There are memories, some good, some bad, a few neutral maybe, some sustain, most perish. But then there are a few rare experiences which become souvenirs, whose categorization in good or bad is a little difficult. But one thing is for sure that they remain throughout the life as incidences to look back upon.
The start goes when I found myself standing on the platform number 9 of Allahabad railway station waiting for my train to arrive, which was late as obvious, with the new reason of fog this time.
It was spine chilling cold in Allahabad, but I was happy and more than happy I was content, content with me having the sense of achievement to get an admit from an elite college of South India. I was waiting for the train along with two of my school friends Shivam and Bhupendra aka Bhuppi, both from the same city and same school. The train journey was a good 36-40 hours long travel from my place, including the usual delay time, giving ample time for me to quench my thirst to travel and have the experiences of the journey and, my personal favorite, the lone quality time on the way as the train made its course all the way through the half-length of the country, through all varying and vivid landscape, for which India is famous for in the world.
Within 30-45 mins of waiting, finally, the announcement of the train arrival happened. It was already closing 10 pm in the night. We boarded the train and started settling down at our respective berths, which were all adjacent to each other. Though it was cold yet as our ritual, posts all adjustment and informing the parents of the train leaving the station, we went and stood at the boogie door to see the new glittering beautiful hanging bridge of Naini. As the train crawled through the old Naini bridge, we all three witnessed the marvelous man-made garland of the city on the other side of the bridge. The sparkling lights and its reflection in the Yamuna river beneath, amidst the misty foggy night gave the bridge a mesmerizingly pleasing halo. We all, standing at the gates absorbed the most which were offered mutely, noticing all and disturbing none. Once the view went black we eventually came back to our berths. We came and sat but the adrenaline rush ensured that nobody slept. The playing cards were out; the journey has begun, though it was slow yet brilliant since the green flag waved.
The train made its way, whistling and gushing smoke through the remote interior areas of Uttar Pradesh. The next stop of the train was a station called Satna in Madhya Pradesh, which was some 300 km away from Allahabad. We all knew that there is ample time for the next rush of passengers. After playing for 1-1.5 hours and a couple of factories and a few dark patches, the train continued moving through the darkness, in the no man’s harry potter land, where the only thing one could see is the reflection of themselves in the glass of the train compartment. All three of us were still very excited and full of energy, no matter how strongly the lousy and drowsy compartment tried to inflict the mood on us.
Suddenly after some 15-20 mins of wrapping up the cards, the train halted at an unknown station. I knew this place. The train usually crawled through these areas cause of the heavy traffic, no electric line, the hilly terrain and now the latest; FOG. Everyone in the compartment was either gone or were on their super fast way to procure their value for money by falling asleep on their paid AC sleeper berths. But we thought we will get down and explore the station for a bit, as for us, the real journey was much more than the interiors of the train.
We got down; the station was a small time rural railway station perhaps meant only for the passenger or a rare few mail express trains. The platform itself was not proper, or rather there was no platform to say. We touched the ground which was at the third step of the boogie. The station was dark and abandoned, with only a single street light to lighten up the place. There was not even a single soul on the station, not even the station authorities, it was completely abandoned. But then again the abandoned places are the best ones to explore. We were free. Shivam took out his camera phone and started showing off the dark mode features of his mobile camera. The rest both were empty pocketed to make the excursion hassle-free. We stood there talking encountering the Gothic elements of the station. The train didn’t move for another half an hour. The thick layers of fog have started decorating the ambiance well. Then out of nowhere, I came up with the idea to go and find a shop nearby or at least explore the station more, any which way the train hasn’t moved for long. To which they both agreed immediately. We all proceeded towards the hazy white tube light of the station. We hardly walked for a few meters and reached a distance from where the street light and the train seemed equally fainted. We progressed towards the light holding the unsaid notion that it’s a train, it will whistle before the move plus its winter, the sound is so clear that the feeblest whistle was sufficient enough to grab the attention of any in even some far off distant village.
Post a 15 mins walk we finally got to know that the light was meant to illuminate the board, which bored the name of the station, Shankargrah.
We all felt an inner sense of accomplishment, with an active sense still on the train sub consciously. But the sense of accomplishment is never achieved fully if we don’t have anything to brag off; hence Shivam and his night camera features got activated. We climbed the ceramic board and tried testing his new phone camera, not for anyone else but for the friends in college to say, LOOK….this is how we travel. After sharing some 10-15 mins of winner’s peace we heard a dying sound of train wheel’s moving. I prompted, guys, let’s go back now. I think the train has started. We all immediately came down and headed towards the train. Again the camera light of Shivam’s phone gave our way. I knew this bugger will some way or the other show off of his new gift. Anyway, we walked and slowly caught the glimpse of the train, which already had started moving. We increased our pace and as we reached, we tried to sync in with the speed to get into our compartment. But even after running for a while, we were unable to track our AC coach as all the boogies were general compartments. We thought hurry up guys, I think the train has moved a bit and we are at the last section of the train as usually there are general compartments at the start and at the end of the train. We hurried up, but even the train picked up along with us. It was now difficult to overtake in the dark and get into our cabin. So we finally thought we will enter any compartment and will change the boogie once the train halts. Hence we stopped and waited for the next door to arrive. One came and…….. Left, another came and …..Missed……Focus……focus guys. While we struggled to get inside, I strangely noticed that the entire train was empty, and no matter what in a country like India, encountering an empty train is a miracle in itself, until……until the train is done with its travel and is now moving for the locomotive shed for the next day’s journey, shifting my eyes immediately to catch the train number; Guys, this is not our train, It’s a different train!!