Saturday, October 04, 2008

An hour at a railway station

An hour at a railway station might sound like an obscene amount of time... especially at five in the morning when you wouldn't really expect anyone to be around. The only people sleeping were the beggars, and they were huddled together right where they sold the tickets. The long line for the tickets had to snake around them, and everyone were thankful that the beggars were not awake - or they would have added their bit to the commotion. It was noisy - the regular announcements for the trains on the seven odd platforms, what sounded like a child crying but actually was a woman in a saree but without a blouse next to a small bag slapping her own head every now and then, the ruffle of fresh newspapers as the supplements were placed in the proper places and the pamphlets inserted, the traffic outside, and a stray dog whose bark was worse than his bite - these were ignored by the people that mattered - and the people that mattered were standing in line. Those unfortunate people who jumped the queue to get hold of the coupon booklets were yelled at, and abused by the people standing in the line. Kurla station has trains plying in different lines, and the trains running to far away stations like Kasara or Panvel are few and far between. There were many people who would miss their trains if they actually stood in line, and many got away by requesting those in the line to buy tickets for them - if they managed to do it discreetly, they saved themselves the exposure to colorful language. One man desperate to catch a particular train tried to jump a line at one counter - the guy sitting there sent him away, he went straight to the other line, claiming to have been sent from the first. Till the point of time he was trying to jump the first line, people from line 1 were yelling at him, when he went to the other line, everyone in line 1 became dead silent, immune to his accusations, because now it was the problem of those in line 2. Where did I fit in? Standing impatiently in the longer and slower moving line, which was the first one, and hoping that I would get a ticket in time to catch my train. I had come in early so that this would be easy. There was one man who probably had done this a few times before. He came up to me discreetly, joined in the line right behind me, and removed a wad of crisp hundred rupee notes from his pocket. I was wondering which bank he had robbed this early in the morning, he was travelling to Thane, and when the man behind me protested, he said he was in the line and had to run to the toilet. Maybe someday, it was a perfect strategy for me to use. The line in front of me dwindled slowly, it was finally my turn, and I purchased my ticket, and triumphantly walked out of the station for a smoke.
It wasn't five minutes before I got a call. A fellow traveller would take a little more time... he asked me if it was possible for me to buy a ticket for him.

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