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The Unforgettable Journey

The Unforgettable Journey

Jhelum Express rolled into Gwalior station very slowly. The train stopped and we expected Anil and his friend Bapat to enter the train. We got down near the entrance to look for them, but there was no sight of them. A little worry was seen on our faces as the train was to  wait at Gwalior station only for about five minutes. In fact, the trains never leave a station at the specified time, they always stay at the station for a longer time. We just hoped so. But that Anil and his friend did not show up for about three minutes, we expected the worst things that could have happened. Did they meet with an accident on way to the station ? The worst imaginations always crept in our minds. The only reason that they could not have reached was an accident – there could not be any  other reason, we thought. Shall we get down at Gwalior ? Our reservation for the journey  from Gwalior to Pathankot was with Anil . It was not difficult to access the tickets. We could have called him on our mobile phones to get it- but the question , why they have not come to the station, was standing like a rock to us. 

I was deeply thinking the reason, when I remembered that Anil always said that  Bapat takes everything very lightly – he never turned up during get togethers in time. May be , that could be the reason, but looked impossible for missing the train during his laziness. 

A  minute was left before the train was to leave Gwalior station. Soon we heard the Guard blowing his sharp whistle followed by train whistle showing that the train was ready to leave.

We were still debating our move – whether to continue to board the train or to leave the train to find out the reason as to why Anil had not been able to reach the station, when desperately breathing hard Anil and Bapat entered the train along with their baggage. You can well imagine how their wives were furious at them. Just ignoring their displeasure, Anil said that they had experienced terrifying moments. The train had already rolled out of the station. We all had a sigh of relief that our journey has begun although with desperation. We were very keen to know the reason of their delay.

“I am not a drunkard” said Anil. After hearing this loud conversation, other passengers looked very suspiciously towards Anil and all of us. We saw that other passengers were one young girl, whom men would like to flirt, one old Parsi couple with their traditional dress, one young man who was already impressed with the girl and one lone person , who was least concerned with his surrounding, who was deeply interested in his novel. 

Looking at the Parsi man, I felt that his face sounded familiar to me.  On provoking my mind, I felt, could he be  my school classmate?  Yes, he was and his name was Russi,  I  remembered. I could not resist asking his name.

“ Pardiwala”, he said. 

 He looked so much like my friend Russi.  Just to extend the conversation, I told him that he looked like my school friend Rusi. 

 Pardiwala looked surprisingly  at me and said “ I am Rusi , changed my name from Rusi to Pardiwala !!

 I was utterly surprised as to how a man can change his name. But here he is, having changed his name from Russi to Pardiwala. 

 “I could not place you” uttered Russi . 

“ I am Anil, we were together in class tenth in Jivajirao Intermediate College in Gwalior. “ I tried to remind him .  

“Oh yes, I remember you, but for your baldness depicts you differently. “ I was reminded of my hair free top ! 

After this , Pardiwala was a part of our active conversation till Delhi. 

The young man kept looking at the young girl reminded me of the Arjuna looking at the eye of the bird.  The girl had her hand covering her face and was totally unaware of surroundings. 

“ ya, you were not a drunkard”, after that what? “ Dilip said.

 I came back to reality and continued   “ But since we  were going on a vacation, I thought we could use  drinks along with Bapat”, knowing fully well that Dilip does not enjoy the drinks, but at the same time, he would not refuse it for the sake of company.

 “ So, I brought a bottle of Johny Walker Black Lebel in my bag” , which  reminded of the taste of whisky melting in my mouth. 

Having said Good Bye to my family members at Gwalior, we started for the station. 

“Good half an hour of margin before the train arrives”, I played safe.

Gwalior station has three enterances. We chose the Birlanagar gate, which would   place us near our compartment A -1 . Having entered the gate, I saw a lot of police at the station.  One cop would ensure that no one escaped from their attention. An X ray machine was installed which gave an image of the contents of passenger bags on a computer.  The cop near X ray machine appeared thoroughly bored examining the contents of bags, but he was doing it  as a part of his duties. The passenger bags were routinely being checked without finding anything which would excite the cops. 

This was totally new at Gwalior station. After I put my bag on the belt , I kept looking at the cop, who was looking at the contents of the bag. The bag emerged and I picked it up hurriedly and started walking fast. Bapat also collected his bags. As we started, the cop asked us to stop .  Bapat having realised that whisky bottle was seen by the cop, he marched forward, pushing me away from him,  and spoke to policeman.

” What is that”  asked Bapat confidently to the cop. 

“ Open your bag” the cop said with authority. 

Having known that Whisky bottle was in my bag, he opened his bag to the cop. I kept  walking fast away from the scene.  Not finding a bottle in Bapat’s bag, he looked for me and finding that I was far away, he rushed toward me and asked me to halt.   Having been caught by police, I nervously asked him what the matter was. He asked me to come to the baggage checking machine. The cop, sitting in a chair asked me to open my bag. I nervously opened it. Having seen the bottle, the sleepy cop got excited.  

“ Do you have a permit for the drink “ He asked me.  I never knew one would need permit to drink.

“ No” was my answer.“ I am going on a vacation and would enjoy the whisky” I tried to give an explanation . 

“ You can not carry it in the train. “ the cop explained. 

“ If it was a sealed bottle, I am permitted to allow it, but your bottle is open.” he educated me. “ Please  carry the bottle to another office”.

 I heard an railway announcement that Jhelum Express would be shortly arriving on Platform 2, which means that line has been cleared for the train to reach the station.

“ Which office” I said , worried that train would arrive soon.

“ At the end of this platform” , he said with little  interest in continuing to talk to me. 

“Could it be against the law if I left the bottle for policeman ?” I was thinking. Catching the train was of utmost importance to me.

“I have a train to catch, I am prepared to leave the bottle with you” I offered, knowing fully that the drinks were worth almost Rs 2300. 

“Please go to the office  with my assistant”  he said it with authority.

I had no option, but to leave with the co . We were at the office in  almost three minutes. Those three minutes appeared to me like three hours. The cop, accompanying  me explained to the senior looking cop about the case. 

I heard railway announcement that Jhelum Express has arrived on platform number 2.  

“ Do you have a permit to carry the liquor” senior cop asked me.

“ No, but I am prepared to leave the bottle, I have to catch a train which has already arrived”, I said nervously.

“ If the bottle was sealed, I would permit it, but since the bottle is open, it is not permitted in the train” he said. 

“ I am fully aware of this.” I said , losing patience.

“ Then why did you not follow the rules” he asked me.

I cursed myself. The senior cop looked at his assistance asked him to note down my details. 

“ What details ? “ I asked further losing my patience.

“ Your name” said the cop.

“ My name is Anil’ I said quickly. “ Now may I go ?”

“ Address” , the cop asked me.

I told him my address. He kept writing my address  very neatly taking time. 

“ Now you empty the bottle” he finally said. I almost did it.  

“ Not here” he barked. “ Little distance away” 

I was about to empty the bottle, when the cop stopped me. 

“ Let me take a picture’ he said. He went to find out his Mobile and came back after what appeared to me like hours. 

When he was ready to take a picture, he nodded and I emptied the bottle on the ground. 

“ Please discard the bottle in blue dust bin “, he said.

“Attention, for passengers of Jhelum Express. The train will start soon. Please occupy your seats. It is dangerous to board a running train”. I was horrified  to hear the railway announcement.

I threw the bottle in dust bin and rushed towards the staircase for platform  number 2. Keeping pace with an athaletic runner, I marched past all the crowds and tried to reach my compartment.

The guard was already in the compartment and whistled a long tune . Green flags were waving at the engine and Guard. And the train began to slowly move. 

And that’s the time when I reached our compartment.

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