12

The Vacation (Not!)

It seems almost all our trips have to be eventful. As we were coming back to Bangalore yesterday, after a lot of physical and emotional stress, I was wondering if we ever had a holiday where there have not been any issues. No. Right from our very first together, our honeymoon to this latest one – we have had it all.

From co-passenger issues to random arguments to a whole night of power failure to google maps taking us through reserved forest trouble to nearly missing the train to reaching too early to the station to scary driving experiences in non-existent roads, we have faced almost everything that is usual to very unusual. To add to our repertoire is the latest highly expensive supposedly inexpensive two day holiday at Yercaud.

We had been planning things and then we planned some more that I really lost track of how long we have been planning to take a short trip. I know I have been very irregular here and that there is a lot to be said but for now, all I can say is going off on a weekend was also getting impossible for us. Last Thursday, both of us decided enough was enough and booked a night’s stay at one of the resorts in Yercaud. What we didn’t realize in our excitement is that it would turn out to be most stressful trip we have ever made.

Things started really well. Early morning sun, long drive through empty roads, best kind of breakfast, lots of songs, whole lot of talking, breath taking views of the hills and the valleys, we finally reached our destination. The resort was so beautiful that we strolled leisurely around clicking pictures and then after a delicious lunch, we set out to explore the locality. We were at the top most peak at Yercaud, enjoying the view when S decided to take the car to the other side of the view point. Seeing that there was nothing but few guys on high, we decided to leave that place immediately. Except that our car was not starting. We tried for more than half an hour with no help around. On top of everything, our phones were out of coverage (something we thought of to be a boon at the beginning). Luckily S saw a police man and went to him for help. After interrogating him for few minutes, he started calling around for help. In that small town of Yercaud, a mechanic was hard to find by. He then advised us against staying there and to walk around checking for any mechanic advertisements. Everywhere we turned, we saw bunch of guys heavily drunk involving in some sort of games or car adventures. At one point, I had signal on my phone for a brief moment. I stayed put there for next 45 mins without moving an inch, while our hotel arranged for a mechanic to be sent. After a long wait, the mechanic did come but we were not sure what he was up to. He plucked and prodded every wire he could find. Looked for fuse box (!!) under the car seats. Tried to check for diesel pipe (!!) all around the car. It was not a simple battery issue and even otherwise, he didn’t know how to jump start. It was getting very dark and that’s when he told us to push the car downhill in the hope that it would miraculously start. It didn’t. We were stranded on the ghat road, with zero lights (as the mech wouldn’t allow us to turn on the lights) with heavy traffic on both sides. After a lot of drama, we towed the car down to the hotel and somehow parked it in the steep narrow parking spot.

We were yet to realize that the worst is ahead of us. Our hotel had arranged for a movie screening, bonfire and live wood fire pizza. But we were in another world altogether calling out road assistance, fighting the weak mobile signal and dropping phone charges. We had to run around crazy without having a moment to ourselves. Since it was the weekend and this place being new to us, we were suggested that we tow the car to the nearest service station which happens to be Salem. It was past 12 when the towing truck came. By then, every soul had gone to sleep. Between S and me along with a helpful watchman, we had to push the car out of the steep parking, push it upwards on to a safe point where it could be attached to the towing truck. It was worrying to look at S and I couldn’t just stand there by myself. In spite of him shouting at me to stay away, I had to help him. As such, we had spent all our money thanks to that mechanic and his towing service. This towing guy demanded that we pay him 5K. We bargained as much as we could and in the end, had to pay up. We had to search lows and highs of our bags to count every note we had to pay him as advance. Sad, I know.

We came back to the room after 1 and I broke down. It was not supposed to be this way. All I wanted was some time to relax. There we were in a new place, without our car, no money in our hands and had not seen anything yet. S then ran down to the reception to arrange for a cab for some sight-seeing. It is at times like these, I realize how lucky I am to have him in my life am. He looks at positive things, however tiny they might be. Since the reception couldn’t arrange for a cab early in the morning for us to see the sunrise, S had apparently gone around asking cab drivers and found a cab! I actually have tears now thinking of how much he does, just for me.

S talked me into putting this car issue behind us and to enjoy the rest of the trip. We saw the best kind of sunrise, with the entire view point just to ourselves. It was as if there was no one between those hills, sun and us. The cab driver then took us one of the most beautiful viewpoints, which again was secluded. As S held me, I felt like the happiest person in this world and that has reflected in our pictures too. We had a hearty breakfast at our hotel and they were courteous to arrange us cab service to go to Salem.

We went straight to the service center and the next shock awaited us. While towing the car through the hair pin bends, the bumper had been badly broken. Sigh. But guess what was the issue otherwise with the car – the sensor in the key had malfunctioned. And it decided to do so while we were at a peak in Yercaud not while we were in Bangalore in some mall. And in the service center, the car started without any issues. I was lost for any reactions. Once we started back to Bangalore, we dared not to stop the car even for a quick lunch and took the car straight to the service center.

After every vacation or holiday, we come back tired but this was on a whole new level. We skipped food and went straight to bed, sleeping like logs for 12 long hours. I was bothering myself with a lot of why me, why us questions but at the end, let it go. We have to take this as an experience. Yes, it was not a good experience but quite an eye opening one.

On that note, I must thank God for showing us some way when we were totally lost. Everyone we had met or talked to were courteous. Yes, making some profit was on their minds but atleast they were willing to help and were not day robbing us. The biggest boon was that we could converse in local language, which was quite handy. But then, I can’t count the number of people who were only there for questioning us or giving us suggestions without moving an inch. Everyone has better options once we have fixed the issue. That’s people I guess.

On some good day, I share happy pictures from this trip.

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6

Tales

I want to share some tales.. Tales from our impromptu trip to Chennai.. Tales from our much need break.. Tales on S’s grandparents.. Tales on Thomi.. and a lot more. Every day I resolve myself to finding time to blog only to end up missing it by bed time. So, today it is Tale time.

Work has been at its craziest best for both S and I. Most of the nights, I see S working into the wee hours and sometimes throughout the night into the morning. During the day, I get no time as to even take a small rest room break. As I have been cribbing at every chance I get here, we both needed a break. It took just a call from S’s grandparents to plan our trip. They had come to Chennai and wished to see us before going back. In fact, S told them firmly that we wouldn’t be able to make it but then soon after the call, checked with me if we could go. I had been yearning to see Thomi and didn’t want to miss meeting up S’s grandparents. With a lot of work related worries looming over my head, I nodded in affirmative. I decided to forget everything about work and took two days off!

Before we started to Chennai, S and I planned to buy some clothes for Thomi – she has enough clothes for a year but we wanted to give our share. Along with my friend, I went frock shopping and couldn’t get over the amazing collections of miniature clothes. There were jeans, churidars and what not, even for 3 month olds. If not for my friend, I would have bought a cart full of clothes 😀

Our drive was pretty relaxed as we started very late in the evening and reached Chennai almost after midnight. When we entered the house, except for my SIL everyone else was in deep sleep. I tiptoed carefully in the dark to reach our room, not to disturb anyone. Even in the darkness that surrounded us, our family dog – Don recognized me jumping up and down excitedly. I am still scared of dogs and wouldn’t have one as my pet in this lifetime, but then the love they can shower on us – makes me speechless.

S’s grandparents were quite happy that they could meet us! I have not written a lot about them, but they both as a couple are very inspirational. They both are very old. Thatha is more than 80 and Aachi is above 70. They stay on their own in their remote village in Tuticorin and every few months make a long train trip to visit us in Chennai. I have never seen them come empty handed – most of the times, there are specialty goodies from the native, along with many other home grown stuff. Easily, the luggage could go upto 30Kgs and they both manage to make it to Chennai with no help at all. They both are so cute (atleast I find them so) as a couple. Thatha can hear nothing and Achi can’t speak up. So, both converse in parallels putting everyone around them in splits. Even though I am the daughter-in-law of the house, they treat me as their grandchild too. When I am with them, I kind of relive everything I miss about my grandparents. After my mom and MIL, Aachi is the other person who thinks I work too hard managing both home and work. At the same time, she is so from a different era that most of the things seem very out-of-place for her. In their wrinkled faces and tired bodies, I see a lot of love and that fills my heart with warmth.

Thomi was asleep when I stepped in to our house and she was a sight to watch. Photos and videos are quite misleading, I have come to believe. Thomi looks tiny in reality, but very cute nonetheless. Most of the dresses I bought for Thomi were big. Did I tell you that she got another load of cute dresses from my SILs & BIL? So along with all the different frocks, she also has a tiny skirt in her wardrobe. As soon as she woke up, she smiled at me. Actually, Thomi smiles at almost everyone. Her favorite person among us seems to be her Thathayya (my dad) and reserves the choicest of smiles for him every morning. Thathayya has a few tricks up his sleeves to make Thomi laugh – like switching on/off the fan or singing his non coherent rhymes or making interesting noises. Thomi has a bunch of friends in every room – like the tubelight in the bedroom, the window in the guest bedroom , the wall hanging in the hall, the small green torch light and many such non-living things. It is really funny watching her smile at these things, waiting for a response and then smiling in return.

For the two days we stayed with Thomi, I clicked hundreds of pictures – dressing her in different costumes. My sister had prepared a hand-made hair bow and flowers along with a beautiful hand-made Parikini/Pavadai. Thomi posed patiently for almost all photos and after certain point, I think she got the hang of it. As soon as she spotted me with the camera, she would get restless 😀 Clever little girl. Thomi loves getting all the attention and as soon as she realizes no one is looking at her, she would do a fake cry just to see if people respond. Hmpf! 😀 During one such time, I tried to pick her up and she immediately sensed that I am not her mom. Poor little thing couldn’t reach for my shoulders and tried to coil in my arms, digging into my chest. It was so funny with both of us not being sure what to do until my sister came for our rescue. I carried Thomi’s scent for more than a day after coming back to Bangalore and how I wished if I could extend my vacation. That also reminds me I should do a post on Thomi and her antics. Very soon.

We have been back to the grind, for over a week now. And the heart keeps asking for one more break.

40

Stories: of Wedding, Temple, Silk Sarees, and Thomi

I am still in Chennai hang-over in spite of being back in Bangalore four days ago. This time it seems harder than ever and one of the main reasons for that is the little Thomi. I know my sister is going to bang me for this but then, I am missing Thomi so much more than anyone else. More on Thomi and her antics later.

Ok onto the stories now.

As expected, I did enjoy the drive to Chennai and lucky for me, S’s friend was talking non-stop and there was not a bit of awkwardness in the air. As soon as we reached the hotel, S’s started glowing at 100 watts – courtesy: his friends. For many years, I used to be only girl in their group sitting like the odd person but this time, I had some girl company which was a welcome change. There are a few things I noticed and I am sure will never change. Food wastage. People were literally getting packets of popcorn/sweetcorn/fruit salad to leave it unfinished wherever they fancy. Same with the food served at the dining hall. Wedding Selfies. Did you know about the must-take wedding selfie?! I did not until I saw a lot of people posing for selfies at the wedding. We are on a selfie obsession! Men and Photographs. Not the right combo. S is was not interesting in posing for pictures until a few years ago and I see that is the case with most men *this is based on my observation only* I was doing this couple photography and within a few shots, S’s friend was losing his patience 😀

As we were in Kancheepuram for the wedding, we visited Kamakshi Amman temple first thing last Friday morning. The temple is being renovated and had lost all its charm. There are lumps of cement in the place of beautiful carvings and it was a painful sight to watch. Hopefully, it would be restored to its original glory once after the work is done. In the temple itself, there was no proper organization for queues. At one point, S’s friend had to jump in to stop people from entering the queue from multiple directions. After a lot of hullabaloo, we got sight of the Goddess for like 0.2345 secs. Makes me wonder the whole point of visiting a temple.

After the wedding, S wanted to take me saree shopping in Kancheepuram amidst my protests. We did go to a couple of stores and guess what, they were overflowing with people. Such was the drama that we had to wait in queue to enter the store. I mean, seriously?! I lost my interest then and there. Every street has like 100s of silk saree shops and yet, only a couple of them seem to be popular. Made me question the credibility of the other stores. Moreover, all the streets were creeping with agents trying to pull in customers. Anyway, I am glad we did not go for the impulse buy.

Our next stop was at my sister’s place and right from the moment I stepped in to the house, I was with Thomi. For the little person that she is, she mysteriously keeps all of us very busy 🙂 I held her, rocked her, watched her cry helplessly, cleaned her bum, played with her, kissed her little fingers, let her catch my finger tightly, bathed her, dressed her, fell in love with her smiling in sleep and finally clicked a lot of her pictures. While I was looking after Thomi, giving her mum the much needed rest she broke into a continuous smile. I was lying next to her and suddenly, she started smiling for no apparent reason 🙂 It was a beautiful sight to watch.

Most of Thomi’s dresses are very big for her and seeing this, her Thathayya resolved to stitch a few clothes himself. Look at what he has created. Aren’t they beautiful?!

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Thomi is still getting accustomed to the water and her face changes to a big question mark as soon as the first mug full of water is poured on her. She is at this stage where she knows her surroundings well and is scared if we take her to new places in the house. As soon as her Amma sits down to have her food, Thomi either gets hungry or cranky from wet nappy. Within next 5 mins, she will have her amma gulp down the food. When her Amma is ready to feed, instead of drinking the milk she starts sucking her fingers as if she is angry with her Amma 🙂 Thomi is on ever changing mode and looks different every single day. I have a 100 pictures of her and a smile creeps onto my face looking at her expressions.

The rest of the trip was uneventful except for me falling off the bed in my sleep. *go on laugh now* I was having this bad dream about *hold your breath* Batman Vs Superman (yes, after S subjected me to watch it in a local theatre) and until I was actually falling, I did not realize it. For the person who cannot be woken up easily, S was by my side helping me up the very instant. Apparently, he was still asleep 😀 Partly with the embarrassment and partly due to the fear of falling down again, I stayed awake for the rest of the night at in-laws. As usual, I had a loot from both in-laws and parents.

It is always hard coming back to Bangalore after a hectic trip to Chennai. This time, it was a lot harder. Time sure flied and we were more tired than relaxed. I so badly want a break, where I don’t feel like I am on the move. I want time to slow down, seriously.

15

Calicut Diaries – Part 2

Continued from Calicut Diaries – Part 1.

After a quick lunch at the hotel’s restaurant (which sucked by the way – two dishes came without any salt) and freshening up, we set out to explore the city. We knew Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and English between the four of us and yet, it was difficult to converse with the hotel staff. The receptionist was very sweet in telling us about a few places in broken Hindi (wondering how Tamil is not understood given its similarity with Malayalam). We depended on google maps in planning the evening. Our first stop was at Sarovaram Bio Park – which had an artificial lake and a lot of greenery. One can take the nature trails learning about the different plant species. I was loaded with my camera and often, slowing down the others. They would walk a few meters, realize I am not around and come back to find me., S was in no mood to go on the nature trails. It is in this park that I got to click these butterflies. It was just the four of us amidst a lot of butterflies and a little noise from S was enough to drive away most of them. Luckily, I had got my shot by then and S was spared from my lecture 😀 We also went on a boat ride in the artificial lake, where S did all the pedaling and I was left to click pictures. He pedaled non-stop for more than 25 minutes – this after driving the car for 12 hours with less than 4 hours of sleep the night before. Times like these remind me why I fell in love with this guy.

Our next stop was Beypore Beach – to catch a glimpse of the sunset. I was pretty excited about this beach, having seen a few pictures online. The beach supposedly had a long walk-way into it and promised great views. We were rushing ourselves through the sudden traffic to be on time for the sunset and just then, we got diverted towards the Beypore Port by a cop. Even after living in Chennai for 21 yrs, I had never seen the Chennai harbor. So I was pretty much excited to see the port at Calicut. Except for a couple of ships and few men (in their underwear), we had nothing else to see once we were inside. The diversion was pretty much to ensure we paid our entrance fee at the port. In all this confusion, we missed the sunset. Little did we know that the entire Calicut would be in the beach on that evening, what with Christmas and Milad-un-Nabi falling on the same day. I was in no mood to get into the water, looking at the crowd and decided to put my camera to the best use. After spending an hour capturing an odd boat, light house and the moon, we decided to head back.

Three out of the four of us were vegetarians and when we headed back to the city, most of the shops were closed. Luckily, we found a hotel selling dosas and that settled our dinner. Next day started with our quest to find Aappams in Calicut. First, we were out by 7.45 in the morning and again, most of the shops were closed. Our friends were hard pressed on only having Aappams and nothing else. When we enquired a few people in Tamil, we failed to get any response. One uncle denied ever having heard the name of Aappam. Again, luckily for us a small shop had Aapams (they called it Vellappam) but had only hard core non-veg stuff as side dish. The sweet waiter chose to bring us peas curry which was the only veg option available. We polished off 15 Aapams and two bowls of peas curry for just 130 rs!!

Our first stop for the day was Calicut beach. It was super-hot but we wanted to avoid the crowd at any cost. The beach was almost exclusive to us, given how bright sun was shining down on us. We clicked a lot of pictures, especially since we had someone to click our couple pictures. We headed towards Pazhassiraja Museum and blindly followed google maps. (Time and again, it keeps taking us to the wrong locations and yet, we have to depend on it). We lost a lot of time, going into a very narrow market road (following the map instructions). When we were finally out of the Big Bazar road ( called Velliangadi – a big bazaar that is more than 600 years apparently), we got into another issue. S did not notice a speeding bike while taking a U-turn and in moments, we were facing an aggressive man who chose to use some expletives. Quickly, all four of us apologized multiple times and S was even using “anna” (as in brother). Looking at our faces, he decided to let us go. All this, when there was not even a scratch on his bike. It took us all a little while to get back to normalcy. I still remember how aggressive his eyes were. Scary. Come to think of it, there were many over speeding cars and bikes, irrespective of how big or small the roads were.

Until we were in the vicinity of the museum, no one seemed to know of such a place. After a lot of missed and wrong turns, we reached the museum. I personally loved visiting this quiet museum that carried the art work of Raja Ravi Varma and Raja Raja Varma. We also got a chance to look at some of the historic stuff ranging from coins, statues, stuff from Indus Valley Civilization, Kerala temple architecture and the pottery works from different ages. The other interesting aspect was the Krishna Menon Museum, carrying the personal things and souvenirs of Late Krishna Menon. I was a little ashamed not having heard of such a powerful man from South India. But better late than never – I could feel the history unfold infront of my eyes, looking at the stuff displayed.  This is where S and I clicked pictures of the Pink Gerbera flower, amongst many other flowers.

After a quick lunch, we went onto visit Kadalundi, a hamlet around 40km away from Calicut – again purely trusting google maps. The localities did not seem to know of the famous Kadalundi bird sanctuary inspite of living in its closest vicinity. Of course they did not know about it – the birds were on a far off island and we had no way to reach there. Disappointed, we were on our way back and luckily found a secluded beach. With the sea shore covered in black rocks and the sand soft as silk, we couldn’t stop ourselves from exploring further. Inspite of the harsh sun, we enjoyed the beauty of this beach. We got to see sand sculpting by a group (who seemed to be on high), so after clicking a few pictures we were out of there.

Our last stop for the day was yet another beach – Kappad Beach. The iconic beach were Vasco Da Gama first landed in India. There were three walk ways into the sea and this is one of the best beaches I have seen. We were well ahead of the sun set and for the next hour, S and I walked around hand in hand, soaking in the beauty of the sea and the setting sun. Beaches are such beautiful places – for a moment, silence engulfs you but the very next moment the silence is washed away by the waves. We also sat together in silence, doing literally nothing but at the same time having an unspoken conversation of a 1000 words. That evening, forever would be etched in my memory as one of the most beautiful evenings of my life. Of course, we didn’t see the monument carrying Vasco’s name but we had set foot in the same beach he had come to, many centuries after 🙂 We also saw the most beautiful sun set that day!

With an unknown happiness engulfing us, we called it a day. Day-3 was all the more special – stay tuned for part -3 tomorrow 🙂

Now for some of my favorite pictures (filtered hastily through the hundreds of pictures)–

@ Sarovaram Bio Park – is it a fruit or a flower?!

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@ Sarovaram Bio Park – tiny buds of flowers.

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@ Sarovaram Bio Park – I was reminded of the bacteria Hydra seeing these flowers 🙂

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@ Sarovaram Bio Park – Evening sun playing its magic 🙂

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@ Sarovaram Bio Park – At the artificial lake. A pond heron looking for food.

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@ Beypore Beach – the long walk way into the sea. Look at the change of colors in the sky.

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@ Beypore Beach – The orange Moon! A full moon day on the day of recent Star Wars movie (25th Dec 2015) coinciding with the full moon day on the very first Star Wars release in 1994.

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@ Beypore Beach – reflection of the orange moon!

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@ Beypore Beach – Light house and its light!

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@ Calicut Beach – S carrying both our slippers, while I was busy clicking pictures.

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@ Calicut Beach – The pier that served as a shipping point centuries ago. Whats left are the mere pillars.

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@ Pazhassiraja Museum – a beautiful garden filled with colorful flowers.

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@ Pazhassiraja Museum – a close up of the pink Gerbera flower. Photo courtesy – S.

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@ Kadalundi – the view as seen from the secluded beach.

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@ Kappad Beach – Sun shining bright!

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@ Kappad Beach – Sun all ready to set 🙂

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@ Kappad Beach – Almost there 😀

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@ Kappad Beach – a close up!

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12

Travel Tales and Seat Confusions

Last Wednesday I had to head down to Chennai along with the parents all of a sudden due to a minor family emergency. Thankfully everything got sorted out soon after we reached sister’s place. As S couldn’t join us on this impromptu trip, it was totally different for me – being on my own after more than two years. I loved loved loved all the time I got to spend with the sister – after what seems like ages. We did all the fun stuff – cooked our favorite food, went for shopping and some more shopping, had nonstop chatter and everything.

I was so guilty not being able to meet the in-laws. With everything planned very urgently, there was literally no time at all. More than going for anything else, I had to accompany the parents as they would be clueless on Bangalore roads. Checking for tickets, packing everything in a rush, with less than 30 mins left for the last morning bus, S booked the tickets for a sleeper bus – yes yes during the day 😀 The travel that started at 9.30 in the morning continued until 7 in the evening. I almost forgot about my train and bus journeys in these couple of years, what with the luxury of travelling in the car. We don’t have to as such pack anything. There have been times, we have thrown everything into the back seats of our car, travelled as and when we liked. Since I was travelling back alone, the parents were concerned and as everything conspires against me during my journeys, it was raining heavily that day. Only saving grace was that I had a train ticket – truly lucky to have booked it in the tatkal quota especially during the long weekend amidst a number of network issues on top of irctc issues. Also with all our car journeys, I almost forgot how stupid your co-passengers could be at times.

During our onward journey to Chennai, we all had upper berths in the bus and soon after we boarded the bus – amma climbed on to our berths. It was a big feat getting amma settled safely what with the bus running crazily. There came a couple, who claimed that they had the same berths as ours. I showed them my ticket confirmation and yet, they were not ready to take the issue with the bus service people. Amma was tensed, having to get down soon after she boarded the berth. This couple came back and told me that the driver had allocated them these berths as their numbers were not found. That’s when I totally lost it. How could they do it? I walked angrily to the driver who was still sorting out other passengers and showed my ticket. He confirmed my ticket as if nothing happened. So much for my anger. I came back to these people to tell that our seats are confirmed. Now they were panicking and after multiple enquiries, they got to know that their seats were the lower berths. Ha! How educated to have booked lower berths and bug the upper berth people to vacate?!

During my return trip in the train, I was probably the first passenger to board my compartment. It was already 10.30 in the night and I had cross checked my name against the chart. There comes a man with a whole lot of luggage and demands that I am sleeping in his lower berth. I told him that my berth number is 44 and that I am in the right berth. With a very cool attitude, he replies back – “let 44 be your berth, but this is mine where you are sleeping”. You wouldn’t believe the number of times we had the same discussion. Frustrated, I asked him his berth number. Again, with a cool attitude, he says 49. Ha! My coupe had berths numbered only until 48. I explain the same to him very patiently. But this guy asks me to get up and shows me 46, says that it’s 49. *crie* How do I explain him that it’s 46 and not 49? Somehow I send him to the next coupe saying that 49 is the lower berth over there. He even tells me a sorry and asks me to go back to sleep. In the next couple of minutes, he comes back again and claims that I am sleeping in his berth and that there is no 49 on the other side. As per him, he could only see a 50 and that’s why, 49 has to be the berth I was sleeping in. How logical! I was super irritated, got up and rushed him to his berth and showed him 49, but not before there was an argument. Funny how I end up in such situations. He could have asked me to help him or checked with me politely, NO. More than anything, it’s that tone he used bugged me to no end. The rest of the train journey was as amusing as this one.

When I got down finally, S was waiting for me – so early in the morning. Hardly expecting him to be awake so early, I was so excited and surprised finding him there. Definitely feels good to see one known face amidst the strangers.