Nothing about it was easy. Schedules, permissions, availabilities, time, money… nothing. With time I have come to realise that I am not just strong-willed, I am rigid. Once I decide that I want something, there are no two ways about it. So, since I had decided on that trip, I just had to make it. But don’t get me wrong – it was not for my ego. It was only about the one thing that mattered to me at that point. The one person. The one relationship.
Friends on campus and friends from back home were a big support. The ones here on campus a tad bit more because I almost needed people to look me in the eye and tell me that I would be fine doing it. I needed to borrow the confidence to begin the first leg.
So I made a few bookings, Subhadip made some too, and I was ready to leave on a jet plane. Just that the plane was a couple of hundred kilometres away.
It was a Thursday evening when I was tossing between getting excited, being anxious, packing, and studying for a test. At 9:00 p.m. that night we received a mail saying that there won’t be only one test the following morning. There would be two. That fucked my plans. It meant I needed to study a little more, take a cab a little late, hope to get a bus without any wait, and essentially keep running until I reached Mumbai airport.
I did study a little more. I wrote the tests like I had to catch a flight ‘coz I literally had to catch a flight. Ended up overlooking a few questions in the process. Those were the easy questions from the economics section. Oh how I almost regretted that bit later!
My cab to the city was already waiting when I moved out of the academic block. So I ran (please note that every time I mention the words run/ran in this post, I imply their literal meaning.) to the hostel to pick my bag and get going.
It was around 1:05 p.m. when I reached Aundh to catch a bus to Mumbai. I was told to take a Borivali Shivneri which is the quickest bus to get to the airport. A Shivneri was expected at 1:15 p.m. My heart was pounding but I was happy to know that I will get the right bus in time. But that bus turned out to be heading towards Dadar. Wrong destination. So I waited more. And a little more. Some more. It was 2:25 p.m. My flight was at around 7 p.m. I was losing it. That’s when a guy from Neeta Volvo approached me. It’s this slow, popular, private bus service between Pune and Mumbai. Since I had no choice at that point, I bought a ticket and sat in his shuttle which would take me to the bus which would leave Pune at 2:50 p.m. At Wakad (on the outskirts of Pune), it was 3:00 p.m. already and there were no signs of the driver. I think I would have died of anxiety at that point. Right then the bus moved and I released a sigh of relief. But I did it too soon. A pit stop in just 25 minutes. Driver got off saying “15 minutes”. 25 passed with no signs of the driver again. That’s when a girl got off her seat, went to the driver’s seat, and honked till the dead rose. The bus moved again. I could not rest again for the entire journey. I think I looked at my watch every 15 minutes. Even after entering Mumbai it was taking forever to reach the airport. Finally I was at Parla (Ville Parle) at 6:20 p.m. The girl who had honked earlier also got off with me. She turned out to be from a sister college. She was taking a flight to Ahmedabad at the same time as me. The airport was too close for an auto to agree to take us in, but it was the longest walk ever. So we both ran.
I did not have the time to look around and feel the place. My eyes were just searching for my flight on the information boards. It was delayed. I was not sure if that brought relief or further discomfort. But it certainly gave me time to grab my first bite of food for the day. I made a couple of relevant phone calls to update the respective people about my status. Then took out my laptop to get some work done since it was not a vacation I was going for. But I realised that all the running around had exhausted me more than I felt.
The flight was ready to take off. The crew demonstrated the customary safety module. It was the first time I heard about what to do if the plane crashed over water. I had been alone on planes before, but never at night, and never like that. ‘Scared’ would never describe how I felt. But since I was also tired, I slept for a while. Mumbai-Kolkata takes longer than Pune-Delhi, so I started feeling restless after the two hours that I was used to spending inside an aircraft.
We finally landed. Traffic in the city was bad, so Subhadip got a little stuck on the way. Anyway I am jinxed with the conveyor belts and luggage at airports. I always have to be the last one out. So I didn’t have to wait for Subhadip too long.
The taxi ride was pretty long since the airport is kinda far from Howrah which is the area where he lives. I am forgetting the exact name of the locality. It was funny, but he showed me whatever little he could show me of Cal in the dark. That was followed by a comfortable home that I was given to rest for the night. It was already midnight by then. I had to leave his place by 5:20 a.m. the next morning for my train at 6:00 a.m. But I had to stay up a little longer to make sure I looked nicer for the person for whom I was doing all this. Could not have reached there looking like a mess. I had not found any time to do all that stuff earlier. So by the time I slept it was around 2 a.m.
Subhadip’s mom was the sweetest person that morning to give me breakast WITH meetha at that unearthly hour. The taxi ride to the station was much shorter since we only had to cross the Howrah Bridge. THE bridge. I forgot to mention – it was awesome seeing all the movie stuff first hand. Everything from Mumbai taxis to the Howrah bridge. Everything! I now feel that I had a great time doing all that. But that time I was on a mission. So I was plain numb.
The train was on time. I had a window seat. Subhadip confirmed that I had decent people sitting next to me. I was fine. Atul, a friend of S’s was also on the train. He was supposed to escort me to my final destination. A couple of SMSs and there he was with a big bouquet of red roses by my seat! It was the highest point of this trip. You have to be Subhadip or Atul or one of the strangers from that compartment of the train to know how wide a smile I had on my face. I really cannot express in words how happy it made me.
The train left the platform, and about 4.5-5 hours later, I was at Jamshedpur. My destination was a little too close from the station for me to be patient any longer. But I behaved myself, and sat in the auto that took us to XL.
I cannot be writing about the three days that I spent there. I don’t think I want to. Yes, there is nothing of that I can share.
The train to Kolkata was also at 6:00 a.m. I again had a window seat. I watched him walk away.
I slept on the train, I slept in the taxi, I slept in the lounge at the airport, I slept on the delayed plane, and I slept in a friend’s family’s home. The next morning I slept on the Volvo from Mumbai. And then I slept through the seminar in college that day. The return journey was just as eventful (or uneventful) as the one while going to Jamshedpur. It didn’t go as planned. I was on the streets of Mumbai at night not knowing what I should be doing next. I was on a bus which broke down in the middle of nowhere. I was unsure of things. I was exhaused like hell. And I was running even from the hostel gates to my bathroom to get the much needed bath and be in the auditorium for yet another mandatory seminar.
That week was the most eventful week of my life. Rivers, mountains, the sea, colour, emotions, questions, feelings, the movies, the nights, people, and me. It was overwhelming.
Yesterday I finally paid off the debt I was in for this trip that I made. It’s a big relief. Especially because of the funny situation I am in now.
But I am so glad I made this trip. Like some wise people said… sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination. I feel sad that this is the case, because this is not what it was meant to be, but I can only count the things that are mine. Only mine.