Drama At 10
2112hrs: “Ok Appa, I will pay” said I getting into the auto. I tell one auto driver, after seeing many who were charging exorbitantly. Were it normal times I would have taken the local itself. Here, started the final leg, to be in time for “Drama at 10”.
2052hrs: “Tambram 18km”, read the mile stone, the only thing that interested me at the moment. All the people on the bus got to know of my situation and every body had something in the form of a suggestion. I wished they would just shut their mouths. I moved on to the entrance, so that I could alight as soon as we reached Tambram. There were three agonizing stops before I set my foot down on the “Sacred” land of Tambram at 2110hrs.
2118hrs: “Just a minute for filling up the tank” and entered the petrol bunk. I did not have the time to think if he made a statement, if not was it meant to elicit a reply or an opinion. My drive in this auto was reminiscent of the advertisement where a bicycle overtakes the motorbike. The auto driver was as cool as dry ice, with all the time in the world.
2014hrs: “It will stop for five minutes” it was a question than a statement. A right turn on a off the road makes me sit up like an ostrich, when I pop this question to Ramesh. I talk to the conductor to decrease the dinner break but in vain. All other attempts to take another vehicle to Tambram end up useless as our bus was the first to leave after a long 15 minutes. All this unfolded just about 40 km from Tambram.
2123hrs: “That auto is faster, take that” and before I get a hang of the situation I was in the other auto. Precious minutes wasted in the exchange of words and money by drivers of the two autos. Finally after what seemed like an eternity the new auto driver agreed to move, with me in his vehicle.
1950hrs: “Tambram 66km”, read the mile stone on the side of the highway. The bus was moving at 75km an hour and at this rate I should reach Tambram by 2045hrs, giving me ample time to reach Chennai central. What do I know of the surprises yet to show up?
2135hrs: “I will do my best. Can’t guarantee that I can take you there in time”, said the driver, heavy traffic and 17 signals enroute being his aids. I realize for the nth time in the last few hours, that it will take more than the backing of all the gods to make it to Chennai central by 10.
1847hrs: "What now?" I ask myslef when the bus screeched to a halt, anxiously put my head outside the window to have an idea of what caused this unwarranted halt. Way down the road a crane is pulling out a lorry that has side tracked. There were many vehicles before our bus, and it was sometime before we made any movement forward.1902hrs read my watch when we finally made a move.
2140hrs: “Don’t you have petrol to last till the central?” to which the driver replied “Just one minute Saar, You don’t worry we will reach there by 10”. “Every minute counts, do it later” said I. Without any heed to my concerns the fellow heads for a petrol bunk to feed our chariot. I see around desperately waiting for some miracle to happen.
1757hrs: "Where am I?". The bus stopped, I saw that I had just woken up from a short nap and that we were at some bus stand. I ask Ramesh where we were, and to my dismay he said Pondicherry. I expected to be almost half way to Chennai. It was raining heavily. I ask him how much time it will take to Tambram, three and a half hours comes the reply. How long from Tambram to Chennai central? “About, 45 min”. Even the most optimistic estimate would see me just through the 10’o clock deadline.
2152hrs: “Ah shit! One more signal. Thank God!” my reaction to an approaching red light and the subsequent green signal. We were somewhere on mount road. To say I was worried would be an understatement. Suddenly calm settled over me. What will happen if I miss the train? The worst is I will miss the train, my mom will shout at me. The sky won’t fall down and definitely it was not the end of the world.
1715hrs: “I got married six months back. Going to my in-laws place at Chennai”, this was Ramesh who sat in the next seat. In the five minutes next to him, I knew all about his family and its history. Slowly the sky was swallowed by the black beauties, making a come back after a brief break from morning. In no time I had to shut the window panes.
2158hrs: “This is the last signal saar”, the auto-rickshaw driver said happily. He has a reason to be happy, considering that we had to stop only at one of the 17 signals from the point where I alighted. In less than a minute the auto came to a halt, the tall tower in imposing red, the clock tower of Chennai central, stood before me. Off I head for the entrance, handing the driver 200 bucks.
1700hrs: “Fine, you leave now”, said I to my friend. It was 15min since the bus arrived but it showed no sign of leaving the comfort of the slot it was allotted. It was five more minutes before the engine came to life. It set out on to the road, leaving behind the sun to settle down. The crimson sky, the magnificent clouds, the swift falcons and the verdant landscape, was a treat to the eyes which know nothing but the myriad landscapes of the city.
2159hrs: “Let me take this way”, thought I, on seeing the sign for platform number ‘7 to 11’. I had absolutely no idea on which platform my train was at that point of time. I took to a path with the least number of people, with one eye on the display that read “Tamil Nadu Express 10 2200”.
1645hrs: “It will be three and a half hours to Chennai, three to Tambram; you should be there by 2230hrs”, said my friend as I boarded the PP (point to point) service. Securing a seat was not difficult as not many passengers alighted at this point. Waiting for the bus to leave, I never imagined of the things that would beckon me in the next few hours.
2200hrs: “Hey, Can’t you see? Work is goi---------------”, shouted a worker. Before the next words got to my ear I was off in another direction to take me to platform no 10. The primary reason for this diversion was not the worker’s warning but absence of any way further.
1630hrs: “You get down at Tambram and take a local to Park station; five minutes by walk to Chennai central”. This was the course my friend’s father suggested me on getting to Chennai. “Ok, uncle, bye aunty, bye”, with these words, I with my friend set out for the bus stand.
2201hrs: “Tamil Nadu Express”, the words moved past me. My next glances were on seven baskets beneath me and before I realized where I was, thud flat on my face. This was the scene on platform no 10, Chennai central. Before any of the benevolent souls near me could offer a suggestion, I found myself in the third coach from the last, panting for breath as if they were the last for this life. “Thank God!” I pray to the thee.
Drama At 10