At a conference with my colleague at Mathura – A Sojourn

The term had been hectic and it was a welcome change to get away to attend a conference. Two colleagues with similar likes and dislikes reached the station at Bombay Central. The agent supposedly confirmed the tickets, which were ‘reservation against cancellation’. But, the apprehension could melt away only on seeing the names in the list. Also, one had to find out which was the compartment that one had to board and which were the berths allotted.
There were several lists put up. Not used to travelling by the railways, we had to decode the lists. There was a huge crowd around the notice board and we had to jump over the heads of several and crane our necks in an attempt to decipher what is written. Ultimately, somebody took pity on the two miniscule living forms, jumping up and down to read the lists and helped in locating the right one.
Having won a minor battle, we now proceeded to the compartment. Miraculously, the train arrived on time. We attempted to settle down with our luggage. There were two other couples with their tiny brats. Two were toddlers and the third was a six-year-old ‘wise guy’. Even as one of us was trying to push the luggage under the berth, he unlocked the seat from its vertical position and let it land on the back. Fortunately, it was pushed back before the back could break!
We thanked God for the small mercies and settled down. The father was profusely apologetic and in an attempt to let us know how deeply he felt about it all, he even smacked the bottom of the son a couple of times. We had to interfere and reassure the father that everything is quite all right. There are no bones broken and we are indeed tough ladies inspite of the delicate appearances.
The train started on time another of the miracles or so we thought at that time. We settled down to read for a while when one of the toddlers took a liking for me. He gave one of those divine smiles and climbed up on to my lap. Instinctively, the mother in me was awakened and I decided to chat with the chap. That was not to be. He wanted to talk and I was to listen. How can a teacher who earns the living by talking understand this? The result was that he pinched me so hard that my arm turned shades of blue!! This time it was the turn of both the mother and father to apologize and the brat was made to hold his ears as an apologetic gesture. I consoled myself that it was the pranks of an innocent child – ‘God incarnate’ as Hindus believe.
Soon dinner was served on the train and we settled down to sleep. The little ‘angels’ decided to show their true colours. They took turns in keeping the compartment awake. Covering the ears and face with the blanket would not help in muffling the sounds. Finally, we reconciled ourselves to staying awake.
In the process, as if to sympathize with our predicament, the train slowed down. The winter cold that could not penetrate the air-conditioned coach successfully dampened our spirits. We finally, reached our destination about 30 minutes behind schedule worn out and fatigued. We looked forward to a warm bath and a cup of hot tea to pep us up. But, fate had ordained something else for us.
The organizers who were to meet us at the station were nowhere to be seen. Two thin ladies from the sunny Mumbai braved the cold weather and managed to finally reach the venue in an autorickshaw. The teeth were chattering as the auto made its way over the terrain that appeared to have been a road sometime in the distant past! The run of miracles did not seem to end here. The organizers did not know where we were to be put up! After a brief discussion, they packed us off to a venue that appeared to belong to the 18th century. In a temperature of around 5degree Celsius, the room allotted to us appeared like a cold storage. There was no hot water facility. No tea either hot or lukewarm. The door could not be locked. The people in this town did not believe in knocking before barging in. The authorities informed us, that it was a very safe place and burglary was unheard of in that town. May be up to that point it was. But, there can always be a first time for everything! We could take no more. After a slight altercation and few raised voices, we were taken to a place that had two comfortable beds. Although the bathroom appeared to be an after thought, there was hot water, hot tea was brought to the room on request and as a bonus STD [straight trunk dialing] facilities were available too.
The conference was like any other, a place to interact and socialize. The days flew past and it was time to leave. The day of the departure dawned. The weather was foggy. The trains were all running behind schedule. Our train was expected to arrive three hours late on the platform number two. Just 10 minutes before the arrival time, it was announced that the train would be arriving on the platform number four instead of the earlier mentioned one. We picked up our luggage and ran up to the relevant platform crossing the tracks as there was no time to climb over the overhead bridge. Mercifully, there were no trains to block our get away!! When the train pulled into the platform we had barely managed to catch our breath!! Other than this initial annoyance, the return journey appeared to be quite uneventful.
Having reached home safe after a short absence, I realized that the members of the family might not appreciate my presence but definitely feel my absence.

Published by Dr. Pramila Kudva

I am a teacher educator currently worrking as a Principal of a reputed school in North Mumbai, have more than 30 years of experience, with several publications to my credit and have authored a book -"From chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching.

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