Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Destination Nagpur

In the past four months, I changed from a stay-put rock, that didn’t even roll (let alone gather any moss) to a traveller beyond (my) imagination! Not like I was on a weekend tour of some spot, but had something or the other to do, somewhere! After trips from Madras to Coimbatore to Neyveli to Coimbatore to Madras to Coimbatore to Karur to Coimbatore to Madras to Nagpur to Coimbatore to Madras in 6 weeks, it is now time for another trip!

Nagpur! This time, it’s the destination! I had to join the National Power Training Institute, Nagpur on the 16th of August. I had a two week break in Madras, where I enjoyed mom’s food, time with family at home, met some good friends, baked cookies, ate, slept till late, watched TV till TV got bored of me, movies on comp/theatre etc and some more etc.

Saturday, 14th Aug night, I had to start my journey to Nagpur, one of the places where I used to live more than a decade ago. I didn’t have a lot of packing to do, as most of the things from Coimbatore were coming along in the same bag to Nagpur as well. Clothes had to be washed, and ironed and put back in the bags. Nothing new, as such. Went to ‘Central, to board, what maybe my favourite train, TN express. The station was crowded, as usual. There were 15 trains starting in the next one hour or so, I believe. Huge TV screens and huger speakers on them were blaring announcements and advertisement. I had to pull my two luggage through the crowd, which always seemed to move in the direction opposite to my motion! My tall figure did help me find the safest path to move ahead, out pacing slow people, who would be walking on just the path which will prevent you from overtaking them with your two baggage. I reached the platform where stood my train. It’s a long train. First came to two or three general/unreserved compartments – overcrowded, yes. Then the AC ones –many of them. Then came the sleeper coaches. (I wanted AC coach, but got only Sleeper coach, as AC was already full... too little too late, I was). S1,2,3... finally, S7!

Lo and behold! I had to check again if it really was my coach, because the place had more people than in the unreserved compartment! My bay had a whole brood! And, (gulp) I had to travel in side-upper! And I came to my bay not willing to look behind to say sorry to the people over whom my luggage (trolley kind) had stamped over. “hey, it’s not my fault. You are the unwanted piece in here. If you want justice, get out and go find some room in the compartment meant for people without tickets!”. And I told to the man in my place to move away, as it’s my place. He moved a bit, giving me enough place to sit. Then I asked him to move his legs away, so I can put my luggage in place. He said “ok boy, put one of your luggage here, we will put one of ours”. I was having none of it. “where would I put this? It’s my berth, I am using my place. So, if you can excuse me”. I don’t know if he did, but I wasn’t bothered. I had to put things in place before I got a headache due to this crowd! And I sat down there, waiting for the TTE to come with a tear gas (and me hypothetically wearing an oxygen mask :-P ). There were 13 people sitting in the space where 8 are allowed to. And there were a couple of little rascals on the upper berth too. Who were they? Mamta’s kin or what?

TTE arrived, told them “your ticket isn’t confirmed, you can’t stay here” to a few of them. One half had confirmed berths, other half stuck to them. Oh God! Sleepless night, I thought to myself! But soon enough, I fell asleep, thanks to the train, and my berth position that made the train’s motion rock the “cradle” I was sleeping in.

Dawned 15th Aug, Independence Day #63 for India! Proud to be an Indian!

Independent India turned 63, meaning I turn 22! It was 1 am on my watch, and I checked my mobile phone – I had received calls and messages from family and friends. And before I could blink, my family called again and wished me. I couldn’t reply to the sms, as my mobile got completely screwed up, and would obey only at 1 pm or so! (apologies for the late replies). And I slept again, got up at 7 pr so in the morning, and just peeked below my berth – 5 people already sitting there! Gosh! How am I going to get down??? And the pantry-men were already making calls for breakfast and tea! Even if I try to not listen to them, my tummy could listen. Ah well, it’s my berth! It’s my day! Off I hopped from the berth, like a stick insect unfolding and stretching itself before a jump, and went off to get myself refreshed for the new day! Chased away the little nutcases who transcended the borders and crept into MY territory. Ahh... its always nice to have some space for yourself. TEA! Err...tea flavoured water... hmmm. Now, something to eat? Bread cutlet it was. I liked it, and good for me, it didn’t upset my tummy later in the journey.

The weather was nice. I travelled the same route I did a month ago. This time, it was even better. Clouds, and a bit of drizzle. The only part I didn’t like in this journey, was that my phone was getting very poor reception all throughout the journey. Many couldn’t reach me, I couldn’t reach many. I did receive sms, but couldn’t reply back. And sms were charged as much as the calls. One or two sms would get sent, the rest, I called and thanked for their wishes. Even customer care was busy, not reachable or inexistent on that day! Happy Independence Day!

The “crowd” split into smaller packages and fit into several other bays, and I got some room to breathe! Lunch came around the mid-day mark, and I ate fast. I didn’t want to fill my tummy full. I knew that I could treat myself better once at Nagpur. By 2 15 or so, the train was about to chug into the station, but pulled to a stop just before the station, probably waiting for a signal to move ahead. When it stopped, that instance, the compartment was filled with cool air. And there was a big thunderclap up in the skies (no rain though). I enjoyed the moment, while most others in the compartment were concentrating on lining up in front of the door to get down. The train stops at Nagpur for fifteen minutes. Even if I was blindfolded, legs and hands handcuffed, and dumped on to the upper birth of the bay right in the middle of the coach, I can easily come out within 15 minutes! Sigh! Its correct when they say, “patience is a virtue”. I had to resist the temptation of wanting to eat the hot samosas that a pantry vendor had in a basket right next to me. “five more minutes bagrat, you will be in the land of Haldiram’s “

In five minutes, I was in Nagpur. I got down, dragged my luggage out, and waited for the man from my hotel to pick me up and take me to the hotel. On my way, I was reminded again – it is Independence Day. And, my b’day. After taking a good bath I had a good lunch (Version 2). First time I had milagai (chillie) bajji! No, never in Madras. But...err.. this was the hot one! Lucky that I had ordered alu paratha. There was a cup of cold curd, and half of it went in, to extinguish my burning tongue (I can still feel a tinch of that). After I was done with the lunch, I went online, and facebook was filled with more of wishes, and I wished them back (thank you all, you all made my day). And then I went out to get a SIM card. The guy wanted some local ID proof, so, I couldn’t get. So? What next? What a question? A little twirl of the head, and there it was – Haldiram’s ! I just barged in and got myself a big box of sweets, and ate half of it minutes after entering the room. Cursing the cable operator for not telecasting ESPN for the big match, I was browsing through some random channels, enjoying bits and pieces of the movies shown on hindi TV channels, till each of them hit the most irritating part – commercial break! So, I was actually watching a new movie altogether. We sports buffs do not have patience during a break more than 1 minute long, in some cases, 2 minutes. But, God bless the operator, he brought in espn for ten sports, and I was enjoying the big match. My dad then reminded me of dinner. At half time, I ordered my dinner, and it came just in time for the second half – paratha, alu gobi, lemon soda! What a way to finish on my birthday!

It was a crowded journey, a jammed mobile, cool weather day, Independence Day, my birthday, a few big treats (all to myself) and a dream which was well chased. NPTI, I head to, on the Monday!

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