Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HURRYING TO THE HARIPRIYA


I do not remember the year now, but sure it must have been sometime when the Tirupati (TPTY) yard looked like a bombed up place due to GC. It was a roasting day at Chennai and the temperatures seemed to be as exaggerated as the hot winds that swept past us as we 'speeded' on the afternoon express to TPTY. We were seven – four kids and three adults. My sister and her two kids and my family of two adults and two kids were off to Dharwar (DWR) to attend a wedding. The plan was to take the Haripriya/Rayalaseema combo from TPTY to DWR. 


We made a quick exit at TPTY and headed off to have a quick darshan at the Govindaraja Swamy temple close to the station. After darshan, had some snacks and coffee and packed dinner and settled in to our berths in the Haripriya portion of the combo. We had all six berths for ourselves, besides one side lower in the emergency window bay. The train left on time at TPTY and Renigunta (RU). Past Koduru (KOU) it must have been, when we had our dinner and tried to settle down on the upper berths, when we found to our dismay that all the berths were coated liberally with tons of construction dust – the windows were left open during the idle time. Thanking ourselves for carrying lots of spare old newspapers, we cleaned those berths and settled down one by one. I took the SL, and by the time we reached Yerraguntla (YA), the entire coach was asleep, save one soul. I was wide awake awaiting the midnight three-way orgy at Guntakal (GTL). Watching the dark landscape pass by, I whiled away my time guessing the stations as they passed (even those with no platforms on my side – by just making out the periodic clatter of speedy run over points and the increased oscillation as we took the crossings head on).


Well past midnight, as we made our way past the snaky points at GTL into PF 6 (the main PF where Mumbai-bound trains are received and dispatched), I told my wife that I will be stretching my legs on the PF during the rather longish halt and come back. She sleepily nodded at my madness and went back into a stupor. I stepped out on the PF as the train came to a halt and espied our TTE talking to someone. He acceded to my request to join me for a cup of tea – we went back right near the SLR to the tea stall and had a wonderful cream bun and two cups of tea. As we trundled along back to the train, the TTE bid goodbye – he had already handed over to the next TTE. I was shocked to find my train missing. For someone who was well-versed with railway operations, I cursed myself for being so careless, but did not yet panic.


I asked around and a porter told me that the Haripriya portion would have already departed from PF 4. This was the Hyderabad-bound Rayalaseema portion waiting for the coaches from the train from Kolhapur (KOP). I was not sure what the sequence of arrival and departure was – I did not bother to recheck when leaving MAS – that made me more confused. I then saw a railway staff carrying some tools – he too gave me the same answer. That was when my callous concern began turning into panic. Panic for myself – I had taken care to leave the tickets and enough cash with my wife, on the train. If stranded, there would be no other way for me to reach anywhere except beg – all I had on my person was about twenty rupees (that probably would take me up to UBL on a passenger next morning?). 


I did the next best thing – ran up to the platform SM’s room and asked him – he asked me to rush to PF 4 as the train was about to leave. Jumping across the tracks, I rushed to find the train still still. The water filling was complete and I rushed to see my coach and relieved to see our bed sheets which had my people curling under. But it was still not over for me.


The doors were locked from inside and about three coaches away was a peering TTE gesticulating to me to get away. I ran to him even as the starter was taken off and told him that my berth was in that coach. He disdainfully dismissed me – asking me to show my ticket. Apparently, a few days ago, someone has pulled a fast one on his colleague on the very same train and had disappeared with a few pieces of luggage containing valuables. Somehow, I slipped in some railway jargon and convinced him that I would show the tickets once let in. He agreed to let me in on the condition that I get out of the train if I was not able to show the ticket by the next stop. He took out the charts and checked my name. Then he let me inside as the train started moving! Walking down three coaches, I took my wife’s handbag and foraged the tickets and convinced him. It was then he started his lecture about how not to leave luggage unattended, and how things become tough for staff like him, etc. I heard him out patiently and thanked him, before retiring in after a rather eventful hour or so.

2 Comments:

Blogger fatty said...

Oh My God, Lucky!

16:11  
Blogger Anil Kumar Yerrapragada said...

You were definitely lucky! I too often have incidents like these where I am often cursing myself, being a railfan, "not to know better" than to do certain things!

22:43  

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