It was very loud. I opened my eyes and shouted ‘shut the fuck up’. No one even gave a damn. Yeah it was that loud. It was Bathinda. Train was there for about half an hour and going to be there only for another hour. I saw some young boys on seat in front of me. I heard them talking. It seems like Gujarati, but same time it sounds like different. I thought they were speaking Rajasthani. I stood up from my berth and went to washroom.
Everyone was talking very loud, women were wearing loud makeup. Officially now I can say, I’m in north. Everyone was staring at me. I was confused why they were staring. Is it my boxer or my stupid face? Every time I woke up, my face looks stupid and I got some weird attitude. I came back to my berth, sat there took out my cookie jar from bag, started eating and observing people around me. Train left Bathinda and stopped at somewhere nowhere.
A man came to the window and asked people if they want roasted corns. Those young boys purchased some and asked me if I want one. I nodded my head and gave 10 rupees. One of those boys asked me to get down and join them. Yeah, I was on upper berth.
“Are you people Gujarati?” I asked them.
“Yes, and you?”
“Where’s you from?”
“Valsad” and we started talking in Gujarati. It’s fun to talk in a language that no other people around you can understand and we all were from different regions of Gujarat so everyone has the different accent. Local people in that coach were just watching us talking.
Those boys were also working for army. All of them met each other for the first time but they seems like friends for years. They told their life story, how they were trained, where they were trained and all. It was very interesting talking to them. They were living life to the fullest. I gave them some movies to watch. Entire day passed with them. They made me forgot everything happened a day before.
Finally we arrived at pathankot cant. Four of them were posted there and two at Jammu. So I got my company up to my destination. They did guide me where I am going to find a cheap lodge, from where I should shop, from where I could get cab, etc. I see after crossing Pathankot, the view outside has completely changed. Beautiful landscape, army men guarding with guns. Huge rivers with little water, round shaped well-polished stones on river bank.
At 7:30, I reached Jammu.
‘If he really knows me, he know I’m coming and he will come to the station to take me’ I was day dreaming and someone’s bag hit me and my bubble burst.
Those boys again reminded me where I could find the lodge and how much I should pay and be careful with local vendors, they will loot me. I get down from the train, started moving out of the station. It was very crowded, you can hardly move. The entire station was full of army men arriving from different areas of the country in different trains.
What side I should go? East or west. I need to analyse. Hmmm I am from western region, my home is on west side of station, and my hostel is also on west side. So west is the right side (though east was on right and west was leftJ) I am going with the west. As it was very crowded it took me 20 minutes to get out of station.
So, finally, I am at Jammu after travelling 34 hours. I started looking around. It was nothing close to what I thought. I don’t believe in ‘first impression is last impression’ philosophy. So, I am going to give it a sort and try to like though I hated it at first.
“Hey!” someone shouted and I looked back.
Those army guys were there waiting for cab. They guided me to lodge. I was entering in one and remembered that I have to withdraw some money first. I looked for those guys but they were gone. I asked several peoples for nearby ATM. No one replied, they acted like they were very busy. I walked around a mile, no one even listened me asking. Even Mumbaikars helps anyone in need in their always busy schedule. Finally, one Sardarji guided me to ATM.
I saw an ice-cream vendor near ATM. First went to him to eat something nice after two days. I took my favourite ‘Black Current Sundae’. While eating I asked that vendor for a lodge. And he told me about the same lodge Army men told me. He asked me from where I came. I told him, I’m from Ahmedabad
“Gujaratis are very friendly people. I’m from Bihar, many of my relatives work at Surat.” He said with a huge smile.
I smiled back and went to ATM after finishing my Sundae. I withdrew money, went back to that lodge, but it was full. Went to next, also full. Next, full. I fed up. Gave up all hopes of finding a lodge. I decided to go back in any train I will get and I saw those Army guys again. They took me to some another lodge where they were staying.
“This city smells so bad”, I told.
“Yeah, but you will be used to it in some hours only” one of those army men replied sarcastically.
“There’s only a few places left” Lodge manager told me. “Would you like to enrol your name in register with this man?”
“what? I don’t get it.”
“Means, you will get room only if you say you two guys came together”
“But I don’t know him. I am meeting this man for the first time. How could I …”
“If you want a room to stay, you have to. Otherwise, forget it. Everything is packed and you won’t get room at any other lodge at this time.” He interrupted me.
“And you are sharing a room with 14 people”, army man said.
“Means we are 15 unknown persons staying in the same room? How big is this room?”
“It’s a hall. And big enough for 15 persons” “Don’t worry you all have a separate bed.” The manager said quickly before I ask another question.
“Okay. And what about luggage?”
“There are lockers in the room. You can put your luggage in it, and here is a mess on left, there’s a water purifier on every floor and please relax. Don’t worry. You are safe here”
The man with whom I have to stay with came, asked me to fill up the form and insist me to use his id card for identity proof. That’s strange. How could you do that? What if I commit some crime there and ran away. He could be jailed for that. His native was Jharkhand, a weird village name I couldn’t even pronounce. I fill it up. The only information I gave about me was my name. I gave him 500 bucks, he gave me 150 back and I went aside. There was a rush on reception.
At-least 5 or 6 people came to me and asked me for a pen. Why people don’t keep a pen with them.
“Let’s go”, he said. And we moved toward the lift.
Going upward, he checked the receipt and Hola!!!! We not only got different rooms, we got rooms on different floors even. He helped me find my room and left room only after making sure I got a good bed and I’m comfortable there.
“I’m on the 4th floor. If you need anything” he said.
I nodded head.
This trip is really giving me some very good experiences. People I’m not trusting on first place, are helping and caring for me.
I went to washroom to refresh. For my surprise it was clean and tidy. Changed clothes, lay down on my bed and started rewinding my two days journey. And I realised, rent for a room is 150 Rupees per person that man gave me only 150 Rupees back, he gave me his share only. Didn’t returned me change. I ran to his room, started looking for him but, I couldn’t remember his face. There was a man sleeping on bed covering his head with blanket. I went near him, pulled his blanket a little, it wasn’t him. Thank god, I didn’t woke him up. Everyone else in room was staring at me. I ran down to ground floor. I looked for him everywhere but couldn’t find him. I went back to my room with a sad face.
“Fuck man, this maths fucked with me once again”, I said to myself and my inner voice replied “Really? I think you should stop blaming others. You are the one keep trusting anyone.”
“Yeah, whatever. Next time I’m blaming you if anything went wrong.”
I entered in my room. And two 25 years boys (or man? I don’t know how to address) were fighting for charging mobile. Yeah. there was only on charging port.
I went to balcony. My room was on 3rd floor, so I got a pretty view. Entire station was visible from there. And it started raining. And trust me it was nothing near beautiful. It was looking horrible as hell. The trees were shaking like a rubber stick. Like someone is doing yoga. And lightening was giving perfect effect to its horribleness. I heard a very loud sound and then entire city went dark. I heard someone saying ‘Storm is coming’. Neither was it GOT reference nor Sam smith’s song.
I decided to go back home. (For sure this time) I can’t stay here anymore. Nothing looks good here.
Half an hour later power came back. I went to mess to eat. I didn’t had proper food for last two days. I see a man entering in lodge, wet and running towards stairs. He went up to first floor, and came back to me. I recognised him. He was that Jharkhand man. He came to mess with me, ordered food for me and gave back the change to me. He said he completely forgot and when he saw me he remembered.
I tried to eat food but it was terrible. Even train food was better than this. I left all food on my plate and asked the man seating on the counter about wastage fine. He seems confused. “Why you are asking for paying fine?”
I point my finger to one of the instructions on wall which say ‘one will pay extra charge if they waste the food.’
He laughed and told, “It’s just a suggestion, not a rule.”
That doesn’t make any sense, but why should I care. I went to my room.
I entered in my room. And two man were arguing for charging the phone. I change my clothes again, held my laptop bag very tight and fell to sleep. I was very tired so I went sleep at 11.00 p.m. which 4 hours earlier than my routine.
I woke up at 6 in the morning. Get ready. Checked out without informing that Jharkhand man and rushed towards to railway station.
I see a long queue on a tiny ticket window. I looked around on walls for train time table and found the same train I came in. It was just 10 minutes to arrive that train and queue were moving very slow. The lady on the window was yelling at everyone for a change. A lady wearing Salwar and red lipstick at the window asked me “yes?”
“345 rupees. You have change right?” she asked very rudely.
“Yeah. Take this.”
I took my ticket and ran towards platform. No LED indicator was showing my train, but I went to platform no. 2. Because platform no. 2 mostly go downside. (Not necessary, but that’s my logic)
Platform was crowded but I found a spot to seat. An hour passed but my train didn’t arrive. I saw people arriving at Jammu and people going to Katra. Another hour passed, felt like another sign to not to leave. But, I didn’t want to stay here anymore. Waiting for 2 hours and there wasn’t any announcement for train for a single time.
After 15 minutes, the train arrives. General compartment was at the end of the train. I ran towards it. Few passengers were already in train. I got a window seat (every passenger’s ultimate goal). There was a couple seating in front of me. One man entered in coach and sat next to me.
“I want to go to Pathankot. This train is going first or the train on platform no. 3 going Delhi?”
“I have no idea.”
“Where’s you are going?”
“Okay, good.” He said. “This is superfast right?”
“I’m afraid it’s not. What ticket you have?”
“I’m from Army. I got this memo to travel.”
Leaving his bag on the seat. He gets down the train and went to the driver of that Delhi-going train. 10 minutes after he came back.
“This one is going first”, he said and the train started moving.
The journey of 33 hours in general compartment accompanied by unknown and overfriendly people begin.
After pathankot, more passengers started boarding in. I see people from Gurudwara serving passengers water and Lemonade. Thanks to them for saving my 120 bucks for a day. Whatever I haven’t noticed going there, all I see coming back home. Big and beautiful, green farms and people working there, huge houses with a round shaped water tank and a large Eagle statue on some of them. I’ve seen random people keep staring at me like I’m alien with a beard. I’m used to it. So it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. All day, I observed things, people around me and their behaviour. The day passed doing all this.
I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. Dust from outside was coming in. and was very hot inside so couldn’t even shut window. Another day passed. Time was passing very fast till yesterday, started passing very slow. I took my novel out of my bag and started reading. After reading some pages I got bored. Went to the door of train. I saw peacocks, blackbuck and cows outside. It was sand everywhere, and some Acacia tree. I saw a paper flying out of the door.
“Wait, what was that? Is it someone’s train ticket or what?” I checked my pocket.
“Fuck! It was my ticket.” Why the hell I put it in my shirt’s pocket. Why?
When everything is going good, it must have to happen something worst. I planned to get down at one station and before Ahmedabad to purchase new ticket and get back in train. 6 stations passed. But I couldn’t do it. It remained just as a plan. Finally, at Sabarmati station, I get down with all my baggage and ran to T.C., told him everything. After long discussion, I gave him last 500 bucks as fine. He gave me back 200 rupees back by charging minimum of fine. He even asked me to not purchase another ticket and if someone ask me for ticket show them this memo.
“Whatever next train will arrive, get in, don’t worry and be careful next time. Okay”
ADI – AJMER Intercity arrived in 10 minutes. That T.C. asked me to get inside. I went in. it was almost empty. I put my bag on seat and went to wash up. My hair was mess filled with dust. I washed up and sprayed perfume. Took my baggage, get down at Kalupur railway station. Took an auto for Geeta Mandir, get bus for Anand and went to my hostel. Locked myself in for hours. Promised to never ever ever get back with him again. Deleted his number. Cut off that so called friendship from my life. Took a shower, refreshed myself. Came out from room with a big smile. Blend in world again like nothing has happened.
I did it successfully. It’s been 3 days today and I’m doing well. I was watching a movie on my laptop.
“Hey, your cell is ringing ”, my roommate told me.
It was an unknown number. I picked it up.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I was confused because I don’t know who he was. I really suck at recognising voice on the phone. “Can you hear me?”
“Wait.” I went to the terrace. “Yeah! Say now.”
“Sorry for that day. I thought you were kidding. You always play prank so…” It’s him.
‘Fuck man I should have worn flip-flops, it’s so hot on terrace.’ I didn’t reply him because this is what was going in my mind. And if he told the same thing again, I could have replied him this.
“And it happened for better that you didn’t come there. Next day riots started here.”
“I did came there and stayed a night.”
“What?” he didn’t hear it properly and didn’t bother to say again.
“Nothing. Why you called?” I asked.
“Just inform me, what is the last date to submit fees. And sorry once again.”
“No. why are you saying sorry. I am the one who should be sorry. I am the one who acted very juvenile. Couldn’t get your joke.” I replied sarcastically and hung up.
“You should have suggested me before picking up call that it could be him” I blamed my inner voice. “Now answer this question”
“Am I juvenile enough to not forgive him or mature enough to forgive him. Or vice versa.”
My inner voice didn’t reply. It remained silent for the first time.