It was last weekend and we had the Friday off. There was no way we were going to stay at our room for three days. A week earlier we had planned for Kodaikanal or Ooty. Even Alleppey was on the list. The whole plan was dependent on the Rail Tickets. As expected, the plans got screwed because of unavailability of tickets. In fact, to tell you the truth we have rarely succeeded in executing a plan and that’s the reason I generally don’t prefer plans. But if you have three free days, the research for the plan is a nice time pass. Anyways, ultimately the plans had failed and Kedar and Rajeev were looking forward for our permanent backup plan. Ya! It’s Pondycherry. We have always enjoyed the 135 km drive on the ECR Road and the stay at our preferred Hotel ‘Le Heritage’. As I already mentioned it is a kind of Permanent Backup Plan and I wanted to have a new experience. While returning from the office on Thursday, I knew that I needed a new plan.
Once I reached our room, I had few hours for exploration before Kedar would arrive. I had Yercaud somewhere in my mind. As soon as I arrived, got refreshed and switched on my laptop. In a few minutes I had Google as well as Google Map opened in the Mozilla. Few more minutes and indianrail.gov.in got open in another tab. I had never thought that Selam could only be 5 hours from Chennai by Train. That was an amazing piece of information. My heart was pumping faster. Five hours meant that we could travel even in Open Ticket (General) and that was adding more certainty to the plan. I knew that it was the plan for the weekend, and I immediately shared it with Rajeev. He was equally excited and responded with his trade mark words. “Ye to awesome hae bhai!“. We had some exchange of views regarding the mode of transport but keeping in mind the condition of my Bike and the distance which is around 370 kms, I was in favor of Train. Then there was an excellent idea from me that we travel till Yellagiri in the night, stay there for the night and move ahead for Yercaud in the morning. That was just to satisfy our eagerness for driving. Rajeev while exploring the plan also pinged Kedar and his immediate response was in favor of Bike. As soon as Kedar reached, we had another round of discussion on the mode of transport and this time Rajeev was also considering Bus as an option. Considering that it was Thursday night and next three days were holidays, we could imagine the rush in Buses. There was one and only option and that was Train. There are so many trains to Selam. The ones with our interest were at 6:30 and 11:30 AM. We zeroed in on the one at 6:30. Kedar had put an alarm for 4:00. I don’t know about Rajeev but I had my doubts about 4:00 am.
As expected, when I got into my senses in the morning the Wall Clock was showing 8:00. The morning 6:30 plan was screwed. I preferred to be horizontal till 8:30. I came out of loo at 9:00. Asked Rajeev to wake up but there was no response from him. Even 11:30 was appearing uncertain. Asked Kedar, he responded, but his response was not encouraging. The three days were going to get wasted. Went in the hall and laid down on the mat. Again Pondycherry? No. Stood up, went to Kedar. “Cummon, get up! We will catch the train at 11:30.” That’s the good thing about him. He took his time, but was on his feet and into the loo. Now it was Rajeev’s turn. He took his sweet time, booted his laptop and started exploring something. The uncertainty about the plan was on a rise and Rajeev contributed by informing that the Watch was not showing the correct time. When Kedar came out of loo, the time in the watch was 9:30 and the actual time in Rajeev’s lappy was 9:50. We were in big mess. We had to get the ticket as well on the station. Rajeev was much certain about the uncertainty. He once again contributed by clarifying that the Local Train from Thiruvanmiyur doesn’t go to Central. That’s called the right thing at the right time. Once again he offered the plan for Coyembedu, the Chennai State Bus Terminus. Somehow we left the room at 10:35 and got an Auto Rickshaw around 10:40. Rajeev once again offered the Coyembedu Plan. I tried convincing him that we will reach Central in 30 minutes. There were a number of ideas offered at this time by all of us. I offered an intelligent idea. If we don’t buy the tickets, we will save enough time to be certain about catching the train. I got support from Rajeev but Kedar was very apprehensive. When we sit idle, our mind is most active. We came up with so many options. We can take the same Auto-Rickshaw to return to our room in case we miss the train. We can take the same Auto for Coyembedu and then for our room. Suddenly I realized that if the Auto-Wala gets to understand our talk he can intentionally delay us in order to make some nice money out of us. Thiruvanmiyur to Central to Coyembedu to Thiruvanmiyur can be a really interesting deal for him. Now that’s what you call intelligence. We were running while looking for the Ticket counter at around 11:15. We found the right counter and stood in the queue. It was much smaller than my expectation but was enough for us in order to make the 11:30 plan critical for us. Rajeev contributed once again by mentioning that the Train time is actually 11:25. I wasn’t able to stand still on my feet. I moved to the front of the queue and requested the person mentioning our situation. I indeed saved 3-4 or even 5 minutes by doing so. Now we were running towards the platform. The train was supposed to be on Platform No. 1. We were on Platform No. 4. I and Kedar were at least in running mode whereas Rajeev was walking freely. It was 11:25:** in the station clock. I was putting all my strength when Kedar pointed towards the board which was displaying the departure time as 11:30. I realized why Rajeev was walking freely. Finally we had reached the Train on time.
But that was not final. The General bogey was fully packed. We moved ahead. Even the Sleeper Coaches were rushed. We moved towards the General Compartment at the other end of the train, expecting that not much people would walk till there. But how was that possible! That bogey was equally packed and we couldn’t prove our energy by getting in. At that instant, the train whistled and started moving, accelerating. I asked my friends to jump inside any of the bogeys. General Compartment was already gone. Doors of some of the compartments were closed. 2nd bogey gone! These guys were still on the Platform. Once again I asked them to get in ANYwhere. No Action. There was no way I was going to be left on the bare platform. 3rd bogey gone! I stepped ahead. There was some space at one of the doors, which was moving towards me. As it reached near me, hold the rod besides the door; ran along for 2-3 steps and jumped on the foot rest. Turned towards my friends! There was some action. Rajeev followed me and then it was Kedar’s turn. So, finally we were inside, and I had the ticket in my pocket. Now there was nothing to stop us from reaching Selam, and once we reach Selam, Yercaud won’t be an issue.
We spent our time in train in that constraint space in between the two doors next to the toilet and the hand wash. We spent most of the time on our feet, standing. I and Kedar had some time sitting on the door whereas Rajeev additionally managed a top birth to lie on for a short time. We didn’t have anything to eat since morning. Ultimately around 2:00, we got some Chatni-Wada at Katpadi. That was a huge relief. We got some drinking water. The only thing we were happy about was that, Harsh was not accompanying us as he had left for Bangalore the earlier night. Even Deb was busy. Thanks to his new job. That was a huge relief for us. Our journey to Selam was indeed not pleasent but neither were we regretting it nor were we sorry about it. It was after all an experience. I hope Kedar and Rajeev would support me on that. 🙂 We got to see the nice Campus of Vellore Institute of Technology. Rajeev expressed his moral support for the college guys as there were hardly any females to be seen in the huge crowd in the campus. It could be the boy’s hostel. We met an elder guy who suggested us to better get down at Jolarpettai than at Selam. Sadly I prefer trusting our research more that other’s suggestion. After a delay of 30 minutes we were at Selam Station.
Once at Selam, we got an Auto-Rickshaw for the New Bus Stand. Got some Soft Drinks and get into the bus for Yercaud. It takes around one Hour on bus. I guess there were 22 Hair Pin Bends. Driving up the hill on bike would have been an amazing experience. When we reached at the top it was dark. There were taxies available at the bus stand. Simply I asked for the charges to Chennai. The amount mentioned was Rs. 5000/-. We decided to search for a Hotel Room. Which ever Hotel we went to was full. We were further told that we won’t get a Hotel Room in Yercaud. Ultimately we decided to get an Auto-Rickshaw. May be an Auto-Wala can help us in searching and getting a hotel. We reached near the lake. We decided to put something in our stomach before starting the search. The Auto-Wala tried his best. He took us to some hotels that were relatively far and were expected to have rooms available. At the end of the search episode we were back at the same location. He offered to drop us at Selam for Rs. 500. The last bus was at 9:30 so we had enough time with us. We decided that it’s better to reach Selam soon. We can get into some nice Hotel and enjoy the Food and Drinks. We decided to travel in Auto as the weather was pleasant and it was dark. After a few kms a bus overtook us and the Auto driver offered us help in catching the bus. I suppose we had enjoyed the weather enough and we decided continue our journey to Selam in bus. It would have taken us an hour. As the bus entered the town, we were looking out of the window for some nice hotel. There were lot many hotels near the Bus Stand. We found a nice bar named Caves in the basement of Hotel Vivekananda. But we didn’t like the Hotel room. I suggested my friends to better get inside the bar. It was around 10:00. The closing time was 11:00. But Kedar and Rajeev wanted to get the room first. We asked in 3-4 hotels but none had the A/C rooms available. In the end we got it in some hotel and when we asked the guy showing us the room, he told that the food as well as drinks are available as part of Room Service 24 hours round the clock. Now that was more than enough for finalizing the hotel. We booked a room and called the person to take the order. We had placed the order but to our astonishment he asked for the money. We realized that he is going to get the food as well as drinks from outside. He didn’t even have a menu card. That was a big distraction for me. Rajeev immediately suggested that it’s still around 10:35 and Caves would still be open. There were no second thoughts. We immediately got dressed and moved for the Caves. Once we reached there, the environment was pleasant. An IPL match was being telecasted on the TV. But they didn’t have snacks. Whatever was available was complimentary. That was again a distraction, but considering the time we found it to be the best option. The Restaurants on the road were open and we could have something while leaving. We had only 15 minutes before the bar would serve the last order. Anyways, 3 KF strong! We ordered two more bottles for the last order. 5/3 KF Strong was good enough. I don’t remember the time when we left but they were trying their best to make the environment unpleasant so as to make the customers leave. First the music was stopped along with the TV. Then some of the lights were switched off. Then the A/C and finally the doors were left open and a single strong halogen light was switched on in order to distract us. Yes, in spite of being drunk I remember all this. We left finally not because they were able to distract us by their efforts but because we realized that they are putting in their best efforts. Anyways, we were in our mood when we left Caves. I don’t remember exactly but we did some awkward things while walking back to the Hotel. I guess that it was just an act to convince ourselves that we were drunk. When we reached hotel we decided that 2 more bottles would make the feeling awesome. We ordered for it. But to out surprise we were told that the drinks were served only till 11:00 and it was much late. But the mood we were in we didn’t cared for that. We watched the IPL for some time and then it was time to get into the bed. Rajeev had put the extra mattress in the spacious balcony. I too got the sofa cushions and slept next to him. The idea was to wake up early in the morning.
The sound of first horn in my ears and I moved inside and lied next to Kedar. Few minutes later Rajeev also joined in. Everyone was still in the sleeping mode. Someone switched on the TV. Later we ordered some Idly-Wada. It was around 11:30 when we started for Yercaud again. Reached their around 1:00. As soon as we got down from the bus, we met a Taxi Driver, who was asking for Rs. 700/- for Sight-Seeing. Later we came to know that the guy was trying to fool us. I insisted on having lunch before starting. Lunch meant lunch + alcohol. At least a bottle of Kingfisher per head! We had a consensus on that. We started looking for a bar. The first one we went into didn’t have KF. I had read about Hotel Grand Palace having a nice bar. We decided to go for it. We got KF Strong and were surprised to see the price. Mere 120/-. So the lunch started. It was around 3:00. A new idea was suggested by Kedar. “Let’s postpone the Sight-Seeing for the next trip and enjoy the drinks.” I fealt as if usne mere muh ki baat cheen li ho. Rajeev initially expressed his uneasiness in his trademark style and the next moment, as expected, he was in. Hyderabad VS Jaipur. Yes that was the IPL match which started in a while. We enjoyed the whole match and as soon as it was over, we decided to start back for Selam. It was nice walking down the Hillock. It was dark and cold. Mausam ka maza lene ke liye we hired an Auto-Rickshaw. The Auto-Rickshaw journey was really pleasant. In order to take some extra mausam ka maza we asked the Auto Driver to stop near a particular hair pin bend. I asked for Kedar’s camera as my batteries were discharged. That was the moment Kedar realized that he didn’t take back his charger and the batteries after giving them for charging at the bar. Okay, the NiMh batteries and their charger don’t cost less and I immediately suggested that we have got enough time to go back and get it. So we returned from the half way. Our third journey for Yercaud! We got there and get the stuff. It was around 10:00 and the Auto-Wala was not comfortable dropping us at Selam. He offered to arrange a Taxi. We didn’t had any issue accept that we had to reach Selam before 11:30 as that was the scheduled time for our bus to Chennai. He told us that it will take an hour to reach Selam and he would arrange the Taxi in 10 minutes. His ten minutes kept extending and the taxi arrived at around 10:30. I was tensed and I bet even Kedar and Rajeev were in the same mode, but we kept our calmness and discussed about the possible options, including the option of having a fourth journey to Yercaud next morning in case we are not able to make it for the bus. You bet? All three of us are very positive minded people. We were surprised when we saw time while getting down at Selam. We still had 20 minutes. Now that’s the award of displaying calmness. That tensed Taxi journey was the last exciting thing that happened to us on the whole trip. We got down at Guindy at around 5:30 in the morning, the next day. Took an Auto and reached our place. That’s it. Had a whole day rest and next day we were back on our regular office schedule.
So, we didn’t let the three day vacation go waste. The moral of the story: Jahaan chah hae wahaan rah hae. 😉
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