In the chain of stops that define the path of Sampak Kranti Express, Tiruchirappalli was a minor stop which meant the train will leave at least in half an hour from the time of halt. Lambu and Chotu had not much difficulty in finding out their compartment, but difficulty started once they entered the 3rd AC compartment. It was around 3:40am in the morning and everyone was fast asleep. There were only zero watt bulbs illuminating the walkway and on both sides passengers had drawn close their curtains.
Lambu, who was walking in front, located the seat numbers with the help of indicators in the pathway. They ripped open the curtains, silently unloaded their baggage and stuffed them in the space they made by juggling the luggage of sleeping co-passengers. Both had reserved upper-berths. In the darkness, Lambu threw his laptop bag onto his berth. Suddenly the whole compartment woke-up to a wake-up call “*hen*hod” that echoed and re-echoed throughout the compartment. Lambu hurriedly apologised and took back his laptop bag. He turned around to leave, only to see, in the faint light of the zero watts, two eyes twinkling with evil designs. John rushed to his mind and told “Ab sher badla!!”
Thanking the indicator for misdirecting and arranging for a great welcome greeting, they went to the neighbouring set of berths. They kept the laptop bags on the upper-berths first and then repeated the damn process of juggling the luggage of their co-passengers to make way for their own. To check the space available for luggage under the lowest berth, Chotu lifted up one side of the blanket that was hanging down. Suddenly a lot prayers followed by curses, in Tamil, flowed out, first from the lowest berth and then from the neighbouring berths. Chotu was terrified and apologised in English. “Buhuhuhuha ha ha ha ha.....” Lambu laughed heartily in his mind and gave Chotu a “Sher ko shikari chooha banadiya!!” look.
Finally, with everything settled, both went to sleep. At around five o’clock in the morning the man-in-the-black-suit came to wake everyone up. From the floor, Chotu’s berth seemed unoccupied. The man-in-the-black-suit saw Lambu’s feet sticking out of the berth and pulled it hard. Lambu got up with a jerk. When asked for the ticket, he told in semi-consciousness “No ticket.... No ticket.....” and went back to sleep. The man-in-the-black-suit got angry and started showcasing his Tamil vocabulary. The commotion woke-up Chotu who showed the SMS he received from IRCTC.
The next morning morning began at 1pm for Lambu. Their neighbours, two old Tamil couples, were discussing about Lambu’s faceoff with the feared-by-all man-in-the-black-suit. On overhearing this, it dawned on Lambu that the beggar he shooed away the previous night was none other than the TTR. Thinking this is the time to gain some free respect, Lambu got down from the upper-berth and sat on one side of the lower-berth. As soon as the couples saw Lambu, they started laughing with the merriness of a three year old on seeing a caged monkey!! They started discussing about the previous day’s incident again in full vigour by making comparisons with comedians and jokers in south Indian movie industry. When Lambu thought he can take it no more, he dropped the bomb “Excuse me... Are you from Trichy? It is good to have south Indians around.” The couples asked in shock “Ungalkku Tamil theriyyuma?” Lambu replied in his broken Tamil “Konjam konjam theriyum... naan vanthu Malayali.” The couples, thus enlightened about the depth of their dumbness, gave a sheepish smile and changed the topic.
All day long, Lambu who is a Facebook Addict sat with his laptop and dongle, cursing the service provider, government and naxalites for lack of development in the country, whenever the range dimmed. Chotu slept the whole day, provoking comments from the old couples about the hangover caused due to sleepless nights in IIMs (poke tongue) which they apparently came to know from someone who is related to them through a family-line with a lot of complex hair-pin curves, waking-up only to eat.
Next day, Lambu woke-up again at 1pm and saw Chotu in the neighbouring upper-birth lying face-up staring at the blank white wall in a trance. Lambu enquired what the reason was and Chotu said “I am worried about internship. This is my first experience and I do not know what I am going to do and whether I am fit for marketing.” Lambu consoled Chotu and both had lunch. The train had stopped at a station somewhere in Uttar Pradesh. Both of them got down to buy some cold drinks and snacks for evening. Lambu enquired about the price in broken Hindi and the shopkeeper replied in Hindi. Lambu said “Sorry, no change!” shut his wallet and asked Chotu to take care of it. Chotu asked -”165?” and was about to pay when Lambu checked the prices of each and found out MRP was just three fourth of that amount. Both got alerted of the harsh world out there waiting for them, where the careless will be clueless of what hit them. They paid the actual amount and continued their travel to the capital city.