Year 2002, the city in UP where you can find more number of foreigners than cows on street, the city where you can find more number of temples than chai ki dukan, the city where you can find a university bigger than some countries (sorry for exaggerating). VARANASI.
I was there to give a try to my dream of being a doctor. My life was really wonderful and full of excitement. Wake up at 5 in the morning......study for continuous 3 hours (unless pressure of inevitability comes). Breakfast around 8 and then... study. Lunch at 1 and then.... study, coaching classes from 3 to 7 and there… study. Hear Altaf Raja’s “tum to thahre pardesi” in auto (most of the time while returning from coaching) and after reaching home.... study . I loved my life there.
One of my friends was also there for preparation. We were kind of young and energetic that time and we had promised ourselves that “Kuch bhi ho….phod dena hai”. I used to visit my hometown, Faizabad, once in 2 months and our favorite train was ‘Sialdah Express”. We used to travel without ticket in general compartment at that time and every travel was around 240 minutes fear from the DooD, we call TTE.
It was 2.45 in the morning of a December night and everyone at the railway station was looking like a moving holdall (of cloths). As suggested by the old and experienced guy at the inquiry (most sought after place at railway station), I and my friend were waiting for the Sialdah express at platform number 3. I had fought a bunch of atleast 50 people to get the information about train and so I was feeling like James Bond. The air was chilling and we were having tea keeping our volume as low as possible to fight against the winter.
Suddenly, we saw “Sialdah Express” at platform 5. There were some kind of announcement on the loudspeaker but like most of the stations in India, neither the speaker nor the loudspeaker was clear. Before we could understand anything train from platform 5 started moving. We ran towards the train thinking that the inquiry has given us wrong info. Because the train had already started moving, we took the shortcut to reach the train saving our steps from the most common stuff (in India) between railway tracks.
Somehow, we managed to catch the train and had become the part of crowd in general compartment. Train was moving and after 15-20 minutes we noticed that this is not the same track which goes to Faizabad. I was surprised and so I asked an uncle standing near me “Uncle, ye train Faizbad jaegi na”. The uncle ji gave me a weird look and started shouting at me “ pagal ladke, ye Sialdah “down” hai, Faizabad Sialdah “up” jati hai. Vo train platform 3 par ane vali thi gadhe. Bevkoof kahi ke. I was surprised. In just few seconds he gave me shower of pagal, gadhe, ullu and some other words I fail to recall.
We got down from the train at next station and it was 4.30 in the morning. We were not having a ticket and the station was really small. We were only people who came out of train at that station and it was platform number 3 again. We took stairways and were moving towards platform 1.
“Kaha se aaye ho ladko? Ticket hai paas me?” a voice came from behind. A policeman covered in Khaki from head to toe was coming behind us. I and my friend saw each other and next second we found ourselves running towards main exit. The policeman was also running behind us but we were much younger than him. The second reason he could not catch us was that a guy run fastest when a policeman is behind him. We came out of station and waited for 45 min to get a lift from an uncle. He was in a big car and going to Varanasi. Situation was perfect but we left the uncle ji after 15 min, took lift from a tractor, a bullock cart and finally got a cab to reach Varanasi.
We reached Varanasi at 8 in morning. That night was a real experience for me. The chilling night, the guy in the train and the train itself. But the best part was the uncle ji who gave us lift. We left his car because he was GAY. Now please dont ask me how we came to know that he was gay.