Jun 18, 2012

The Waiting Hall

The time was 10 P.M when I arrived at the Bengaluru city junction. The auto in which I came dropped me near the entrance leading to a staircase. With not much luggage to carry, I swiftly climbed the steps to reach the platform number 1. The Kaveri express in which I had made my booking was scheduled to arrive only at 11.45 P.M! After mentally noting down the platform number in which the Kaveri express would arrive, I walked towards the second class passengers waiting hall.

The second class passengers waiting-hall was a class below compared to a similar hall for the ones who had made their bookings to travel in air-conditioned coaches. While AC passengers waiting-hall was maintained nearly spotlessly clean, the second class passengers waiting-hall welcomed me with a pile of dirt! The pile, as the room keeper would explain to me later, was tossed by fellow passengers despite having a dustbin inside!

I entered my ticket details in a ledger maintained by the room keeper, walked into the room, managed to find a decent spot and had a seat. Behind me, a fellow passenger was sleeping by combining 3 chairs together that formed a bed-like arrangement.

As I sat down and started reading a book, a girl in her early twenties entered the waiting hall. She glanced around the hall trying to make a judgment whether to stay or leave. Not finding enough of female companions around, she turned to leave the place when she heard the room keeper saying "Please take the next room, madam. It's the waiting hall for women passengers". She thanked him and left the room.

Announcements were made for various trains that were either originating or passing through the city junction, which kept a steady flow of passengers in and out of the waiting hall. An elderly couple, who had made their booking in a train that would depart the next day morning made their way through the waiting-hall and found an empty spot behind the last row of chairs.

By the time they reached the spot, the old lady was tired that she was gasping to breathe. They must have walked a long distance, I thought, or maybe it was the staircase that worn them out!

The old man found an empty chair on the last row and sat, while the old lady was sweeping the floor with an old newspaper that she kept folded in her bag. Satisfied with sweeping, she spread the newspaper in the shape of a mattress, took out a folded blanket from her bag and laid on top of it. She then pulled out what seems like one of her own saree from the bag and placed it on top substituting for a pillow.

While I thought she was going to sleep on the bed she had just prepared, I heard a voice yelling at her, "Why are you taking so long to prepare a bed?"

"Its ready my dear", she replied softly, panting a little.

The elderly man got up from his seat, walked towards the comfortable bed his wife had just made, lied down and slept, all the while complaining about the delay in making it. The old lady sat next to him, fanned him for a while, got up and walked towards the chair that her husband occupied a while ago.

"Train number 16221, Mysore to Chennai via Bengaluru, Kaveri express will arrive shortly on platform number 5", the announcement said.