I had always known about these two important Murphy's laws of the Indian Railways:
- Whenever you reach the station on time the train will always start late; and whenever you reach the station two minutes late, the train would have left on time.
- The cost of any meal on the train is inversely proportional to its taste.
- The coach that you must board will be coming on an another train at an unearthly hour
- When noxious vapours are let loose from commuters it is better to be far from the madding growl
It all happened when a big group of us, with fervid aspirations of historic events goading, landed in the same station to catch the Gaur Express from Pakur to Sealdah. When the train arrived everyone got into their coaches except that four of us couldn't find coach A1 and another two who couldn't find coach B1. In a desperate frenzy of searching we were finally accosted by a ticket-collector who said that our coaches would arrive on the next train!
The next train happened to be the Kanchenkanya Express, which was supposed to arrive at 2.40 am! So we patiently waited from 11.55 pm, when the Gaur Express left, till 3.00 am when the Kanchenkanya actually came. And when it did come, we feverishly spotted the A1 and B1 coaches, with alert eagle-eyes, in the very front. We ran with all our baggage, like marines on a weight drill, crossing some 25 coaches to board before the train left. We just about made it! Then, to our shock somebody was already sleeping in our berths! Checking it out with the attender we discovered that we were in the wrong A1 and B1. Can you imagine that -- two A1 coaches and two B1 coaches on the same train! The one we were supposed to board, the vestigial coaches of the Gaur Express, were now the last bogies on this train. We had to wait till Rampurhat, to get back and run to the last compartments. So we planned not to wait till Rampurhat and walk thru the compartments as far as we could, thru the narrow aisles of an obstacle course, of hands and feets of sleeping passengers sticking out. Eventually, in the end we made it to our coach at 5.00 am.
The whole episode had the rigours of an extreme Mossad Training. We were made subject to mephitic and noxious emanations from other fellow travelers and we survived. We were tested to the extremes of sleep deprivation and still maintained our coordination. We were made to do the long distance weight drill of marines and we proved our stamina. We had to slither through an obstacle course, in the aisles and caused no collateral damage. In the end we felt God had a purpose behind all of this: "When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land... So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness..." (Exodus 13: 17-18)
This is a tribute to my partners in horizontal hilarity: Mr Raja McGee (Principal CBS), Mr Sandip Sarkar (Headmaster, Lee Collins), Mrs Asha Paul (Supdt., Lee Memorial), Mrs Sanjukta Duloi (Manager/Secretary, Lee Memorial), Mrs Swarupa Mondol (Headmistress, Lee Memorial).