Random Discussion Thread for Late Night Owls and Early Morning Worshippers 01-01-2015

Part 1

It was a fine winter evening, the traffic was light and I'd reached the station well ahead of time. I paid the autowallah, climbed the short flight of stairs and found myself on the platform, swamped with the sights, smells and sounds of the usual livelness of a railway station. Porters carrying heavy bags and hurrying after passengers, people seeing their loved ones off, hawkers trying to sell almost-stale food and the strangely familiar railway jingle followed by a strangely sweet, yet indisputably electronic, female voice announcing recent arrivals and scheduled departures.

My train wasn't due to arrive for at least another half hour... provided it was running on time and not delayed horribly, as it often was. Currently, the platform where my train was expected was occupied by an express train, one that connected people to a big metro city and was easily the most important train of the day. After handing over my heavy bag to the smiling guy at the cloakroom, I sauntered towards the notice boards to take a look at the charts. I had a confirmed ticket to my destination and I wanted to double check my berth allotment.

The notice board was smack in the middle of the platform, almost, but not quite directly, below one of the several mercury vapour lamps that lit the place. Despite being close to a source of light, the notice board itself was not very well lit as the two small fluorescent lamps supposed were not lit. Finding my name on the chart, therefore, involved much squinting and the use of the mobile camera's flash as an improvised torch. I found my name listed against coach S7 and the berth allotted to me was 13. The whole activity took about 15 mins and I still had the better part of a half hour to kill, so I walked towards the enquiry desk, hoping to find out when exactly the train would arrive.

The visibly irritated balding 40-something man behind the desk gave me news that was less than encouraging. He told me that due to a technical fault, my train was delayed by more than 4 hours and it was expected to arrive at 2300 hrs. Dejected, I walked away, looking at the huge clock near the Station Master's office... the hands showed a quarter past 7. I adjusted my own wrist watch and thought about how best to kill 4 hours at the station.

The first thought to cross my mind was to find a quiet, well lit bench and finish reading the book I had in my bag. But since said bag was deposited in the cloakroom, I ruled that out. Next on my mind was pet-pooja and the unexpected delay mean that I could stepped out of the station for supper, which meant that I could avoid suffering from an upset stomach by eating what passed for meals in trains and at the railway stations. Since it was quite early and I was not particularly hungry, so I decided to take a short walk and then have a snack rather than supper proper before returning to the station. It was a little past 9 when I stepped onto platform one again. The big-metro express had long since departed and there was markedly less activity on the platform. The air temperature had dropped as well, and I could sense a distinct chill. I was dressed in a cotton T-Shirt and jeans. I had a jacket on when I left, but I'd stuffed it in the bag, since it wasn't particularly cold that evening. A continued walking on the platform and towards the cloakroom, walking past the few shops that were still open: a pustak bhandar, a snack stall and small shop selling the stale looking local savories. There were a dozen people out and about on the platform, waiting, I guessed for the same train as me or perhaps the last 1 AM passenger.

As I continued walking there was a chaiwallah selling tea in earthen cups or to use local parlance kullad. It was pretty cold and a hot cup of chai seemed to be just what I needed. I stopped by the bench where he sat, and bought a cup. I stood there sipping piping hot tea on a cold winter night, as he fumbled with the change. The chaiwallah asked me if I was waiting for the 1AM passenger, still counting coins. I replied in the negative and told him I was being forced to wait out in the cold for a train, that should have been here around 8, by a cruel twist of fate.

He handed over the change, smiled and made some generic remark about uparwale ke karam before starting to walk away. As he turned, I asked him if he knew where on the platform coach S7 would arrive. He stopped, turned around and asked me to repeat the coach number. I told him, slowly and clearly this time "S7", holding up 7 fingers. He looked at me with wide eyes and after a short pause mumbled he wasn't sure and walked away without another word. I didn't think much of this, stood around, finished my chai and continued my towards the cloakroom.

I claimed my luggage from the cloakroom at 9.15 and the person manning it was glad to shut shop and hurry along home. As I walked away, I asked him about coach S7's position. He paused for a while, as if consulting a mental map of coach arrangement relative to the locomotive, and answered that he wasn't sure. He told me S1 to S6 were always contiguous, starting with S1 that was first coach and was just behind the loco. These 6 coaches were usually followed by the 2AC and 3AC coaches and the occasional first-class coach that would be attached to the train if a minister were travelling on it. After these he said, were rest of the sleeper coaches and the general compartments. I thanked him and walked further along the platform. He was kind enough to indicate that S6 would usually arrive near a bench that was not too far from the notice board.

I sat myself down on the bench that the cloakroom fellow had pointed to. It was just a few feet away from the notice board. It was almost 9.30 and I had a solid hour and a half before my train was expected. I reached into my bag, pulled out the jacket and wore it. Even with the jacked, it was pretty cold. I also pulled out the book that I was reading. The bench, unlike the notice board, was well lit and I was able to get a lot of reading done while sitting on that bench. I was quite absorbed my book and when I finally looked up at the clock opposite the Station Master's office, the needles showed 10.45. I put the book back in my back, stretched my arms and got up from the bench. No sooner than I'd done this, the familiar railway jingle played, followed by the electonic voice announcing the impending arrival of my train. Finally! I thought.

/r/india Thread