Within a fraction of a second, we all realized that we have missed our train. But what to do, should we board the train, as apart from that there is no other valid option visible, or should we leave it. It’s like we were supposed to make a decision, standing on the edge of a blade.
But where did our train go, how come we heard this and not that, which supposedly was a super fast express train. We three dragging ourselves beside the train, contemplating on what to do next, kept on running?
Shivam, as always, panicked the first, “Look, it’s cause of all this I was saying don’t go that far, now look”. But the chaos of the situation made me ignore the panic in him. I still transforming my pace from jogging to running, which very soon was going to be a sprint, looked around. The whole misty ambiance was completely abandoned with no symbols of life of any kind. The only thing mobile was either this train or we running along with it. Then suddenly it clicked that no matter the train is empty, but there will be a guard at the end of the train.
Yes!! He can and is the only life of some worth in a situation like this. I conveyed this to all the rest and slowly turned to the guard’s compartment at the end. We saw him and post a small pleading, convincing and explanations, all while running, with his little help, we mounted.
“How mean this guard is to enquire us while we struggled” was the first irritated thought as we got a ground. But frankly, I can’t explain the joy to see a live man in a situation like this. He was a below medium height stout man in his late fifties covered completely in white by his uniform and cap. His body language prompted us to get ready to implore properly before expecting any help. He [the guard] carrying a black torch and sitting on a black colored tin box, heard everything frivolously and post a small inquiry and a bit resistance agreed to help, going against the interpretations of his body language.
He picked up his walky-talky, tapped the network and then post a few blurred wired messages, informed us that our train has left Shankargrah, along with expressing the incapability to help us in any other form. But, post a slight musing, he also told that this train is going to the docks of Shankargrah, which is in the NTPC plant nearby. From the plant, they run frequent shuttles to the nearby town of Manikpur. And if you are lucky and the fog favors you, you might get something from there to Satna, and make it before the train. Bhuppi immediately prompted, “Does the train halts at Manikpur?”
To which the guard, still sitting on the black box, winked and said, “Express train Kid, express train. But you should check once, though, what if the fog is in a playful yet helping mood.” After his taunting advice, everyone went silent. The absurdity prevailing prevented the small talks among us. We all, standing there waiting for the plant to emerge, knew that we are either screwed or were going to experience the brilliance of co-incidence tonight.
As soon as the motion ceased, we got down understanding the urgency of the situation. This time even the 50+ year’s old guard also paced up with us, showing his legitimacy to the cause and help offered. We luckily got an instantly ready carriage waiting for us to move for Manikpur, to which the guard hitched us, using his influence over the driver. The driver though was a bit grumpy cause of the night shifts in such cold but agreed to post a slight persuasion.
We left for Manipur from the plant. But no matter how grumpy he was, he was a brilliant driver overall. I guess the irritation to finish the job and go back to home was the drive which drove this drive fast. But it was here that we finally had our moments back to catch hold of our breath. Everyone knew it was no one’s fault still knew that it was everyone’s. Confused situations are always best dealt with silence and it was what we were doing. What all investment and effort were needed to cover up the situation was done, now was the time to avoid panic and reach the next scheduled destination of MANIKPUR.
On the way to Manikpur, we tried to find the running status of the train on Shivam’s Smartphone which was fortunately or unfortunately the only thing we had along with the keys of our luggage in the train. But even that was not much of a help cause of the lag in the server. Owing to our situation and high deficiency of time we already in the Van decided that Shivam will continue trying to get the updated train tracking information using his phone, while I will enquire about the ways to reach Satna from nearby available resources. Meanwhile, Bhuppi has to go and fetch the train info from the railway station’s inquiry counter. The best utilization of time with the proper division of labor was established.
As soon as we left the Shuttle outside the Manikpur station we all three ran for our life to our respective allotments. While I was consciously acquiring the knowledge from the nearby rickshaw pullers and late night chai wallahs on how to reach Satna, subconsciously a lot other was happening inside. I knew we were close, I saw it in the last updated train info on phone. We knew that any moment there can be epiphanies that might arouse either the feel of heart broke or the joyous heartfelt in all of us.
Shivam was still trying to get the latest updated info of the train as by the last info it was some 10 km from the Manikpur station. Our hearts were already pounding in their sockets. We needed an assurance and within minutes we saw Bhuppi coming towards us with a just about to sleep face. I knew what the status is. But even though it was neither the time nor the mood but still my optimistic side poked and said within no time he will jump and say, I am kidding guys, the train is arriving in another 5 mins. But optimism clubbed with carelessness is no optimism of any sort. Hence now the question arises, how to cover the next 80 km of our journey?
Though it was a railway station but it was a very small time railway station of UP. And with the train gone, the hassles to convince the railway authorities to make us board was gone; I know it sounds ridiculous, but I needed anything, any ridiculous reason to pacify my sudden ambiguous emotions. And meanwhile Bhuppi was inside, my consciousness managed to gather the knowledge, pushing away the engulfing distractive subconscious, that there is a National highway nearby, a bus stop adjacent to a temple, where a Jagran is in progression. All these places were the centers of hope for us. Once the knowledge sharing ended, we all found ourselves standing in the middle of the road, with no money, no visible help of any sort, a running train whose hope to catch was evading with every evading minute, a distant fading sound of some bhajan, an unauthentic knowledge of few centers of hope, a light source which, I guess, itself doubted its light producing capacity and a smartphone, whose battery was draining with the speed of the moving away train.
Shivam panicked like himself. Bhuppi looked as innocently at me as I looked at him to suggest something worthy of suggesting. I knew the time was precious; hence I wanted to try to my fullest before succumbing to the situation. I said Shivam can you find out the directions to the nearest highway on your phone. And before even Shivam could respond, I turned to Bhuppi and said, go inside the station and plead to anyone whom you meet and see what you can find, convince or manipulate there, and I will rush for the sound and the light, to see if I could arrange for some help. And no matter what happens, we all, fortunately, have watched but unfortunately no phones hence we all have to come back and meet at this position to exchange the efforts exactly within 10mins from now. OK.
We all dispersed in nanoseconds, without a fuss. In pursuit, I literally took the word and ran. And within no time I entered into a dark lane, with the progressing sounds of bhajan as my sole driving factor, patting my confidence. I was running, like a madman, on the empty dark streets of Manikpur.
But forgot that it’s late and dark and one thing which you can definitely except on the dark streets of India are …….dogs!!
Within no time a few bunch of ready to inflict rabies dogs were after me barking, all bucked up to protect the godforsaken blind street from my invasion. I knew I can handle them. I knew if I stop and turn back all of them will go.
But frankly, this was what I said to console my feared inhibitions. They scared the hell out of me and I ran. I ran screaming at the top of my voice with no sense of time, light and sound. I ran just to save my life. Nothing as in nothing seemed more purposeful to me then. Life and the lust to live.