I cannot multitask, so while I am struggling with my luggage my brain turns off the part that was conducting nuclear chain reaction of thoughts to save energy for the physical effort that I needed to put in. I somehow streel my way to my cabinet on the train. It isn’t the easiest of jobs to get onto a train in India when you have 3 trolleys, a ukulele, a backpack, and a plastic bag full of food for the journey that my friend’s mom prepared. And I was on slippers. Having the sore history of losing a slipper in the small gap between the train and the platform is that one second of trauma you feel for your ex-slipper and another second of insecurity for the present slipper. When your leg is above the gap, you feel like in a cursed area where strange energy is trying to pull your dear slipper away from your feet! Railways and losing slippers are synonymous to me.
I deny all those anomalous forces of the ghosts of the rail tracks who are slipper hungry and reach my cabinet. I was like, woooohhh! This is cool. I feel Indian train coaches are divided among the income levels. 1st Class air-conditioned also called AC1 – to be here, you are either rich, your father is rich, you were neither of the first two, but you became a politician, you are a ticket collector(TC) of the train, and you find an empty cabinet and enjoy, or you are a “premi – premika” (couple) who always fantasized about travelling in one of these cabinets, maybe because you thought metal wheels could handle the plyometrics more than the rubber ones. AC2 – This category is for the upper middle class; they have the money to go for AC1 but want to escape wife tantrums. AC3 – The golden coach for the average Indian like me i.e., the middle-middle class. Sleeper class – Lower middle class or people who want cheap travel. The last one is General category – It is for anyone who likes to travel free or is brave or has no option. I have travelled in General Category, twice. And, I managed to get a seat, managed to sleep, didn’t get robbed, didn’t get into a verbal banter or abuse and I was 18. So, I can handle pressure and the rudest of people! This is the best proof I can give.
I call everyone and show this is how it looks to be inside a 1st class cabinet. Intrinsically, I belong to the AC3 club, so it was a wow moment for me to have such open space and facilities. Money does buy you open spaces if not happiness. I neither have a rich dad, nor am I a politician, nor I am rich myself, also I am alone and not on a fantasy couple journey. I am here not because I have a lot of my dad’s money to enjoy on but because I am amid a pandemic, I have a non-refundable air ticket on 5th September to Milan and I don’t want to be covid positive. The refundable ticket was ₹70k and the risky non-refundable ₹44k. If I book AC1 in ₹2k and taxis in ₹2k while in Kolkata, my maximum extra expenditure would be a total of ₹5k. So, my Net travel price becomes 44+5= ₹49k. I save ₹21k. These calculations are so obvious if you belong to AC3 income club. To save ₹21k, I risked ₹49k. Some wannabe smart asses would try to pull my leg by preaching their unwanted advice, “you should have taken a flight ticket, which costs around the same as the AC1 train ticket”. Assuming, he/she already has his/her hands on my leg, ready to pull. Before they could tug, I would perform a buck by telling “Yes, but it would not allow 50 plus kilos of luggage, would it?” . If you ever had “Is he a conscious risk taker?” question for me, I have multiple answers with real life “projects” like these executed successfully. I wish I could add this in my CV.
I am calling people and showing off my one night of luxury. I keep all my belongings in one side and like a lion on the pride-rock, I perch on my berth. As I was going to signal my digitorum profundus to turn off the lights, I hear incessant knocks on the door. Sometimes I have this tinnitus problem. I hear fake knocks and fake phone rings. I thought it was fake. I had already shown my tickets to the TC, who else could it be. I stayed still, expecting a confirmatory knock or a triple knock like Sheldon does on Penny’s door. I hear the tap again. I get up and I unlock the door. I see men in uniform. Not policemen, but CRPF(Central Reserved Police Force). In one instant I thought one of them was the co-passenger in the cabinet. Strangely, they were armed. Normally when people from defense forces travel, they are not armed. My dad did not carry a gun when he travelled, that was my analogy. Then they explain to me that my co-passenger is an MLA(Member of Legislative Assembly) and requested me to exchange seats. As they were there for the person’s security and failed to get a seat in the same cabinet.
I agreed to it. Though I hate politicians from the core of my heart. Especially those from my state, West Bengal. I didn’t want any further disturbances or negative vibes. I didn’t have a lemon hanging on my neck to shove off any negative energy they generate. Now, the sixty seconds of VIP like feeling was when they took my luggage and shifted it to another cabinet. The guy who opened the door of the new cabinet was surprised and I masqueraded as if the security personnel were there for me. I know it was wrong for me to feel that way, but it was involuntary. Although we were in the same coach, when you have 3–4-armed people escorting and carrying your things it really makes you feel superior I don’t know why. Maybe this is the reason why the kaput politicians back in Darjeeling act hoity-toity. After 25 years i.e., near 8 x 108 seconds and I got to enjoy my first sixty seconds of VIP experience. I don’t crave for more, but it was fun!