My passion for slumber has landed me in trouble several times. Because of my tendency to catch a snooze after the alarm has rung, I have been late to class, for exams, for work, almost missed a flight – but the most memorable one was when I actually managed to miss my station and had to get off at another one 34 km away (about 22 miles) – during a train journey.
Just 22 miles? Sure doesn’t seem like much – unless you are ascertained of the facts surrounding this ‘little’ mistake. I was coming home from College for the holidays – a train trip of around 349 km (217 miles). I boarded the train at around 6 in the evening and I was supposed to reach my destination by around 3:30 am.
What with exams just getting over, and me pulling all-nighters to cram for them, I was very weary that evening – the perfect recipe for a mini-disaster – though little did I know it then. I was the only one among my friends who had an overnight journey to get home. So, though I had my friends with me for the first 3 hours of the journey, after that I was all alone.
As I had an overnight journey, I had booked myself a berth on the train. Once my friends had left, I comfortably stretched out on my allotted berth and got out my Walkman to listen to some music. I was fairly certain that I could stay awake till I reached my destination – after all I was a veteran traveller by trains. And even if I did fall asleep, I was confident that I would manage to wake up, although I didn’t have anything to use as an alarm. With the train bumping and rolling over the rails, I didn’t have much hope of getting a comfortable rest either.
I managed to fall asleep within another half an hour or so, then waking every hour and checking my watch and the window to ensure that my station hadn’t arrived yet. The last time I woke was around 2:45am. And I should have been sensible and sat up right then and waited out for the 45 minute or so till my station arrived. But no, I didn’t want to be sensible, and I simply had to get a few more minutes of sleep.
Well, you guessed it – the minutes rolled into an hour – and when I finally woke up, it was 4 am 🙂
Terrified, I quickly climbed down from my berth and started looking out of the window. In the pitch dark outside, how on earth was I supposed to know whether my station had already come and gone? I finally resorted to asking an elderly man who was nearby – “Sir, Do you know which station we just left?”. And the answer left me quaking. We had already left the previous station (which was 1 station after the one I was supposed to get off) half an hour ago, and we would be at the next place in another half an hour.
Great! My uncle would be waiting to pick me at that station and I had no way of letting him know that I was still on the train and zooming away to some other place. I didn’t even know where I was going to get off, thanks to never having travelled anywhere else except between College and home.
Soon, we were at the next station (which I was praying would be a large one with all the facilities), and I disembarked. The Lord answered one of my prayers – the station was certainly large. Unfortunately, all the shops and telephone booths were closed and the only telephone available was at the Station Master’s room. And by now, I knew that uncle would now be going mad with worry as I had not got off at the correct station and neither had I informed them about my whereabouts.
So, my first quest was for some way to let my family know that I was safe and would get back by the next train. I marched into the Station Master’s room to let him know of my predicament and ask him to let me use the telephone. In was even willing to pay him for the use of the phone. Unfortunately, he said some rubbish about not being able to place any calls outside. Till this date, I don’t know whether he was bluffing or not. Though he did say that the telephone booths would open by 6am. Also, being a Sunday, the next train available back home was only at 8 in the morning.
So, there went my only chance at letting the folks know back home. Never else had I really felt the keen need for a cell phone. At least I wouldn’t be at the mercy of others just to make a phone call.
To be honest, I was only worried for my family who would be worried sick about me. I wasn’t particularly worried for myself. I knew I was pretty safe in the Station, as long as it was moderately crowded, and I made sure to sit under a light and close to the Station master’s room. It was beginning to feel like a nice adventure – me stranded in the middle of nowhere (as far as I was concerned) 🙂
Since there was nothing more I could do that night, I decided to settle down with my bags on a bench and watch the other passengers around me. There was a large Muslim family, all babbling together, with little kids in shoes that lit up in red when they ran. I kept watching the kids’ antics till their train arrived. After that there weren’t too many people around – just the occasional family or two walking about trying to keep warm.
The hours rolled by as I tried to settle down with a book. Before long, it was 6 am and time for me to make that phone call. As expected, people were frantic and calls had zoomed across various relatives’ places by then inquiring about my whereabouts. And things calmed down only after I informed them that I’d be returning by the next train back.
And being a Sunday, trains took their own sweet time getting about, and I was on my way back by 9 am. Within half an hour I reached my station, and made sure that I got off at the right place this time 🙂
All in all, I would say that my adventure was an act of divine providence, for soon I got my very own cell phone. In the light of this incident and the worry I had given my relatives, my parents finally got me a cell phone :D.