A lonely street and we two, like lost souls, were walking along. She like always was talking eternally where as I was lost in my new found skeptical reverie. Suddenly, out of no where I had subconsciously forgotten my only ATM card pin code. My memory plays these hide and seek games with me often. My memory power about incidents is something to boast upon but names and numbers were never my cup of tea. And that evening it was proved once again. I wanted to bang my head to rouse those numbers; all attempts in vain. Sandy, being absolutely clueless, was singing a Kishore da song in the most out of tune way possible. I told her that I had forgotten my ATM pin code and she was genuinely worried considering three important facts:
1. We were far away from home in Chennai – a land where people hardly speak English
2. We had a train to catch the next day so we couldn’t even borrow money
3. As per our plan we had emptied her account, leaving mine as the saviour, having only 500 rupees in cash
When all my permutations and combinations failed, bank had blocked my card and left us to survive on 500 rupees for our entire journey, from Chennai to Manipal via Mangalore!!!!
We stayed quite far from Chennai railway station and hence, hiring an auto costed us 250 rupees straight away. So the budget was cut to half and those coolies were asking for 250 rupees to carry our baggage in to the platform. Had they known how much money we had in our pockets, they wouldn’t even have smelled us closely. I wasn’t going to give up either. The endless half English half Tamil bargain saved us 200 rupees and the coolie left our luggage in front of the train for 50 bucks. We even drank cola spending 30 more bucks and that’s what I call as Royal living when you are penny-less. Our tickets were not confirmed and as per the instruction of coolie we stood near S 1 coach waiting for TT. It wasn’t time for train’s departure but as we stood there train started moving right in front of us and vanished in seconds. We were so much in shock that we didn’t even run to catch the train. Not that we could have, anyways. Simply put, we were standing like two dumbstruck idiots with two trolleys and four heavily packed duffel bags.
After five minutes we saw our train once again enter the station on a different platform!!! The situation got worse with it. Now we had to shift our luggage along with us to a different platform in ten minutes. All the coolies having witnessed our situation were not ready to budge in for less money. I carried all four duffels (two on my shoulders and two in hands and trust me, it was hefty. I had bruises all over my shoulders the next day). Ponderously I reached the S 1 coach somehow, pushing away the crowd only to realize my bestie was no where to be seen. Sandy, compared to me, is petite. Hence I asked her to drag the two trolleys but now I was in a dilemma. I couldn’t go back or forward. I left all the duffels near a police constable (thank god he didn’t run away with our bags, not that we were carrying anything precious) and ran towards Sandy. Yeah, she was there dragging these trolleys at her comfortable speed while my trolley was dancing along with her tottering steps. Somehow when we reached near S 1 coach, it was time for train’s departure and hence, we boarded with all our luggage in S 1 where as we were allocated S 7 under RAC. Once inside, I made Sandy wait with our luggage in S 1 while I kept shuttling between 1 and 7 along with luggage. It was too crowded from inside, people were just settling in. To prevent myself from this hassle, I started shifting from outside and when I had reached S 4 train began to move and people (god knows from where) mounted on the door leaving me no space to climb. After a long fight and juggling, I climbed in with a broken sandal. Great!!! That is exactly what I needed then. With a broken sandal, huge crowd and heavy bags somehow I reached S 7. Looking at Sandy’s tiny figure a man helped her in bringing those bags to S 7 and she walked happily by his side. I was running here and there like a mad dog with a limp but nobody offered to help me!!! When all the bags were shifted we had another fortune cookie waiting for us. As it was RAC we got only one seat to share and had to continue the night journey by sitting. After about two hours of journey a lady helped by giving her berth to us. So, finally we got a place to sleep.
I have thanked that lady zillion times in my head till date!!!
When we reached Mangalore in the evening, we had 100 rupees in hand having spent some money on food. We definitely couldn’t afford a coolie hence I carried all the duffels and Sandy began dancing with the trolleys. We reached bus stand after paying 15 bucks for auto. Looking at our luggage, no bus conductor was ready to take us in. After few minutes of tension and arguments, we finally boarded a bus to Manipal with a condition of sitting in the seat perpendicular to the driver exactly next to the windshield. We had just reached the outskirts of Mangalore, when I saw a lorry being horizontal on the road covering the entire width. Obviously even our driver noticed it but chucked the idea of applying brake considering the lorry would move soon but when that didn’t happen, I witnessed our bus zooming in full speed towards the lorry.Within seconds our bus hit the lorry and within minutes both drivers were in to a brawl. The rod near the windshield had hit my stomach badly and pain was just taking time to engulf me. Another boy, who was standing next to us had fallen down and his head was slightly bleeding. Rest of the passengers were safe and sound. When the fight continued between drivers, conductor gave us our money back (70 bucks) and asked us to get in to another bus. Adding on to the trouble, it started raining outside. All the passengers got down giving an authoritative look but nobody even came closer to helping us. We had so much luggage and were helpless. The head bleeding guy, was the only man who came forward to help us. He shifted our luggage to a near by shop one by one and even got us an auto (after searching for almost fifteen minutes) to go back to the bus stand. We normally rage over caste, religion so much but that day among all the Hindus present, an injured Muslim guy helped us. I think of him even today. If not for him, we would have been stuck inside the bus as our luggage was compactly packed near the driver seat . Auto costed us 15 bucks and bus to Manipal costed us another 70 bucks. So, after all the pain when we reached Manipal my dad was waiting near the bus stand with a smile on his face. We just wanted the day to end. It was too much for us to seep in. When we finally checked our wallet, we had no money left apart from some coins. Oops!!! forgot to tell you. The moment I had reached Chennai railway station I recalled my ATM pin code. But sadly, my account was blocked and god pushed us in to all these circumstances to make us realize the real value of 500 rupees, I guess !!!
Well this is one journey I can never forget in my life. After which me and Sandy have laughed over it many times but when we were actually living it I just wanted it to end. I was all in tears, broken and scarred. Till then, I never saw a train leave, I never caught a running train, I never traveled with so less money, I never witnessed an accident so closely. But like they say “goodness prevails no matter how evil the world is” and I will always be grateful to the goodness of that lady and injured man and will remember them till the end.