Balaji booked train tickets to Umesh‘s wedding. It was to be held in Kerala, near Umesh’s hometown, Ottapalam. He booked the tickets a month in advance. I wondered why. I found out a month later. It was 2 days before Pongal, that’s why…
We left Chennai on the evening of the 12th of January, 2008. It was a Saturday and had been a full day for me. I packed my bags early in the morning, when I was leaving for office, carried it with me, and managed not to forget anything. Toothbrush, Shirts, Underwear, Formal shoes, everything was in the bag.
That afternoon, at office, we had a studio rental scheduled. Sudhan, a photographer introduced to us through Rajasekar, was hiring the studio to update the portfolio of a musician that he’d photographed a year or so ago. Sudhan is about my age, maybe younger, is losing his hair (like me) and is very conscious about the fact (I’m not). He asks me whether I’m getting some treatment for my hair-loss and I always reply, No.
Well, today Sudhan was carrying a bag that looked familiar. It was Rajasekar’s bag that he’d taken a year or more ago, and “forgotten” to return. I called Rajasekar, as I usually do when Sudhan comes over, and put him on speaker-phone. Sudhan and I had a short funny chat with him, and then I casually invited Rajasekar over to “help” Sudhan out. Now, I’d forgotten about the bag…
A short while after the conversation, I noticed Sudhan looking a bit agitated and wondered why. He’s usually very calm about a photoshoot. Especially one with a friend… So I tried to figure it out. It was then that the “camera bag” angle struck me. I called Rajasekar, told him that Sudhan was carrying his bag, and asked him to come over ASAP, because I was due to leave for the train station in 30 minutes.
It was then that Suresh called me. Suresh, like Rajasekar, is my classmate from Loyola College during my B.Sc. Visual Communication course. We, my Dad and I, had done a photoshoot for him some days before, and he wanted to come over to pick up a colour corrected version of the images. I told him that I was leaving, but I’d have the images exported and burned on a disc, ready for him. He said, “Great, I’ll come over sometime soon.”
I promptly forgot about it. Sudhan’s model/client had come in and props, makeup staff and other unknown people started hanging around the studio/green room. Rajasekar’s little mission was also getting interesting by then. He came in, and said Hi to Sudhan, then came over to my desk, I was a but busy so I told him to chat with Sudhan and that I’d be over with them in a few moments. They went out and started arranging the model’s costumes, and props.
When I was done with my work for that evening, I went over to see what was happening in the studio. Rajasekar was looking at Sudhan’s camera and lens … ooohing and aaahing over it (he’s wanted to buy a Digital SLR for a long time, and is a great photographer, but is just too lazy to do it).
Sudhan on the other hand was sweating it out. He looked to me like he was hiding the bag … putting himself between the bag and Rajasekar’s line of view. When he saw me, he jumped at the opportunity.
He told Rajasekar, “Why don’t you go and see that website that Susheel was working on earlier… ”
I asked them not to interrupt their conversation for my sake and went running down to the supermarket… It was then that I realised that I’d forgotten my deodorant … And I cant possibly go to a wedding without my deodorant. I rushed down, picked up a bottle and rushed back up. I turned around and was greeted by two sights.
- Rajasekar with his bag in hand
- Suresh (oh damn! I’d forgotten to burn the disc.)
Rajasekar, who has no idea that Suresh is coming along, is pleasantly surprised…
Sudhan, is standing in the background, looking dejected.
3:49 PM: Me, I’m just… “Oh Damn, where’s my bag?”; “Suresh, I’m going to export the stuff onto the desktop, I forgot … you burn it, ok? It’s all colour corrected…”; “I need to get to the station! I’m fifteen minutes late… Can anyone take me there?”
Rajasekar steps forward like the Hero that he feels like. “Hey, I’ll take you to Kodambakkam station, you take the suburban train to Park station and cross the road, you’ll be there in fifteen minutes”
I say, “Great, let’s go…” wave goodbye to everyone, pick up the bag I’d packed that morning and rush off…
3:52 PM: Rajasekar is a maniac on a motorbike when you need to get somewhere quickly; scares everyone and the cop in the middle of the road half – no more than half- to death… So am I, but he knows that while I can dish it out, I just can’t take it … so he gets me to Kodambakkam station at a steady pace, his freshly oiled hair getting dusty in the process (I’m sorry da…).
3:59 PM: I got to the station’s ticket counter just as a train eased up at the platform. It has been a couple of years since I last commuted by train regularly, and I don’t have an idea of how regular the trains are, so I’m worried; I have only 50 minutes to get to Central. By bike, in traffic, its a 45 minute journey, easily…
4:00 PM (and a bit more): The train is leaving the station. I decide that getting stopped by a cop for riding the train without a ticket would be more disastrous than getting there a bit late, and stay in the queue for the ticket. A long queue. I’m worried; and the seconds seem like minutes (no, the minutes don’t seem like hours – yet!)
4:06 PM: Finally, in the train, I can breathe… The train arrives at the next station, Nungambakkam, in about 5 minutes or less (15 minutes or more by bike) and I relax. I’m going to make it. I call my Dad as I realise a couple of things. My bike key is still in my pocket, and my Dad was supposed to use it the next day. I’ve forgotten the Deo… The all important deodorant. I’d bought it, and in the confusion between Suresh, Rajasekar, Sudhan and the time, I’d left it on my desk at office. Too late now.
I get down from the train at Park station. It is 4:25 PM now. The phone rings: its my Dad… The Deo is in my bag (God be praised!) and he’s going home to get the spare key thats in the cupboard.
4:30 PM: I call Balaji, its the time that we agreed to meet at. He’s at the station. So am I! (Possibly the first time ever! ) We assemble, I’m introduced to his brother Karthick, who almost pulled out (until Umesh told him that he better come to the wedding if he ever wanted to get married himself (I think)) and find our compartment (its a seriously long train!)
4:45 PM: We find our seats invaded by a Gang Of Girls, bags piled high, they don’t know which seats are theirs, and are taking up way too much space. We put our bags in, and cram ourselves in too.
4:55 PM: I’m in the train, the Girls settle down a bit more… I go off to get a Coke. I need one.
5 PM (or somewhere there-about): We’re off… Hurrah! Karthik settles down with the India Today that he had bought. Balaji is looking out the window. He helps identify some of the places that he grew up at. I’m wondering how to get ourselves some more space and get the Girls’ bags off our seat.
5:15PM (or somewhere there-about): I get up, start moving bags around, putting them under seats, arranging them so that they’re not on “our” side.
5:20PM (or somewhere there-about): All’s well. Read about the rest of the journey and the wedding in part 2.