I looked at my watch, frantically, for the tenth time in the last two minutes.
It was 6:06 AM.
The train to Mysore was at 6:30 AM. I was still in the cab and needed at least 10 more minutes to reach the railway station.
I hate missing the train. Not that missing anything else is okay. I had woken up 20 minutes late that morning, and was cursing myself for having overslept. Waking up anytime before 8 in the morning is painfully difficult for night owls like me, let alone wake up at 5:30 am on a weekend! But then, traveling home every other weekend is a ritual for us Mysoreans living in Bangalore. And since it is a short journey of 3 hours, booking tickets in advance is not necessary when traveling in the general coach. So, after reaching the station I would have to stand in one of those long queues (yes, even at 6:00 AM there’s a lot of crowd) and get myself a ticket.
I made a mental note to leave early next time.
I reached the railway station at 6:15 AM. I paid the fare, took the laptop bag and duffel bag, and walked hurriedly to the ticket counter, desperately hoping that the crowd would be less. The universe seemed to be on my side, as the queues were much shorter than usual. I joined one of the queues, with a hundred rupee note in hand, and music playing loudly through my earphones.
The lady at the counter looked like one of those strict headmistresses who would love giving detention. When I reached the counter, I handed out the hundred and asked for a ticket to Mysore. She gave one quick glance to the hundred rupee note and said ‘Sixty rupees change kodi’, which translates to ‘Give sixty rupees’. All I had were crisp notes of hundred. No change. She asked me to stand aside and wait.
The guy who came after me also wanted a ticket to Mysore and had two notes of fifty. No tens. He too joined the waiting list.
After 2-3 people had bought tickets, the lady looked at us both, signalling that we could now approach her. The guy went ahead, but she told him that as I was there before him, I would get the ticket first.
Ok, so she’s a thorough professional.
She took the hundred from me and gave me forty rupees, and asked the other guy to wait again as she had no more ten rupee notes left. I felt pity for the guy, as I had just been in the same helpless situation as him, and I was quite sure that he was also trying to catch the same train. So I gave him one of the ten rupee notes that the lady had given me so that he could buy his ticket. Maybe I would never meet him again, and maybe I would never get back my money, but I would have the satisfaction of having helped someone. Also, it was only a matter of ten rupees, that I would have otherwise spent on some junk food.
I was happy that I had done my quota of one good deed for the day. It’s true whatever people say about feeling great after ‘giving’. It does feel really, really good. (The guy didn’t even say thanks, though.)
I picked up my bags and rushed towards platform number 6, from where the train would depart. The passengers had just begun entering the train. I too pushed through them with all my might, and after walking through several compartments I found a ‘good’ seat.
Single, window side seat, far away from the unbearable stench of the train toilets. Its also on the east side. Could possibly get a good view of the rising sun, after exiting the city. Yay.
I kept my bag on the luggage shelf, took out a book to read and settled down. A small smile was still plastered on my face, glad that I had made someone’s day better and …
Wait. Where’s my ticket?
I rummaged through my bag. Checked all the pockets in my pant and jacket. Twice.
Nope. No ticket.
The train would leave any moment now.
I scratched my head trying to remember where I had kept it. But what I could not recall at all was having collected it in the first place! Then it hit me. In my ‘boundless joy’ of having helped someone, I had not bothered to collect my own ticket. As a result of my earlier negligence, I would have to give up my nice seat and go all the way to the entrance of the station, where the ticket counter was, to get my ticket. I know it seems silly to obsess about just a seat, but people who have struggled to find seats in a crowded train know the pain of having to give up a seat. The thought of traveling without a ticket did occur to me, but I didn’t want to risk the chance of being fined (and embarrassed!).
Now, I couldn’t leave my bags in the train or outside it. I had to carry them along with me.
Perks of traveling alone.
I grabbed both my bags and dashed through the foot-over-bridge, towards the ticket counter. People must have found it odd that while most others run towards the train, I was racing in the opposite direction.
By the time I reached the ticket counter, all the sprinting along with the heavy-bags-carrying had left me gasping for breath. Thankfully, the same lady was still there. The moment she saw me she smirked, in a friendly manner. ‘I called out to you, but you left in a hurry’ she said, handing me the ticket that she had kept aside.
Still panting, I thanked her, collected my ticket, and again started running back, hoping to catch the same train.
Actually, it was not at all necessary to be rushing the way I was. It was not late night. And it was certainly not the last train to Mysore. There are trains from Bangalore to Mysore almost every half hour. But as I said earlier, I hate missing the train. Also, the sooner you reach home, the better it is. It’s funny how we are always in a hurry to reach home. Every minute you save here is one extra minute you get to spend at home; as if our homes are not going to be there the next day. It is pretty similar to calculating the number of hours you will get to sleep when you know you have to wake up early the next morning. ‘If I sleep at 10:30 pm and wake up at 5:30 am, I’ll get seven hours of good sleep’. IF we fall asleep, that is.
Eventually, I did miss the train, which was also as dramatic as it could have been. I was wading through the crowd in the foot-over-bridge and the train passed on the tracks right below me. (No Chennai Express – hero pulls heroine into the train – kind of scenes).
Dejected, I checked for the next train on the display screen and went to the next platform, all the while admonishing myself for being so absentminded.
I did learn two lessons-
- Not to get overexcited about ‘helping’ someone, and forget everything else in meantime. I mean I gave TEN RUPEES. Not my kidney!
- Not to use earphones when buying a train ticket, or while doing any sort of transaction, in general. (I would have at least heard the lady calling out to me.)
As I sat there waiting for the next train and contemplating the ‘lessons’ I had learned, I put my earphones back on, browsed through my playlist, and played that Katy Perry song…
‘The One that got away.’
P.S. – The title is dedicated to the train that got away, and was never meant to refer to the random guy (who didn’t even say THANKS!!).
Also, excuse the poor illustration!