Question: What do you get when you take a big bunch of really enthusiastic 20 odd year olds, put them on a journey to the biggest Metro in south India, add a few dashes of waiting, a tinge of hunger, a little lack of sleep, some dragging of luggage, and amidst all this, somehow put Me to add to all the anarchy that was already in place?
Answer: You get my trip to Chennai; and the realization that the above question is a gross understatement of what exactly happened there.
The journey to Chennai is best forgotten for all the right reasons to forget it. It included standing for over 3 hours even before “The Journey” had even begun. Next in line was the entry into the bus. Ok, there was no hassle in entering the bus. Just that after entering, I realized that the manufacturers of the bus had unanimously decided to maximize the number of seats that can be crammed in a bus of the usual size. And to be frank, they had actually done a good job at that. How was I to know that soon I would actually be changing the bus into a bus, which was manufactured by people who had made up their minds to come out with the maximum number of seats that can be shoved into the bus, without regard to the fact that the legs are also part of the human anatomy? And as all of us boarded the “New” bus, we realized that it is best not to let our actual feelings and opinions be known to others. So we all kept quiet. And we slept.
Well at least that’s what we tried to do. Some were successful, some weren’t. Those who were successful, I believe, had some prior experience in making sure that they shift the positions of their neck and skull at regular intervals so that they don’t wake up in the morning not being able to feel their own brain. I was one among them. Unfortunately not many were aware of this very precious funda. So some tried in vain to sleep amidst the entire “happy crowd” singing Anthakshari. No not that these other people were sad or anything. Just that most of them were really tired and would have appreciated some good uninterrupted sleep. But that was not to be. So either they didn’t sleep at all or had an hour’s sleep as a result of the sum total of all the 135-seconds sleep that they were able to manage to dig up from their sleep reservoir at arbit intervals. Anyway we reached Chennai at around 9:30 in the morning. And then I was told that I had to walk about a mile carrying the entire luggage that I had got from my home! And that weighed not much-just over 30 kilos!
And the first thing that you realize as soon as you step in Chennai is that God made sure that people really know the true meaning of the term ‘humidity’. I was dragging my luggage, which bore more resemblance to an obese corpse, with whatever energy I had managed to save by my precious sleep. And somehow I made it into some place that I was supposed to go.
And I didn’t exactly feel that I was at home. Probably I was not supposed to feel at home. So there I was, having traveled more than a kilometer dragging my fat luggage along and I was told that I had about 15 minutes to freshen myself up and get ready to go the place which had been the very purpose of my visit. Ok I am all excited to go there and witness something big and I put all my enthusiasm in trying to brush and wash my face with some soap I had bought along the way. And somehow I succeed. And then I come down to be told that I am almost late and that I am to hurry up to that place.
What about breakfast? I had a Samosa worth 5 bucks in some cheap place and that was it. How was I to know that that was all that I would be having till about 6 in the night? Well later I would realize that there were people in a worse state than what I was. People who hadn’t even had that one Samosa. And that way I considered myself quite lucky. And after all the anguish that I had been through, I finally reached that place that I was supposed to go and I reached it about 10 minutes late- only to be told that the whole thing would be delayed by about 2 hours. But then I was to sit there and do nothing but wait and wait and after all the waiting was done, all I had to do was more waiting.
And during all those time, I was with my close friends (read as fellow sufferers).We were all united in protest of the denial of the most basic human right- the right to eat! But of course we all had the courtesy and dignity to keep the protest a silent one-lest anyone come to know of our desire to eat and thereby chuck us out of the hall. I spent those times pulling my friend’s legs over her not having eaten anything and not having slept properly for a long time. (I really feel I should have told her about the cake I had for my cousin’s birthday)
And then at around 12:45 PM, it happened. No. I didn’t have food. But something better happened. And it lasted for about 5 hours. And it is something that has kept me wishing for more. All those suffering, all those pain that I went through in getting myself to sit in that place suddenly seemed to be all worth it. How was I to know that things would only get better and better from then on? How was I to know that what happened in those five hours would go a long way in determining my future? I just now said that it was all worth the pain. Now I will go one step ahead. I say that what happened there demanded all the things that I went through. And I am happy that I was there to see all of it take place.
That night I left for the Chennai Central railway station. My train was not due until the next day noon. And I didn’t have any place to stay. I just needed to spend one night in some place and I couldn’t find any. So I spent it at the station itself. And in the next blog post you will hear about my adventures with things ranging from deficiency of food to newspaper beds to non-existent criminals and bag lifters. Like you will know, it all happened in One Night @ the Chennai Central.