March 27 - 11:00 PM
The day was here. Train was to leave from Mumbai CST to Chennai in another 3 hours. Finally, the wait was almost over. But there was a very SMALL problem. 5 guys and 4 tickets. :) But this problem wasn't going to deter us. We had been through many such problems earlier.
All this while, Atul was under the impression that Ali wasn't coming and Ali assuming that Atul hadn't cancelled his ticket. Except for us 4, who were to board the train from CST, Atul decided to board the train from the Thane station.
We found our seats, dumped our baggage, and got comfortable trying to soak the cool air conditioned compartment air after the hot and sultry Mumbai heat had sapped our energy. But this was not time to relax. We had a mission in hand. So hardly a minute later, we were back trying to come up with ideas on accommodating Atul in our compartment. And this was not easy with none of us having this kind of experience.
Signal turned green, train left the platform and we thought it’s time to tell Atul that he had to board the train ticket-less while we managed to cook up an idea. Given the hyper nature of Atul, none wanted to take a chance of calling him. Meanwhile, we struck a conversation with an elderly helpful couple just seated next to us for some expert advice. Uncle was of the opinion that Atul should buy a platform ticket and board the train. (*Not sure how this might have helped.*)
Then someone was struck with another brilliant idea - Calling Thakur's mom and asking her to reserve a ticket for us. (*Thakur's mom worked with Indian Railways and could use her priority quota to book us a ticket. What she did not know was, we were asking for a ticket of the same train which had already started its journey. (*A Little late?? Huh???*) :D
So in just 10 minutes, we 4 who thought of enjoying our journey were now busy on calls trying to arrange ONE ticket for our dear friend Atul. While Baiyya was speaking to Thakur's mom, Ali was speaking to the couple; Anna called up the soon-to-be bridegroom Kandu, the man for whom we were all travelling in the first place. He was asked to book an e-ticket but little did we know that the tickets cannot be booked once the train is already on its journey.
I was given the task of calming the hyperactive Atul and trying him to convince to board the train while others trying their luck in getting a ticket which now looked so much valuable like a winning lottery ticket. As the train was inching towards Thane station, all started getting more impatient. Ali then thought of a drastic step - sacrificing his seat for Atul. But then wise Bhaiyya spoke up - "You getting down won't make a difference as the ticket does not have Atul's name. So anyways Atul is gonna be in trouble."
Finally the train arrived at Thane station and as soon as we got down, we were blasted off by Atul. He was angry as we did not inform him that Ali was coming. Funny - isn’t it? He was the one who cancelled his ticket even after not being asked to and then we were getting blamed for all the mess. :)
Somehow, we convinced him to get inside the train and leave it on us to get him a ticket. Our plans of making him travel ticket-less didn’t seem so brilliant at this moment. After all, it’s not an hour journey where we can manage to hoodwink the Ticket Collector. We had to spend the next 28 hours in this compartment. It was not easy.
By now, apart from us 4, Kandu, his dad, his mom, his sis and his jiju, Thakur's mom were all aware of our adventure :)
Run out of all possible ideas, we decided to take the path of righteousness. We decided to approach the TC before he comes on his way punishing the defaulters and it was decided that Bhaiyya and Ali will do the talking as they were well aware of the train terminologies. Atul, I and Anna were supposed to be standing back rendering support. But, somehow Atul managed to sneak through and got talking and when he talks, the other person can only interrupt. :)
And soon, Atul managed to convince or should i say confuse the TC to consider his unusual case of getting in the train ticket-less. He assured that he will get him a ticket once he completes checking tickets of all passengers. That brought smiles back on our faces and almost an end to the adventure and entertainment to which all our co-passengers were subjected to :)
Soon after, Atul managed to get a 2 AC ticket for himself for a paltry fine of Rs. 90/-. Train was approaching Pune and we started to feel a sense of time. The most exciting 3 hours of the journey were over and our journey to Chennai had just started.