Over the weekend I was off to Tuticorin to visit Lord Murugan at Tiruchendur. It was a very pleasant trip as I managed to meet many of my old college mates and even my teachers. But the time between I left home and reached Egmore was a story by itself.
The travel started with me leaving home a good 90 minutes before the train departure time to catch the Pearl City Express on 18 Oct at Egmore. Thanks to our Captain Vijayakanth's party rally on that day, Chennai was condemned to worst possible traffic. I took my own slow strides to walk to the nearest bus-stop, completely oblivious of the traffic chaos on the Chennai roads, and happily waited for around 10 minutes waiting for a direct (!!) bus to Egmore. After waiting for 10 long minutes, I decided that bus won't work and I should catch an auto to reach Egmore. I waved for couple of passing autos but all of them are full. Then I gathered all my courage to go to the nearest auto stand and asked for Egmore. Becos of the fact that "stand autos" are prohibitively costly. That day I didnt have a choice. I need to catch the train. The driver coolly asked for Rs200/- citing the traffic congestion. I didnt have much choice since I have already lost 15 minutes and with only 75 minutes to go in the mad traffic, I become little nervous. Got into the auto and before I could travel for a quarter of a kilometer, I realised that I am not going to catch the train as it has already taken 5 minutes to cross that distance. Then I remembered my father's advice of going to the nearest railway station and catching a train to reach Egmore would be the fastest route.
I struck a deal with the auto driver mid-way asking him to take me to Mambalam railway station instead of Egmore. Luckily, he also recognised that it is no use to drive all the way to Egmore and get Rs200 and agreed to take me to Mambalam for Rs100. Our auto drivers are very resourceful in the sense that they know the lanes, by-lanes, short-cuts and all possible ways if you completely surrender yourselves to them. My auto driver took me to the Mambalam station in a flat 25 minutes. So I am still left with 50 minutes to catch the train. I was whistling my way into the Mambalam station thinking that it is going to take another 10 minutes to go from Mambalam to Egmore on the track and what to do for the next 40 minutes at Egmore RS before the Pearl City Express starts rolling.
Alas, all my wild dreams fell flat the moment I entered the Mambalam RS. It has been many years since I travelled on a suburban train and I have to ask couple of people before even finding where to get tickets. Now at the Mambalam RS, tickets are issued on the walk over-bridge and I had the shock of my life when I saw atleast 150 people standing across 3 counters. Whom do you blame now? Myself or the maddening Diwali shoppers? Why do all these people come to Mambalam for buying their stuff? Cant they buy it close to their home? All kinds of thought cross your mind. Time available has already shrunk to 45 minutes and after seeing this Hanuman tail like queue, I understood that catching the train is becoming difficult.
I stood in the queue and for couple of minutes there was no forward movement of the queue. Your anxiety levels start increasing in those conditions and you start cursing the Government employees for their poor work culture. The queue started moving and in another 10 minutes I am out of the queue with my ticket in hand. I should appreciate the person who was issuing the ticket as people come with different ticket requirements and he patiently dishes out without any delay.
All the while, standing on the overbridge I was praying/hoping no train to Beach station passes by when I was standing in the queue. Otherwise, you have to wait for another 15 minutes to get the next train. Luck didnt run out and no train did pass through while I was waiting in the queue to get the tickets. With the ticket in hand, I walked down the stairs and stood at the platform expecting the train to come. But is it not so simple that train comes just like that. It makes you hope and pray! You start getting worries like are you waiting at the right platform, even though you know for sure that it is. You go and ask couple of people to get a confirmation. Finally, the train came and I got into the train. By then, it was already down to 30 minutes.
Trains are an efficient transport mechanism I must admit. I was at Egmore in another 10 minutes. Walked up and down the over-bridge and I managed to find my S3 compartment, I was left with hardly 12 minutes. But I cant think off what would have happened if I had chosen to continue my journey in the auto from my home to Egmore. I would have definitely missed the train. People who were travelling with me on that day were coming in after I reached the station with everybody cribbing about the Vijayakanth's rally.
Thanks to my father for telling me the Mambalam route, I made it on time and started the journey to Tuticorin. Though everybody dislikes when Father tells you to leave early to catch the train, definitely it is coming from lot of experience. Better respect it!!