Unbridled

I was running!

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If I had ever run for my life, this was it. She was going away and I was running after her.

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I was going to lose. My breath was ragged. The lungs were bursting and the legs were giving up.

******

I had to appear in some computer tests in the Churchgate area in Mumbai, related to the SSC CGL interview I posted about last week. I got free at about 4:30 pm and walked back to the station, fast.ย  I had already booked a ticket yesterday for the train back home and had to board that at 5:52 pm from Borivali. That train started from Bandra station but I thought it’d be better to board it from Borivali as it’d give me some time in case it got tight. We had 1 hour and 22 minutes, or 82 minutes. It was all right.

******

At the ticket counter, I was faced with a small queue. I waited. The guy two places ahead of me was getting a season pass or something made. This was taking time. I, along with the others in line behind me, was getting restless. But okay, we still had 70 minutes. It shouldn’t take a fast local more than 55-60 minutes to reach Borivali. We were good.

******

I took my ticket and started towards the platforms. But – getting naughty – I took a short detour towards the side. I wanted a cup of coffee from the South Indian coffee stall I had noticed on my way to the ticket counter. I was indulging myself. This could prove dangerous in case I got late. Don’t worry kid, we were good. Still 68 minutes.

******

Back at the platform, I discovered that there was no fast local for Borivali. A slow local was standing and another slow local was arriving. This was trouble. The coffee was amazing though. They had given a plastic strip to stir the sugar. I was stirring it and thinking, what should I do? Throwing the paper cup in the dustbin after finishing the coffee, I got on the train. Screw it, there’s no fast train coming. If we let this go, we might struggle to make it in time. I got an aisle seat next to two old men. Although I had a rough idea of the travel duration, I still asked the one sitting next to me as to how long the train will take to get to Borivali? He said it depended on when the train started. Sure he’s right, that is the prime variable. The starting time. Smart ass! Then he gave a bit more crap and I nodded absently. Yeah, yeah. The train started. It was 4:45 p.m. I had 65 minutes now. This could get close. Loud audible sigh. I started reading the novel I had begun two weeks back to kill the tension.

The train passed through stations like Lower Parel, Matunga Road, Andheri and I was like, are these stations even on my route? Have I boarded the right train? My internet was crappy as usual and I couldn’t be bothered to check the guiding route map over the doors behind me. I did look at them but from my distance, even with the glasses, it wasn’t legible. Complacent? Maybe. Indifferent? Definitely.

******

What’s the worst that could happen if this local is late, if we’re late? We’ll miss the train. Yeah, that’s about it. Okay, we’re cool with that.

******

When the train reached Jogeshwari – at 5:40 pm – my restless nonchalance finally surrendered before my curiosity and tension. I asked the old man sitting next to me – him again – whether this train will actually go to Borivali? He said it’s four stops away now. That’s when I noticed that there was a map on the doors ahead of me too. Makes sense, no? Stupid. You ought to have seen that earlier. I confirmed from the map that the old man was right, not that he’d any reason to lie or be wrong, especially with the conviction in his voice. I told him that I had a train from there. He said its okay, na? You’ll reach there in a while. When I mentioned that the train was for 5:52 p.m., less than 11 minutes, he and the other co-passengers got nervous too (I was already nervous, in case it wasn’t obvious). The man sitting across from me – short, dark, stocky, formally dressed, bespectacled with an office bag and vegetables from market – suggested I get down at Kandivali and take the local coming right behind ours. That would go to the platform next to the one my next train was coming on. I’d have more chance then, otherwise I’d have to walk some 1-1.5 kms. Won’t make it that way. I still refused.

As the train crossed Kandivali station, I got up and took my bag. The train slowed down approaching Borivali and I looked out the doors to check whether my next train was somewhere in view or not. Nope! Nothing! We had hope. It was 5:49 p.m. One minute to go. Then I looked out again. The train was speeding down the tracks on the far side. This was real tight. This was exciting. The adrenaline started pumping. Should I do that? Would that be right? Dang right we should. There’s no fricking way we’d get on the train otherwise.

I waited for my current train to stop. Couldn’t risk jumping on the tracks from a running train, even if its slow. The next train was about 6 tracks away and this one was stopping at a platform which had waist-high railings separating it from the next. Nope! Wait till it stops.

Waiting……

Waiting………..

Waiting………………

5:50 p.m!

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Right when the train stopped, I put a foot on the railing to check its strength. It was solid. Let’s jump. I jumped on to the other side and ran. Crossing the tracks, running on the spaces separating them which had unequal footing because of the gravel used. I kept looking both ways when passing the tracks to guard against any oncoming train. Didn’t want to get cut to smithereens or worse, left physically handicapped. That’d look utterly stupid, won’t it? The distance wasn’t much, 400-500 metres maybe. We could run that much easily. Except that, I was on an extremely tight schedule now. Less than 2 minutes. And dead tired from the day. And I had a bag on the shoulder, although the adrenaline and caffeine in the system didn’t let me realise that at first. And frankly, I was in no state to judge the distance. This was pure instinct. This was do-or-die.

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I was losing breath. I was feeling tiredness now. Surely we couldn’t be this weak. How did we get breathless so soon? Where’s the athlete, man?The train wasn’t stopping yet. It kept going on. Where are you going? You have to stop. This is the platform, for Pete’s sake!!!

As I got on the line my next, i.e. now current train, was running on, I decided I had to run on the tracks because no train would come on this one anyway and running on the concrete supports was easier and faster than running on the gravel. The train’s tail lights were red. It’d stop for the duration, right? We were still in with a chance. Keep running. You can’t give up. You have the endurance. Find the reserves.

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I had to stop. I was going to lose. The lungs were asking me to rest. The feet were going numb from the pounding they were receiving. The head was throbbing too.

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I walked for a bit. The throat was parched. I felt I’d collapse.

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What was it? 50 metres, maybe?

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You can’t give up, not this close. Go onย mate. This is the stuff memories are made of. Run dude run!!!!!

Finally, I reached the end of the platform.

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The train was still there. No way in the world I’m going to miss this now. I got up on the platform and started walking. The first two coaches were, obviously, General compartments. My ticket was, I checked again, in the 9th coach of the sleeper compartments. That was some way off. The coaches started from 1 on my side. No problem. I kept walking, secure in the knowledge that I could always get on another coach if she started before I got to number 9. The adrenaline upshot was going down now. As I reached 7, the train started. Again the same madcap rush of blood. I ran once more and jumped onto the 9th coach before the train got too fast for me, breathless and disoriented from the mindless running.

I didn’t lose. I got on the train!

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7 Comments

    1. Not just walked, I ran on the tracks. The platform for my train was on to a side, some 6-7 tracks away. So first I had to run across the tracks and then when I got on the right platform, I ran on it.
      It could have been fatal (although I was looking both ways for oncoming trains and there were none) but desperate times call for desperate measures, won’t you say?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Voice of sanity, indeed!
          I do accept it was a bit dangerous, but as I said, I was looking out. So I think it’d not have caused something that horrible. Regardless, this was memorable. ๐Ÿ˜€

          Liked by 1 person

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