Catching the Pushpak

Pushpak is not a bird, but a train. I almost successfully ruined my record of never having missed a train despite trying to do so each time I have travelled alone. In the story ahead, I will try to narrate you the sequence of events that led to me almost missing yet just managing to get on board the Pushpak Express. Enjoy…   🙂

Date: 26th February 2010

7:24am: After snoozing my morning alarm twice in a subconscious state, I finally heard and registered that it was my mobile phone’s ring and not the Nokia tune I composed in my brain. “Haan main uth gaya hu… nai yaar… I was about to enter the bathroom… Yes I will… cya.” That was me lying to my wife. Actually I had to. She is aware of my ‘almost missed the train’ stories and was righteously worried.

8:00am: The spring in me had to function really well. Exactly 28 min after my wife’s call (yes I slept another 5 min after she called), I was all ready and about to leave my home. 5 minutes to go down, 25 min to go to Thane station, 5 min to punch the coupon, another 5 min to catch the local and then 30 min to Kalyan station. Meaning exactly at 9:10 am, I’d have been standing at the platform No. 4 of Kalyan station, waiting for Pushpak express. The scheduled arrival of the train was 9:12am. I had also called my friend to drop me to the station on a bike to save those additional precious few minutes. The plan was perfectly in order and, what you say as a slang, “Cut to Cut”.

8:35am: Let me remind you, you are on Mayur’s Blog and reading about MY story. So every thing here IS INDEED cut to cut. But I cant say the same thing about my life. Meaning we met traffic on our way to station. Forget saving, we ended up losing 3 minutes. Add to that, the coupon counter was crowded. So it took me another 5 minutes to punch the coupons. In the process, I lost the 8:35 slow local to Kalyan, which I was originally scheduled to catch. Since I had to recover the lost time, I thought if I could catch the fast local to Badlapur from platform 5 instead of the next slow Kalyan local at 8:40 from platform 2. Par wo Kehte hai na, jab gidhad ki maut aati hai to sheher ki taraf bhagta hai. Aur main bhaga bheed ki taraf. The foot over bridge was so over crowded, I ended up being caught on it, in the middle of the two platforms, haplessly watching both trains depart. I cant describe you the agony here. I can only laugh.

8:45am: 10 minutes lost. Crucial 10 minutes lost!!! The next fast local on platform number 5 was 9:03am fast train to Ambarnath. There was no way I could hope that it ran ahead of Pushpak (since they were supposed to run on the same track). The fastest a slow train could ply between Thane and Kalyan was 25 min. I still had 2 minutes safety margin. Considering this and hoping that there was a next train from Platform 2, I muscled my way back only to read the next train was at 8:48am AND going only to Dombivli. And then I looked up… and then down… and then sideways. Gosh! I was sure to miss my train. (For those people who dont know, Dombivli is 2 stations before Kalyan. Meaning now there was no way I could reach Kalyan before Pushpak express reached there.)

8:48am: I called my wife, “Shayad meri train chhutne wali hai… arre nai yaar… naaaa! Sab thik ho jata agar… forget it. Dont worry, I’ll be there.” Another 2 minutes went off and there was no sign of the Dombivli local train. I was now getting increasingly nervous. I had no idea if I was going to make it. If I managed to miss the train, I had two option, one was to take a flight (at INR 10,000 it was a very costly option) or to board the next train (at 1:30pm) and travel in an unreserved compartment. I just prayed for a miracle.

9:10am: Getting out of a terminating local in Dombivli in the morning rush hour is like fighting the old British rulers in their own backyard. It is THAT difficult. But I could not afford to lose time and energy both. “Jai Bajarang Bali” I decided to jump and cross tracks from the wrong way and get to the adjoining platform. Within seconds I was standing below the indicator. It read the “9:16, A, F12” meaning the next local was a fast local train to Ambarnath departing at 9:16am. And Pushpak’s departure timing in Kalyan was 9:15am. “Cut to Cut”, is what you call it?

9:13am: I called my wife again. I have always found it very soothing to talk to her when my a** is on fire. Because she starts laughing, whose intensity becomes the indicator of my performance. Anyway, in the background the lady was announcing the commuters on Platform number 4 to stand away from the border line as a fast train was about to pass. We both uselessly prayed, I dont know for what. May be we were hoping that the train was not Pushpak. And a train approached with vehemence & ferocity.  And it WAS Pushpak Express. Sigh! How does it feel when the train you want to catch actually rumbles in front of your eyes while you hopelessly watch? Ask me.

9:16am: I was now feeling like a tail ender batsman on whom lied India’s world cup hopes. I had to hit a six of the last ball, whereas I was not even confident of connecting with the ball. And I was hopelessly hoping for the guy to bowl 6 no or wide balls. But what option did I have? I decided to take a chance and board the Ambarnath local train. My circus had come to an end. Now only god could help. No doubt I had my favourite Ganapati Bappa on my finger tips, my lips, in my brain and all over the body.

9:21am: Still in the train, I was getting desperate. The equation was tough. Pushpak had to stop for 10, or at least 8 minutes on Kalyan station for me to have a real chance. The probability was very low, since the scheduled halt was never more than 4 minutes. Moreover there was one more catch. The express and fast local trains normally travel on the same track, and so take the same platform most of the times. By this time the train would have reached the platform4, I thought. So I hoped that if at all Pushpak had not departed, my local train had to take a different platform (possibly platform 5) for me to have a real chance. It all became the game of probabilities.

9:25am: My local train slowly chugged on to Kalyan station. Since it was crowded, I couldn’t figure out which platform it was taking. The relative ease of the driver was very disturbing for me. Had Pushpak left? Were we going on platform 4 or 5? I didn’t want to think. Who would want to take a choice between spending big money and be saved from the beating down from wife and mother OR take a 13 hrs journey in an unreserved compartment and then face an angry wife? The choice was difficult to make, especially when I was standing on the foot board with my haver sack tugged behind and eager to jump down.

9:26am: I got down amidst the chaos not knowing which platform it was, only to realise that the local had parked itself on platform no. 5. That was a good news, meaning there might be a train standing on the other side. I swiftly squeezed myself between some people ahead and bulldozed the others who refused to acknowledge the courtesy to reach platform no. 4. I could see a train standing from distance. It had started moving slowly, very slowly. I ran towards it. I could slightly imagine what was written on the instruction board. “2533 Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Lucknow Pu… PUSHPAKKKKK!!!” Yessss! I made it!

9:28am: My wife got a call on her mobile. “Hello… Mil gayi train. Haan haan mil gayi… ufff! Ya ya… achha baba I’ll be careful… Pata nahi S9 ya S10 hai aur muze S4 mein jana hai. Dont worry I’ll go…” I finally caught the Pushpak and made it to Bhopal. Holi was great.

Hope you enjoyed reading.  🙂