Sunday, 24 June 2012

Travel Blues (Part V) (New Delhi-Guwahati)

RK Rishikesh Sinha

To a lost boy in journey, nothing on earth supersedes the happiness of being found. I got separated for 4-5 hours from my father without a penny in pocket and with no instruction to follow; the journey came as an appalling and horrific experience for me.

We were tired and had not taken food and sleep properly since the day my father and I began our journey from Kashmir to Jammu by bus, than taking another journey from Jammu to Old Delhi by train. We were travelling continuously with 2 heavy trunks and a bedding. The size of the bedding was so big that it was half my height, and trunks so heavy that a coolie can’t take two in one go.

We were at one of the platforms in Old Delhi Railway Station where the train from Jammu had dropped us early morning and we hadn’t taken anything to give energy to our tired body. Our stay there was not too long. A railway announcement swung us to take another travel in a train stationed at a different platform.

Keeping a trunk there where we sat; with a coolie, we climbed the stairs hurriedly, walked fast few metres on the bridge that joins the platforms, and rushed to that platform where a train was stationed. I climbed in a bogie that had big door. After I climbed into the bogie, my father and the coolie together pushed the trunk and the bedding into the compartment. As soon as I could position myself and bring the trunk and the bedding at the corner, the first jerk of the train that had started leaving the platform, and subsequent rush of the passengers, pushed me towards the opposite door of the bogie. To my astonishment, the train had started leaving the platform. My father was in the platform, and was also a trunk. I came with full force again near the door. The distance between us till then had widened and was increasing, I saw my father saying something, but couldn’t hear anything due to the distance and with the noise of the speeding train. I flung myself out of the moving train to have a glimpse of my father.  The train left the platform and was roaring towards a destination that I don’t know. Soon, he got completely invisible to my eyes.

Many passengers saw the separation between my father and me. My eyes moistened; tears started rolling down my cheeks. After few minutes, a passenger who had witnessed the separation asked me, “where going”. “Guwahati—Assam,” said I. “Get down at New Delhi Railway Station. This train is inter-city,” said the person. I became quiet. After running for few minutes, the train stopped at a platform, I thought to get down since my father might come here searching me. There was another thought whether to get down at New Delhi Railway Station or to get down at the last station of the train. Since in these stations, my father would be searching me. I had to decide. I followed the advice of the person and decided to alight at New Delhi Railway Station. “For how much time, this train stops at New Delhi Railway Station,” I asked. “Two—three minutes,” answered the person. “Two—three minutes. Okay,” said I. A stream of thought came in my mind that I must not miss the chance to get down with all the things, lest I would be in big problem. Whenever the train stops, I had the feeling that my father will appear. But he didn’t come.

Soon, the train entered into the New Delhi Railway Station. Fearing that the train would stop for only two-three minutes; from the moving train, I threw the trunk into the crowded platform. I didn’t care whether my act would hurt anybody on the platform or not. I heard people on the platform screaming at me. As I was ready to throw the bedding, passengers who were perplexed with my act stopped me saying that the train would stop at the station for a long period.

I waited for the train to stop. At last the train stopped. I pushed hard and threw the bedding into the platform. While I was struggling how to collect the trunk, I saw a coolie who wore a red shirt and a turban on his head walking towards me. “Kaha jana hain?” he said. The coolie had his eye on me simultaneously he was looking at other travellers. As if I haven’t heard his question, I said that I have only 10 Rupees, if he could carry it for Rs 10, it is okay. Lest let it be here. There was one fear that was grappling me — I should not succumb to the incident that had taken place with me. The coolie who was gazing at me constantly to hear my response agreed to carry the bedding for Rs 10. I said, that we have to go back, I don’t know where, and what would be the distance, I have to go near a trunk that I have thrown back. Luckily, the coolie didn’t bargain with the price. At that moment, he appeared as a God to me.

He picked up the bedding and started walking towards the last bogie of the train, and behind him I was. I remember I threw the trunk near an eatery shop. I was roving my eyes on each and every material on the platform expecting the trunk might be found anywhere. We covered a distance, more than I expected. I saw the eatery shop, but there didn’t lay the trunk.  As I was scanning the whole place, I found that my trunk was in the custody of an Army jawan. He kept it perhaps after reading the text written on the trunk.

RK HL Sinha,
FTR HQ BSF Srinagar, J&K

Guwahati Railway Station,

I paid Rs 10, the only money that was with me, to the coolie and sat on the trunk heavy at heart, and tiresome to the bone. To lighten myself, I started talking with the Army jawan and told him what had taken place with me. He told me that he is coming from Kashmir and would be going to Guwahati by an ‘evening train’.

“Shall I take the evening train with him till Guwahati?” I gave a thought, “And my father will catch me from there.”

His one sentence worked as a stimulus to my overactive mind, which had started running fast since I lost my father. I soon got lost to my battle of thoughts. “If I go along with him till Guwahati taking the evening train; doing so I will be near to my destination Silchar. From Guwahati, somehow I will arrange my rescue. Since my father ultimate visit will be Silchar, he will find me there. At least I will be out of this problem.” The battle of thought continued, “But then, that would be full of risk. Moreover I don’t have ounce of energy left to take another journey…and if I don’t find my father in Guwahati, then. No…No. I will land myself in a big problem. It will be compounded.” As there has been short-circuit in the functioning of my brain. I stopped and disposed of the thought altogether and I decided to wait there in New Delhi Railway Station till my father finds me. I came in terms with me only when the jawan said, “You see my things. I am going for bath.” He kept in my custody a suitcase, a trunk and a bedding.

Seeing him go, I sat alone, hungry and tired. There were venomous thoughts swirling in my mind. Time that has never been of my concern before, it seemed to me had stopped ticking. To kill the boredom, not exactly boredom but the fear that has consumed me, I started changing my seat frequently between the trunk and the bench. But I preferred spending much time sitting on the trunk since the text written on it will save me, at least, from some problems and harassments that I might encounter with my too long stay there. I cannot think of going to sleep, the urgent requirement of my body, since I had a fear that if my father come and failed to locate me.

I saw many trains coming and leaving the station, and with it crisscrossing of passengers, those who were leaving the station, and those who were arriving at the station. Travellers seemed to me as waves of sea, leaving the shore as soon as it appears. And there I was, who was neither leaving the station nor taking any train. When there were no passengers at the station, few remains there. Those who remained there were shopkeepers, hawkers, coolies, beggars, railway personnel, and the police, and I myself. However, there were other people sharing the same space and were eyeing on me.

These people will also leave after a certain time. A prominent question from the stream of thoughts that came in my mind, the mind which had become till then a repository of frightening, contradictory and ominous ideas, was — for how long I will be able to stay with my energy that was diminishing without food. I will not be able to stay on my feet till 10 pm, came the answer. I was subsisting on water. Hours have passed watching the entrance of the platform; still my father was nowhere visible. “Has he taken a wrong plan to find me?” was another question effortlessly coming in my mind.

In such painful moment, one lives on hope, and I was living on hope only. I was like an injured animal ready to be preyed — weak, vulnerable, and susceptible. I had fallen to the scornful eyes of bad people, who were ready to pounce upon me, if given an opportunity. I was watching their movements, the distance they had been keeping with me. They were coming near to me.

Suddenly, I saw my father coming towards me, huffing and puffing. 
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