I am sure all of us have memories of things that we did when we were younger, things that we wouldn’t even dare to think of doing today, things that make our stomach churn or our knees go wobbly.
Decades back, my younger brother, his wife and me and my wife travelled by train from Bombay to Bangalore for our mom’s first death anniversary.
As far as I could tell, the train was completely empty except for the driver and the four of us. We did not see a soul during most of our journey, not in the train, not in the stations. All the stations on the way were dark, no lights, no people, no shops, no hustle and bustle. Today I feel it was like some horror movie as station after station came and went, deserted and totally silent. There was no sound other than us talking intermittently – and the clackery clack of the train on the tracks.
It is tempting to make this a story of terror and hiding and running from some evil force and all that. Maybe it would make for a great story (hmmm…), but I dont recollect us being too scared or worried at that time, not even the ladies. We were much younger, you see.
Normally, people whisper in such circumstances. But we were talking and laughing normally, thinking of Mom and family politics. Maybe we were even thrilled a bit, as if we were watching some scary movie. I dont remember what we did for food, maybe we had carried something with us, I dont know, but nothing was available at any station for most of the day and night.
If memory serves me right, it was the Udayan Express which left early in the morning from Bombay, reaching Bangalore the next morning. It was only in the early hours of the morning that we started seeing people and life, at least in the stations.
It was December 7th 1992, the day after the Babri Masjid was brought down. We had seen the entire event on TV the previous day (Sunday), and yet on Monday morning we four idiots travelled, oblivious to the possibility of trouble. Luckily, the riots in Bombay hadnt yet begun. To put our reckless stupidity in prespective, 900 people died and over 2000 were injured in the rioting that followed. There must have been a curfew in force at the time of our travel, I dont know for sure.
I am sure we realized that the train and stations were deserted because of the demolition, but I dont think we discussed it too much. I wonder what we would have done had something untoward happened. There were no mobile phones those days and even land lines were a luxury. There was no social media, of course. I think we we would have been far more aware of the dangers and risks if we did have instant news on the phone and social media coverage like we do today. One tick mark for these modern day ‘evils’!
But obviously, the rest of the world didnt need instant news and social media to cancel their travel plans. We, on the other hand, never even gave it a thought. Today, I shudder to think of what may have happened.
Woh umar mein akkal toh hota hi nahin hai! Aaj bhi kuch bahut jyada nahi hai, but at least we wont take such risks today. Or maybe we did, even after we ‘matured’, but those stories are for another day.
For today, just that silly train journey and the sadness of the Babri.