Friday, July 2, 2010

Midnight Train to 2010

I never used to celebrate New Year, not at least in the way most people celebrate it: partying, drinking and doing all other things which can not be mentioned here. My celebration was limited to watching New Year specials in TV (before the advent of emails and text messages) and sending 'new year greetings' emails and texts to my close friends, long lost friends and unknown Orkut friends. So, I was not worried when I learned on that cold winter morning that I have to go to Jaipur on December 31st (or January 1st) by Marudhar Express at 0005 Hrs (Jan 1); Little did I knew of the events about to unfold in the earliest hours of a brand new year.

I reached Lucknow on December 30th after spending Christmas in Chandigarh. I had to come via Delhi since there were no seats available in the only direct train that runs between Lucknow and Chandigarh. I had 2 days work in Lucknow. After completing work there I was instructed to proceed to Jaipur. The Manager pulled the right strings to get me a ticket to Jaipur on 31st and I got one in 12.05 Midnight train.

That was how I found myself at 22.00 Hrs (following the railway time as most of the events described hereafter occurred in railway station) in the crowded 'VIP Waiting Room' of Lucknow Railway Station on New Years Eve. It was a chilly winter evening even for the local folk and more so for someone like me hailing from warmer (even in 'winter') southern state of Kerala. Tea-coffee stall, strategically positioned right in front of the waiting room, was already under heavy attack with people rushing for a coffee or tea to escape from the coldness of the winter night.

Apart from the occasional buzz created by the announcement of a train that may arrive at a particular platform, the mood in the waiting room was that of desperation. Almost all the trains were running late and all of VIPs were praying for their respective locos to arrive sooner than later. Once I found a place to squeeze myself and my luggage into, I quietly opened my laptop and plugged in the USB modem to check if my train was running on time and to my surprise it was on time and was expected to arrive at Lucknow at 00.05 Hrs. I was a happy man and so decided to shutdown the laptop and spend the remainder of the time watching the sorry faces of those travelers whose trains were late and killing mosquitoes that were hovering near my head, searching for a spot to bite.

After 2300 absence of announcement about Marudhar Express made me to leave the waiting room and venture beyond. I decided to check the information board to get a status update of the train. The info displayed was not at all a pleasing one. The train which was running on time till an hour before was now running late and was expected to arrive at 0200 Hrs!! To this day I dont know the exact reason for the delay although I believe the dense fog cover over Lucknow was the culprit. Anyway, as I entered the waiting room welcomed by the smirks on the face of come of my fellow VIPs, I understood that the place had become even more crowded and I did not have a place to sit.

That was how I found myself at the tea-coffee stall in front of the waiting room, enjoying a late night coffee at 2310 Hrs.

Energized by the small cup of coffee, I decided not to go back to the waiting room but instead to search for a vacant bench somewhere in the platform. Soon found one near the foot over bridge and anchored there for the time being. As the midnight hour passed there was some excitement in the air and when the railway clocks became "00.00" there were some cheers from some of the younger travelers scattered all over the platform. I wished myself a 'happy new year'

Hours crept by and as 0200hrs approached, railways again changed their "prediction" and the train was expected to arrive at 0400 Hrs!! More cups of coffee were needed to keep myself awake and so I shifted to a bench near the tea-coffee stall.

At last the announcement was made: Marudhar Express will arrive at 0415Hrs at platform 2. Once the clock stroke 4, I quietly gathered my luggage and proceeded to PF 2. Train arrived at 0430 Hrs to the relief of many half-sleepy passengers and thus I began my journey to Jaipur! I reached Jaipur around 5PM on January 1st and by then the train was running late by almost 8 hours.