let go off to anyone. Very much unlike me (as you would've read in my previous post) I clung on to my lower berth like it was "my precious" and successfully slept the night in the (made to believe) cosy berth. Early in the morning, I think it was Warangal, when I woke up in time for my breakfast. The whole route was cloudy, and a la Coimbatore, not wanting to rain! Lovely, without doubt! My camera was burning in my suitcase, but I considered it wise not to take it out...I have to "dig" it out from the suitcase, actually, and it wasn't going to be worth all that drama, knowing that I had to set things right once again once done!
Soon, I was falling asleep once in a while (conducive weather, you see) and the tamil-only people opposite to me would wake me up to ask me what station it was stationed at, and which state it is in. After around 11 or so, there were a series of coal mines and half the place was black with coal. Large coal mines or debris could be seen in many places. And pretty soon it was Maharashtra, and I received a welcome message from my mobile service provider, which I didn't receive when I entered Andhra. It just felt like someone was welcoming me home. I had a quick lunch, it arrived quite late, and my subconscious tummy was wanting my mouth to push things faster. So, before I knew, my lunch was done and was all geared up to get down at the heart of Indian Railways. After bidding my tamil fellow travellers a goodbye (they were heading to Delhi), I hopped out of the train onto the busy station and walked out of the familiar (oooooh) station and suddenly found the place unfamiliar... where did the overbridge come from? What is that multi-storey building doing there? Oh yeah, dumb me! Its been 13 yrs, not 13 months! One gentleman whom I thought was waiting for his relative at the station, suddenly turned to me and said "Auto, sahab?" . And then, recovering from my daze, I told him the name of the hotel I booked and I was there in about ten minutes of the ride, that took me through the streets of the busy shopping hub Sitabur(l)di of Nagpur. Nothing, nothing has changed here. People flock in HUGE numbers here too, and more and more and more shops of myriad varieties are bound to woo you to buy stuffs which you might not have felt the need for a minute or two earlier. Its almost impossible to be in the place for an hour and just "window shop".
I checked into my "could've been better" hotel and without moaning much about it, took a bath and turned on the TV and learnt that India vs Sri Lanka episode number 8346524576545129918723987984's 2nd day was washed out due to rain. I felt Murali chose the wrong test to retire... Sigh... I couldn't stay put in the room for long, could I? I went straight down to the receptionist and asked him " Where is the closest Haldiram's ?". He replied "go down the street, turn right, its at the next road-junction. Just five minutes walk". With a big "thanks", I handed over the large brass keychain and jogged onto the streets, like its the route I have been walking day in day out for years! I had a sense of belonging to this place... Five minutes, yes, and there it was - Haldiram's , Sitaburdi! A two storeyed building, air-conditioned, uniformed work-force, ice creams, restaurant! This is far better than what it was... Wait a minute, where do I get chaat stuffs? A worker pointed to the first floor. It doesn't take me more that a few leaps (at 6'+ ) to reach the first floor and there was my order - Papri Chaat! And it was there, in 5 minutes! And I don't remember what happened for the next fifteen minutes, but I was lost in some awesome mix of taste and satisfaction, a feel of getting to something which you always wanted. I was in the taste capital of the Indian savories industry and treating myself to one of the best ever delicacies to fill your mouth with (hey you! yes, you! stop licking the screen... where is your hand-kerchief?)! And with the satisfaction of a rattlesnake which devoured a rabbit, I lazily came downstairs and looked at the fifty or so number of sweets. Amazed! People just came in and went out, like as if this is a grocer's. Mannnnnnnnnnn!!! how do you select? How does a tourist get his share of worth in such a little time? I settled for some laddus and a couple of other goodies (censored, to stop you from dehydratig :-P ). Then, I was off to explore a little bit more, to tell the truth - to burn the calories I put up till now from over the journey :-P . Well, whatever it was, it was going to get replenished pretty soon, because I-Spied the city's best veg restaurant, Neivedhyam within striking distance. I didn't have to go any further, I just returned to my room and said - 8:45, I know where to head to! And gobbled two or three of those ghee-wet laddus! hmmm... yummmmm...and, to cherish the taste, I am going to gobble one of them now, the one I brought all the way along with me. hold on folks... (3 minutes later)... aaaahhhhhhhhhhh. Muhahahahahaha! :-P . Its just as good as good can get :-)
So, my dinner - Neyvedhyam - butter naans and alu-gobi! My goodness! This was my best dinner since the dinner I had in a dhaba in the streets of Shimla in '98! Not for nothing are they the best veg restaurant in the city! With a tummy resembling a pot, I somehow carried myself to my room and reminded myself of the primary purpose of the trip!
And the purpose was solved, the dream was realised, and I did get my admission into the National Power Training Institute- Nagpur at around 11 am, 7 hours before I expected! Well, it was a joyous occasion! It was, like I said, a dream come true :-) . From "where do I eat my lunch" to " c'mon, lets celebrate", the change in moods was evident on my face, a wide smile, which took some time to come off. And pretty soon I was back in my room, and was telling the good news to family and all my well-wishers. And yes, the Indians bowlers were enjoying a good spell at that time, or so they seemed. After a while, I went out to Haldiram's yet again to celebrate - No pav bhaji yet, said the man behind the counter :-( . Papri chat, once more, and some fried rice please! (PS: fried rice ain't good there). Papri chat was once again the culprit in sweeping me off the floor for a few minutes!
I returned to my hotel room and planned my evening - eat at Haldiram's, eat Pav bhaji at haldiram's and buy goodies for home and the friends back in CBE! And in the evening, it was a plan well executed. I bought assorted varieties of sweets, so, my pals can nourish the goodness encapsulated in the little sweets! And then was the exercise we all have to do before we leave - pack. Space management! You never know how good your spatial mathematics is until you try to fit an elephant in your suitcase! You know, if you push that box a little to the left, and put that book in the outer flap and turn that set of clothes on its sides, you can find enough space to play snooker! All packed, all set, time to check out and leave the place! The smiling receptionist arranged for my trip to the station. It was late in the night and was raining, so, it was kind of him to do so. I reached the station some half an hour before the scheduled arrival of the train. And, not surprisingly, the train was delayed by half an hour and the lady on the mike was "sorry for any inconvenience caused". Well, we are used to this inconvenience, so we didn't mind :-P .
In the one hour time-window, I noticed how busy the station was. A train would arrive/depart/start/terminate at Nagpur every five-ten minutes. You can see people flooding the platforms every now and then. Vendors would carry their portable stalls on their shoulders over the over-bridge and rush to the platform where the new train is about to arrive. I pity those fellows, its almost 24x7 for them! Just 3 minutes before the arrival of my train, the train which was on that very platform departed, giving and impression that my train would be further delayed. But nope, my train was just behind this one, but it was creeping into the station, literally. I could've knelt and been faster on my kneels! It took five minutes of the period called "forever" for it to reach the station and after allowing the crowd mixed with kids and youths and middle-aged to pensioners, I boarded my coach the last. After a minute of making the people in my bay realise that I have a berth in my name, and it wasn't any of their five, I pushed my baggage under the seat, chained them and went to the (sigh) upper berth and slept.
In the morning, I realised two things - One, this train, which actually covers 50 hours of travel overall (mine was only half of it) DOESN'T HAVE A PANTRY CAR!!! And I was waiting forever for my breakfast, and ended up eating samosa, which neither my taste buds, nor my tummy appreciated! Two, my bay consisted of 8 more people on the five other berths - two couples, an old lady and 3 kids! Sheeesh, the kids! my my my! I was like, please, bring me to some station, I am hungry (I had a tea, I don't think even I can make tea as bad as that) and I want to sleep! Soon enough came Vijayawada (I think) and I bought myself a good hot meal and finished it even before the ones in my bay could settle on what to buy! Hunger... Drank half a bottle of water, waited for the train to start and then went to my berth and dozed off! Next thing I knew, it was about 3 30 or so. I got down and was sitting there, chatting with the dad of two of the three kids... Learnt they were going to Thirupathi and that they had little idea about South India!
After Thirupathi, I was free! No one else (almost) in my bay for the rest of my journey! And Coimbatore was scheduled to be reached at 1 15 am, so, long time to go from the 5 45 that was on the clock at Thirupathi! I ate a little more there, and then went to sleep, then was chatting with a fellow passenger (railways worker) for some time till he got down at the station, which was the first one inside the TamilNadu limits on the route. Then I went off to sleep furthermore and woke up for good at Erode. Coimbatore was just 2 hours from here and I was in no mood to risk a miss. I wanted to be awake and window gazing was not a bad idea. the cool night air blew across my face as I blankly looked into the dark world, glittering in patches of street lights. And in about 1:50 hrs, it was there, finally... Coimbatore! the very place I had left some four nights ago. But, this time, it was much eerie, silent, empty. An auto ride in the cool environment (28.4 degree Celcius) took me to my room, and the nostalgic watch on my left read "1.45 am". I informed my parents who were both awake around that time, so all could sleep with ease now.
But I was not done yet, I badly wanted to see the way Pakistani bowlers thrashed the Australian line up! Unable to find a downloadable highlights package, i settled to allow the webpage buffer the highlight and thought of watching it in the morning. I had informed my parents to wake me up in the morning. I didn't want to miss my bus to office (just 5 hours away). Well then, it was time to sleep. I kissed my admission letter and then put it back safe inside and within a second or two, I was asleep!
The best trip I've had in the decade! Two dreams coming true at the same time, at/to one of the finest locations I could recollect.
Well then, all I can say is, chase your dreams, whatever it may be, and I'm pretty sure you will reach it one day!
--comments, suggestions, views welcome :-) --