destination india

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

stranded at manmad

And then there was the case of being stranded in Manmad railway station.

I was not involved directly but was a mute witness to the miseries of the traveling public who rely on the railways to see them reach their destinations. This time it was the vagaries of Nature.

We are used to the vagaries of Nature. Boulders get dislodged and come rolling down the mountainside and crush the railway bogies – cutting many a journey short. It had happened with the Karanataka Express and, more recently, with the Konkan railway. Whenever we travel by train to Bangalore, we revel in the breathy taking scenario all around – the mountains standing majestically with boulders of all shapes and sizes. Some of the boulders rest on the ground – boulders of huge size which once nestled in some crevice is today in peace with the world, lying on a flat surface!!

Until a few years back, I used to travel to Bangalore practically once a year to have a darshan of Lord Balaji. There are a number of routes to reach Tirupathi and the Tirumala mountains, the abode of the Lord. I always preferred to go via Bangalore by taking one of the package tours. Sometimes I went alone, sometimes with my family and relatives. And, every time, we took in some of the other sights in and around Bangalore. In all I must have made twenty odd trips out of which twelve were continuous annual rituals. With the blessings of the Lord, I was able to perform the objective of visiting Balaji for twelve continuous years in the second week of June. I never fell sick, I never encountered disruption in traffic, I never faced any hurdle. The first package was of forty rupees, the last was around four hundred rupees!

This is not about Balaji darshan but about the pitiable state people find themselves in when the unexpected happens. I am reminded of an essay I wrote when in school – ‘the charm of the unexpected’. In real life, the unexpected does not always carry with it any charm. Experience has it that when one is in the last leg of ones journey, one relaxes weaving dreams of meeting ones near and dear ones on alighting from the train exchange pleasantries, have some snacks and move towards the comfort of ones home. If, suddenly, you realize that with five odd hours remaining to reach your destination, the train grinds to a halt and is unable to budge, what does one do? He would have, in all probability, have exhausted all his money. Any eatables that he might have been carrying would, also, have been finished. He would be at the mercy of the elements. To meet the needs of his basic survival, he would have to sell off his wrist watch or some such valuable. That is just the situation I witnessed at Manmad station.

People were literally stranded. There was heavy water logging of tracks leading to Bombay and, hence, all trains en-route were halted at intermediate stations.

I was going to Bangalore for my annual ritual and, luckily for me, the Karnataka Express arriving from Delhi was not affected. But the conditions of the stranded passengers were something I will never forget. People were lying on the platform and, inside the waiting rooms with lost expressions on their faces. Normally used to a cushy life style, some of them were at their wits end. The enterprising ones had managed to book rooms in hotels and lodges by paying exorbitant rates. Some of them took taxis, at a premium, to complete the remaining part of their journeys. Those who were unable to exercise any of these options just occupied the stations waiting for services to normalize.


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