Friday, November 2, 2012

Fate Prevails

It was quarter past ten at night and we were on our way to Chennai Central station to catch the 23.15 Bangalore mail after spending four pleasant days in Chennai.  People who have experienced Chennai are bound to exclaim “how can Chennai be pleasant?”. It was raining and the rain had turned the city unbelievably cool (while also turning it into a big dirty water puddle) plus we were in the pleasant company of my sister’s family. We went to Chennai to join them for my nephew’s ‘wedding shopping’. They were happy that we joined them and my wife is happiest when she is shopping - for anyone, for anything, anywhere. So, everybody was happy (shop owners the most) and I was happy looking at everyone being happy. “naguva keLuta naguvudatishayada dharma”!  - Mankutimmana Kagga.

We had crossed ‘Adyar’ bridge, and were just fifteen minutes away from the station. I was looking forward to a comfortable journey back, the Bangalore mail being one of my favourite trains. Whenever I have travelled by that train, it has been on time. It departs at my bed time 11pm, and arrives at my wake up time, 5 am. Very convenient.

Since it was past ten the traffic was light and in no time we were on the ‘Kamarajar promenade’ running parallel to the Marina beach. Lovely stretch of road. We would be in the central station in another ten minutes.  We were engaged in light talk and I was addressing my brother in law as ‘His lordship’ and was trying to pull his legs making light of his elevated status. In his new assignment, he is an ‘Expert member’ making up a ‘bench’ along with a judge in one of the central tribunals and enjoys the status of a secretary to the government.

The driver turned into the Flagstaff road and was now about five minutes away from Chennai Central. Immersed in our talk, we noticed that the car had stopped, only after it had been stationary for more than three minutes. There was a block ahead. It was 22.40 but we were almost there. Once the block cleared, we would be on the platform in a jiffy. No worry.

A police vehicle arrived and diverted the cars to the other side of the road, one which was meant for oncoming traffic. Our  car moved, momentary anxiety passed and my wife and sister got back to the analysis of ‘sarees’ that had been bought while I tried to understand the purpose behind constituting the Central Tribunal that my brother in law had joined. (Other than giving him a cushy post retirement job.)

Within half a kilometer the car stopped again. The side of the road (actually what is called the wrong side) in which we were cruising was also blocked solid. It was less than half an hour before the departure of our train and pangs of anxiety started traversing along the body. I started looking at the watch every half a minute.  Two minutes passed and our driver realized that if he has to reach Chennai central, either he has to find an alternate route or somehow convert the car into a helicopter. He decided on the former course of action, took a U turn before our back was packed and we were on the way back to beach road. He said that he would turn into the ‘North fort road’ further ahead and that we would be in front of Chennai Central before eleven.

He kept his word and we were right in front of Chennai central five minutes before eleven. All we had to do now was take a right turn to enter the station but the road divider prevented that action.  We had to proceed another hundred meters, take a U turn, come back and enter the station. But when fate decides to trouble you it puts in its best. We were right in front of the station but in yet another traffic jam and proceeding even a centimeter was out of question let alone hundred meters.

Now it was three minutes to eleven and pangs of anxiety were turning into pangs of panic. I was looking at the watch every ten seconds and had an immense urge to get out of the car, climb over the road divider and dash into the station. An action not possible as there was no way that the doors could be opened in the traffic jam (our position somewhat similar to that of the municipality fellow in the first scene of ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’) and assuming that somehow we did, no way that I could make my wife climb over and cross the three feet high road divider. Twenty eight years back I would have just lifted her and put her across and it would have been a pleasure. I could attempt it now only if I were a crane operator. So there was nothing to do other than sit inside the car wringing our hands. A true case of “so near and yet so far”.

Miraculously the vehicles ahead moved, and we reached the point of U turn only to find the reverse flow was also blocked. It was 23.00 and we were in a state of total panic. The driver who seemed to be the  only one still in his senses, turned into an opening which seemed to be leading away from the station, ignoring the orders of his ‘Lordship’ and the possibility of being held for ‘contempt of court’. He got into a narrow lane running behind the station and after a few twists and blind turns had arrived near platform five from the back! We were just about fifty meters from the platform when he found out that Chennai had many more equally resourceful drivers who were ahead of him and they had blocked that narrow lane too.

I had a lot of faith in our driver’s abilities but at that moment I decided that the time had come for me to depend up on my own. I found that there was enough space around the car to open the doors and the boot, jumped out, snatched two suitcases and started running towards the platform. My niece took a backpack and a bag and my wife and sister managed to carry themselves with an agility not usually seen. My brother in law was running with a suitcase on his head. It was too heavy for his hands.

Our compartment was at the far end of the train and after having run what seemed like a marathon along the platform, we were in it with three minutes to spare. My wife placed a hundred rupee note in my sister’s hands to be handed over to the resourceful driver along with our thanks and as we bid farewell we could hear the engine whistling. 

As the train rolled out of Chennai central I was left wondering at the ways of fate. Fate, even though at times seemed to be working  against its own will, had willed that we catch the train that day and it had also willed  that my brother in law - at whose disposal the government has placed, staff to carry his briefcase, open the door of his car, hold his gown ready for wearing, and even open the cap of his pen for signing a judgement - ran with a suitcase on his head in competition with the porters of Chennai central, to make us catch that train!

“Vidhiya horegaLanu tappisikoLuvanellihanu? ……………… Vidhiyagasa, neen katte, mankutimma”
Where is the one who can evade the burden of fate?......... fate is the driver and you, the donkey!

Note: Picture in this post is not mine. Taken from the net to have some colour. 


Shruthi said...

No less than a thriller. Once again, you have outdone yourself!

rs said...

i had a similar experience in Bangalore cantonment around 9 yrs back. we were travelling from bangalore to chennai and were late for the first time in my life. we got into the first compartment we had time to get into and the train started. i have had nightmares of missing train since then.

Brinda said...

Wonderful narration, Raghu ! none can beat you, I swear ! can you give me just 1 percent of your brain so that i can put my ideas in a more interesting way?
When it comes to commenting on your wife and chidren........... you are very bad. This time you didnt spare your sister also....... :)

Unknown said...

super thrill with super comedy!!