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Glory to Indian Railways. Trains run on time when you dont want them to and trains get delayed majorly when you really want to reach your destination on time. Last Monday was one of the few times I actually wanted the train's departure to be delayed. My train was at 6 am (unearthly indeed, especially when you've been out with friends till past midnight) and the alarm either was sleepy too or it didn't shout loudly enough ... or I didn't bother hearing it. So I woke up with a start wondering why sunlight was trying to enter my eye at 5 am and then I saw the clock, 540 am is what it said. I must have breathed a total of 5 times until I got into the autorickshaw around 545 am or so after hurriedly brushing my teeth and dumping my stuff into the bag. The autorickshaw driver thankfully realised my predicament and went as fast as he could. I didn't tell him it was a 6 am train, he'd have got a heart-attack. Perhaps he thought it was a 630 am train?
I got off the auto after profusely thanking (and paying, of course) him and ran into the station. It was 557 am. Platform no. 9 Shatabdi express, said the display. Problem was in finding platform no. 9. I found a chap loading some luggage, pointed to a platform and asked him if that was platform 9. He nodded his head in that uniquely Indian way which implied that the onus was on me to interpret if he said YES or NO. I changed tack and asked him for Shatabdi Express. He knew! Archimedes would have shouted Eureka, but not if he was pointed to a train where the whistle was blown and it was slowly chugging away past the platform with the guard waving the green flag with more gusto than linesmen signalling offsides.
A 25m sprint followed and I tried to get into the guard's compartment and was rudely asked to not even bother to try getting on. Must have been a single room accomodation ... so I tried the next compartment after running a while (the train must have been doing around 10 kmph now) but unfortunately that compartment seemed to be a storage area and didn't have a vestibule. The train was a non-stop one, so it didn't give me any opportunity to get down at another station and find my compartment. I ran further and found a door ajar and entered it throwing caution to the wind. It was the first class a/c chair car compartment. I was in!
There's something about this train and me. Nearly 10 months ago, I had caught the train from Bangalore a minute before it started its journey. This was after a thrilling autorickshaw journey which saw the vehicle breakdown with 1 km to go from the station and only 5 more minutes to go before the train left.
Statutory warning: I'm booked in for the Shatabdi Express on Monday morning again. Watch this space.
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