Often it is difficult to recollect memories. I remember words of Sridar at the end of orientation in Delhi saying “you will go through a great transition of your life, there would be an incredible change”. His saying is coming true. The story began with a confusion after I booked the tickets to visit my family in Delhi for Eid. It was due to the fact that I have not been able to celebrate Eid for last three years with my family, every year specifically on the occasion of Eid, there was some urgent requirement and I would need to travel.
On one hand my project was very shaky and unclear at this stage.It was too early to take leave. My mentor was still in the US when I asked for the leave, after his consent I booked my tickets without knowing the protocol to inform AIF about it. On the other hand I was not comfortable enough to deal with Chennai, lot of issues and challenges that I was not able to take on. Neverthless, after having conversation with AIF and my Mentor, we decided that I will be working for the month of October without any leave, I was kind of disappointed with this decision, but at the same time felt confident after meeting my mentor who had come back now.
I somehow felt like I am not working but falling in love with my job, and there was a time when I worked for more than 15 hours, 16 hours and sometimes 24 hours consistently. The result of this love was very fruitful, my project which did not seem to be clear and practical at the beginning to work on, now was completely clear and crystal. We figured out complete timetable for every action plan in the project
I was now satisfied and ready to leave for Delhi not just to celebrate Eid, but to meet my fellow friends Greg, Sanjana, Allison, Sabina and Blessing. I knew that my family will be there forever but these friends will not be there for long and after a certain time will go back. Therefore, I planned my time in a way that neither my family nor any relative had any problem.
Train to Delhi
It took about 30 hours to reach Delhi, but honestly I did not feel tired after traveling in a sleeper class. I was again lucky enough to have good bunch of people in my compartment, they were North Indian and sharing all their stories of Chennai specially the Auto fare and food. Of all these topics were of my interests so I participated in the conversation. It was just great fun, all strange people meeting for the first time and sharing everything like they know each others for decades, and yes this was the case with one passenger, he must be 40 +, with beetle nuts in his mouth, talking in a typical North Indian rural style, he was right beside me and in the front there was one couple with a cute baby child from Kanpur, I got to know that they were living here for over two years with the family, but it did not suit them for some or many reasons. Anyways, the conversation began when this man with beetle nuts recognized the other guy from Kanpur, he identified him by recalling his school time and somehow got mingled very easily. Later on I got to know they had some common friends and studied together in a school.
It was quite interesting and exciting to see and experience a coincidence like this. I could recall mine too,
“I was in college, coming from my grandmother’s house, on my way back to Delhi I stopped the car at Petrol pump and it was almost 9 or10 in night, my mother was not feeling well so I was driving bit faster. I thought to get one pet bottle for her to drink. the moment I went to the nearby vendor shop at the Petrol pump, I heard a voice of my friend, my first college friend and it was just too shocking. She was right behind me asking for the pet bottle too. I looked at her and shouted, TUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU (YOuuuuuuuuuuuuu) , yahan kya kar ri hai (what are you doing here?) Since we didn’t meet for quite sometime because of my regular engagements in projects that I was working during college time.
Anyways, the conversation began among all of us, I remember, one guy almost of my age was from Bijnore in UP (North India). Another was Fat but very humble old lady sitting at the window, she has her links to Sindh and living in Chennai for a long time now. Another old lady was from Pune who went to Chennai to visit her daughter, she was Christian but got her daughter married to a Muslim guy because they both loved each other. Beetle nut man was from Moradabad (Place in North India) he travels frequently to Kerala and Chennai. Kanpur couple was also very humble, I don’t remember the name of the man, but yes his cute small daughter who always kept on jumping on everyone’s lap throughout the journey. She was about 4 years old baby, her name was Zara, the cutest name I always loved. The conversation was full of criticism about Food and Auto drivers and most importantly language. Mordabad man keeping fresh beetle nuts in his mouth starts the conversation, “Kerala people are Gold Freak, every where you go, you will find women with gold chains and other gold items. There is hardly any case of robbery, then switched to Chennai, first point was Auto drivers. He said, “If I ever see any auto driver in North India saying I drive auto in Chennai, I will teach him a lesson of numbers, because their meter does not have number less than Rs. 200/-. He narrated so many stories of Auto Drivers that he experienced, the beauty of his conversation was constant chewing of beetle nuts. He had I think 100 pouches, therefore after every 5 or 10 minutes taking out a new pouch.
The Kanpur guy seemed quite educated and asked about my work, since I was just listening every one, he broke my silence with couple of questions asking about my work and where do I live in Delhi etc. We build good relationship with each other in a span of 30 hours journey none of us felt tired, in fact were so fresh while deboarding the train. I could judge the faces of those who were getting off from AC coaches and those form my coach.
Kanpur guy name was Azam, he asked me if I have been to Kanpur or Lucknow, I just laughed and said, I have been to both places but earned some bitter memories during my trip there. I explained him about me and my friend when we went to Lucknow via Kanpur. I had two back to back Amritsar trips from my previous organisation and on top my closest friend decided to make a trip to Lucknow to visit our common friend. Unfortunately my friend is the laziest one in the world, I asked him to book Volvo AC coach ticket, as usual he said, it will be done and till the last moment he kept repeating this sentence, finally there was no ticket and we had to travel in UP Roadways. It was 11 in night we when boarded that half broken and damaged bus and got the at the last corner, which was a danger hit zone. There was no fortune with us after we got on to the bus, first, driver did not have any sense that there are people sitting at the back seat which is not at all comfortable but very painful and on top he was driving very rash. We were bouncing like a ball all throughout this journey. Above all, the driver forgot the way in the midnight and drove on some random trenching roads where our heads got bumped I think 100 times. We reached Kanpur at 3 pm next day, I looked at my attire and felt like I did not take showers for years. We got off at Kanpur deliberately, though we had the direct ticket to Lucknow, but I resisted and forced my friend to get another ticket for AC coach from Kanpur. We finally got AC coach after waiting for 1 and half hours. We finally reached Lucknow at 10 pm next day. We did not eat anything except chips and one pet bottle.
By the time I could talk more, we had reached to Delhi and it was the time to say good bye to all these new relatives and make a wish to see them again in some other journey. I exchanged my number with Azam the Kanpur man and he asked me to visit him sometime whenever I feel like. I nodded yes I will definitely try. This is how this memorable journey got over with some indelible memories where strangers became closest friends.
Fun was yet to come, I did not drive my motor bike for more than a month and did not feel to wait any longer. Right after I reached home, I washed my motor bike and went out to visit my college friends. We then went to our favourite restaurant to have Biryani which is now expensive than it was. The taste was degraded, the level of hygiene was not that good, I think I was expecting extra which was not at all needed.
I spent quite enough time of the day with my family, relatives sharing about my time in Chennai and as every one was concerned about my health, obvious point of discussion was food then. When I told them that I have been eating Biryani since my first day in lunch and dinner and nothing else. My mother knew how much I love Biryani, she then cooked Biryani the very next day and asked me to stay at home rather than going out with friends, but I was not ready to follow her instruction of the entire day, so spent half a day with them and then excused to go out for some work.
Train to Chennai
The train story was not as pleasant and interesting as it was before. This time, I hardly managed to catch the train, only a minute was left for the train to depart and I was still standing outside the station waiting for my brother to get my luggage. Now you will why did not I bring it with me. Well, I had upload my bike also before that, so I brought my bike before 2 hours, but suddenly there was some technical problem and I had to go to the garage to get it fixed, so it took about an hour and half. Now I reached the station and asked the person in the luggage department how to upload the bike and what will be the cost etc. I tried my best to finish all petrol in the tank, it seems that there must be half liter petrol after I looked at the needle, surprisingly it was more than 2 liter and I had to buy two water bottles without any need of water and thrown water on the ground and got petrol filled in them. It took more than 20 or 25 minutes and there was very less time. I left from there to get rickshaw for my home to get luggage but after I came out, there was no time to go home, hence called my brother to bring my bag. Fortunately I packed it early in the morning. Station was about 5-10 minutes away from my home so it was easy to get it quickly. I called my brother almost 20 times in 10 minutes to make it as quickly as he could. Finally before a minute he reached there, I handed him the bottles of petrol and did not even say bye, just ran away like crazy man. I reached at the platform and asked the TT about my seat, he said, stop searching your seat, just get on to the train, only few seconds are left now.
So it was exactly like some Bollywood film story and I became a hero finally to catch the train in time. Only missing thing was an actress, since in this entire story it was only me playing all the roles. hahahhah
After boarding the train, I was relaxed for a while, but then there was no control over my vomiting. I literally had vomit at a man standing beside the gate and he just could not say anything as my eyes turned completely red with tears. My body was shivering, I hardly managed to settle down. There were two cute young boys who brought water for me and hold me all this while. I kept vomiting periodically, after a short while house keeping guy came and took me to the doctor. I was in the last coach and doctors were in the first coach. So it was also a kind of journey inside the train. Doctors gave some medicine and I slept for sometime. Suddenly I got a call from one of my Chennai friend who also travelling in the same train. I suddenly felt so much blessed and thanked god for such a wonderful gift at a point when I was completely helpless. His name is Yuvaraj, and we were together in a company for few moths in Delhi. He lives close to Chennai railway station and after he saw me, he straight away came and said, you are not going anywhere, stay at my place, I will take you to the doctor. Better you take rest for couple of days”. I was speechless and nodded yes, after we reached, Chennai was flooded with water with heavy and continuous rain.
After few days, things turned quite positive and I got to know some interesting stories from my fellow friends specially Shilpa and Anusha who came to celebrate Diwali with their family relatives here. During the dinner with Ravi (coming CEO of AIF), we shared some of most exciting experiences and work we all have been doing so far. Shilpa you doing a great job indeed and hats off to you for living with challenges you shared and of course Anusha, your views on Mental Health issue are really worth knowing but I wish there should be some concrete action plan on National Health Mission of India.
Some of the happenings of Chennai through photos: –