A journey cut short…

Some days never belong to you, like this one perhaps..  It was Saturday, my weekly off, and i almost reluctantly got off my bed at six o’ clock in the morning. On other days six in the morning is like midnight for me. Jokes apart, who would like to get up and travel in these cool  winter. All one would seek is an additional blanket to wrap around.

But, I had to attend rather an unusual meeting, a sort of business trip one can surmise. My outstation train was scheduled to depart at 8 in the morning, so i started my way to the railway station at 7.15 am.  I have travelled extensively by trains, but still, the tentativeness prevails, especially, when travelling by long distance trains, the feeling of getting lost, the feeling of missing the train, or the compartment or the seat always lingers somewhere back in my mind. May be this feeling arises because of some wrongly planned journeys before.

Anyways, i reached the station in time, the usual platform from where the train was to depart was full with people and long distance trains were coming and departing. A north bound train was stationary on the platform no. 4.  The train was fully crowded and people cramping to get in.

It was 8 in the morning and i was expecting train to arrive, but there were no signs of it, the indicator did not show any remote mention of the train, the compartment indicators were mum either. I was getting restless, the inquiry counter as ever was deserted one.  At around 8.15 one announcement was made that the scheduled train was running indefinitely late.  It rendered me just helpless. Our railways have discovered just an innovative technique it seems, to shrug away its responsibilities by announcing that the scheduled train will arrive indefinitely late. By doing so they avoid keeping the waiting passengers updated about the status of  the train.

My wait for the train was taking me nowhere, i was in dual state of mind, whether to find alternate means of  travel or to just stand and await the train. All the trains were coming and zooming past, only the one train which i was going to board was nowhere near the horizon.  It was now around 9 am in the morning and i stayed put, for as per my calculation, i had to reach for the meeting at around 1 pm in the afternoon, I calculated that even if the train arrives at around 10 or 10.30 i would be well in time for the meeting. So, i stayed there, i used my cell phone to track the current position of the train on internet, everytime i would look for the current status, i would feel relieved, as it would indicate that the train was really round the corner and would arrive in about fifteen minutes time. This false motivation helped me that day.  I sat on a seat on the opposite side of the platform where i was getting some sunlight which kept me warm and kept watching the usual hustle & bustle at platform, which as a routine traveller, i myself miss as i also become part of that large crowd always in a hurry to reach office, home or other destinations. Today i had ample lot of time, i kept watching, the porters, the canteen guys, the newspaper vendors, the travellers, the policemen just everybody, the platform being a big junction, was crowded as well. As trains would come and halt, people of the province from where the train originated would alight. India being a colorful country, the attire of the people alighting would tell from where the train arrived. I saw porters carrying away a dead body on stretcher on the opposite platform. Used to that we as travelers are now, i did not feel much about it.

It was 10.30 by now and now, it was time for me to take a call.  I was getting too much restless by now. I had two options in my mind, one either to find a bus, but that journey would have taken good five hours  to reach or to call off the meet altogether.  When i was in double state of mind, one express came inside the station, the announcer warned the people at large to stay away from the edge of the platform as the train would not stop on that station. Being a crowded station, the train lowered its speed, but it did not stop, it was running faster than human sprint. At some 30-40 feet away from me, i saw a young boy running to board the train which was in motion. He had nearly fallen, but somehow, scampered to get in. I cursed the boy silently, for his hurry could have nearly taken his life today.  By the time i ended my silent monologue, i saw yet another youth trying to alight from that train, which by now had increased its speed. The boy in his early twenties, jumped on the platform, but could not control his balance because of the speed, so to control his motion and balance, he held to the pole of the train, which in effect only pulled the boy, the boy totally lost his control and just rolled on the platform, but, luck was not on his side, like the earlier boy. The boy just rolled down from the platform, and I saw the boy falling down on the tracks !!! Oh Shit !!! was what i could say, so could others, nobody could have done just anything, as everything happened so fast and so furiously that it would have taken superhuman efforts to try and save the boy. As the train passed we all ran to the edges of the platform, hoping against the hope that the boy might have survived, might have saved in the corners of the platform edges. But what we saw was a gory seen, human flesh spread all over the tracks, the train had mowed the guy, he was cut into pieces, and there was nothing else but blood all over. I saw many such accidents in the past, but all i saw was dead bodies laying on the stretchers. Today i saw the accident happening in front of my eyes. I was terrified,  so were all others who were near me, as we were the very first eye witnesses of this accident. I felt like crying, i felt like vomiting.

People alerted the railway authorities about the accident, in usual callous way, the announcement was made to call the stretcher porter and policemen on duty. By the time they arrived, yet another train, this time, Duronto Express zoomed past spreading the flesh all the way to many yards further away.

The pieces were collected by the porters, it has become their daily regime and they do not exhibit any kind of feelings, they were talking with each others and showing no signs of any feeling, good or bad. The body was carried away.

By now, i had no energy to even think about the meeting, all i could do was to ring and request for postponement of meeting. I walked my way to the platform for my return journey to my home. I was all occupied by the gory scene that i saw, i felt very bad for the guy who died, it was his mistake all the way, but what was the mistake of bereaved people whom he left back by his indecision ? I returned back to my home that afternoon totally shaken.

Next day when i read the news of this accident, i was able to rewind the entire scene. It was reported that twin accidents took place. One accident took place on the platform opposite me, i recalled having seen a dead body being carried away by the porter, the train standing in stationary position for quite a long time. Actually, it so happened that people were trying to scamper into this north bound train, and even before the train could stop they all tried to enter into it. In this melee the old man fell in the gap between the platform and train. He was alive for good forty minutes, but thanks to the efficiency of the authorities, the poor man died. Had he been attended aptly, he might have survived. The second accident that was reported was the one i saw.

I would wonder, and sometimes contest the news stories that were recently published in the newspaper that the Killer Trains of Mumbai have claimed 40000 lives in last decade (read here), but the one i saw forced me to believe that not all that i see is enough.

My journey was cut short that day…

So were the journeys of other two guys on that fateful day..

 

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A trip gone awry..

This is one trip that i will remember for all wrong reasons, as the events before, during and after the trip were all far from pleasing. But one should face such incidents once in a while to spice up things. Moreover, it acts as a good lesson for you to learn for your future.

So here we were, a group of 10-11 friends, on that friday Night at Dadar TT, waiting for our bus, for our  trip to Panchavati & Shirdi, a pilgrim centre around 230 kms from Mumbai. We had planned a weekend trip, so that no one would have needed to bunk the office.  In a bid to decentralize my load, i entrusted one of my friends, the responsibility of reserving a railway ticket for return journey in the evening on Saturday. The responsibility he gleefully accepted.

The bus reached late by good measure, but since we were a closely knit group, we did not realize the loss of time, as we were spending our time chatting and joking.  The bus finally showed up at around quarter to twelve and we all boarded the bus. The journey was non nondescript as within an hour’s time we all went fast asleep, as tired we all were by the chores of the day in the office. The bus screeched to halt at around 5.30 in the morning and we all reached Shirdi, a buzzing little town which came to limelight due to the noble deeds of Saibaba, a godly figure now.  We booked a hotel for keeping our luggage and for bathing, resting  etc.

At around 10 o’clock in the morning we had taken our darshan and we were out of the temple, fully contented. Our next destination was the pilgrim centre Nashik, the Panchavati, the Kalaram Mandir and all had occupied my space for quite a long time, i’d been there, but never got a chance to visit those places. So i was thrilled for sure. We reached at around 1.00 clock in the afternoon, and perhaps from then on the difficult phase of our trip began.

We visited a relative of one of our friends, kept our baggages over there,  and then proceeded. We visited Panchavati and other places and reached a temple, Kalaram Mandir, the temple itself is built well with good architecture dating back to 11th century. I took the first click there from my camera. And suddenly, out of nowhere, a cop came and snatched my camera and proceeded back to the police chowki, somebody uttered that photography was not allowed. We could not see any board mentioning the same however. We went into the chowki and pleaded the cop to return the camera. He yelled like a madman, as if we had committed big crime, he told us amusing stories of how terrorists take pictures of such places and then plant bombs. Did he thought, we were terrorists. He however, mellowed a his tune bit, when i told him that i worked for a Central Government Department. But, the cop that he was, he did not relent till we had bribed him a 100 rupee note. He then returned back the camera and we made our way backwards. I felt, quite angry on myself that day, for having bribed someone, so blatantly, and in the premise of the temple. I had noted down the buckle number of the cop, with the resolve that i would make a written complaint. But back in the hustle bustle of city life, the resolve melted somehow.

At around 5.30 pm we reached Nashik Station, the train was scheduled to arrive at 06.00 pm. I inquired with my friend, who had booked the ticket, he had placed the tickets firmly in his upper pocket, he checked the tickets in his pocket and told that dont worry he had the tickets. So we all went to Nashik Station at platform no. 3, to await the train. That day, the security arrangement and the ticket checking drive was on over zeal, i suppose, as everywhere, we saw the ticket checkers in black coats. We had no reason to worry as we had proper tickets was my guess.

The train was scheduled to arrive within next five minutes as it was around 5.55 pm and i got jittery, as there was no indicator showing the train, or any kind of announcement being made about its possible arrival. My friend accompanied me to the board where the status of all the trains were shown. There was no mention of this train number. So finally, i asked my friend for the tickets to verify what the issue was. He handed out to me the ticket quite confidently, that was the last time i saw him as confident, that evening. On close scrutiny, i, to my utter shock noticed that the friend had booked a wrong ticket. He booked the ticket of a train that was leaving from Nashik to Mumbai in the morning, and our train had left for the day twelve hours before we. I was shocked and worried. Not for myself but for female folks who had their parents waiting for them.

Panicking wsa the last option that evening i had. The first challenge was to get out of the station complex, unnoticed and unquestioned. I told everybody, that there was minor problem and we needed to go out of the station. Everybody gave me stares that made me worry a bit more. But they complied. Thankfully, the ticket checkers did not bother to question us or ask for tickets and we came out of the station. I called another friend of my, Nilesh, who was bit more responsible a guy, than the one who had booked the tickets. I told him the scene and informed him that the next train was at 09.30 pm and we had no tickets for it and the train was packed. The train would have served no purpose as it would have reached Mumbai in the dead of the night.  The next best alternative to reach mumbai by roadways. So we inquired with the Autorickshaws around how to reach Mumbai. It was around 06.30 pm in the evening, the sun had started sinking that evening, a bit too faster i noted.. We were told that if we reached “doodh naka” before 7 pm we may get some vehicles that routinely ply between the upper ghats of Nashik to the lower plains of Kasara, which however, still was good 100 kms from Mumbai. But atleast we could have caught local trains plying from there to our homes.

We informed everybody the hard fact, that we had missed the train. We could not face the eyes of the rest of the members. Anyways, we reached Doodh Naka within next fifteen minutes and fortunately got one MUV which noting our plight, spared no efforts to fleece us, money however was secondary aspect that day, time was the main issue.

The journey in that MUV was not especially a notable one, as we all cramped in somehow, and the driver gave us some more nightmares by his acrobatic sytle of driving on that dreadful accident prone road.

Dot at 09.00 pm we reached Kasara and we were happy to see the train waiting to depart at 09.15 pm. We took the necessary tickets and boarded that train. All of us reached home by 1200 midnight. Around two hours late.

After all that happened, i guess, two hour’s delay could have been excused, and everybody did excuse, for as it is said all’s well that ends well.

But, if i ever learn’t a lesson after that was never to hand over work to others, work which you can do yourself.