In February 2016, I took a decision that was going to teach me to be independent: I would travel alone to my hometown Bengaluru and stay with my cousins and grandparents for a few days and then return. And so, tickets were booked, both for going and return in A/c 3 Tier on the Sampark Kranti Express which runs from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Bengaluru.
It was May 19. My train was expected to arrive at 11:15 am in Pune, but it arrived only at 11:45 am. My parents had accompanied to the railway station to see me off, my mother constantly giving me advice, fussing over me and upset because I wouldn’t be there for the next 15 days.
When I got onto the train, a woman and her younger son had occupied my seat and told me to sit somewhere else. To this, my mother asserted that they had better let me sit on the seat allotted to me as I was going alone and had nobody to look after me. She reluctantly agreed. I could have sat anywhere, not that I had a problem, being an amiable person, but mothers! Their love is unparalleled.
The train started chugging and they waved to me. Shortly after that, the ticket checker came on his round and I showed him the printout of my ticket my father had got for me and my PAN card as identity proof. I also obtained my pillow and chadar for the journey. I didn’t feel the need to talk to my copassengers. I ate lunch, listened to music and read both the books I had brought along. At night, I couldn’t sleep because the train had picked up speed and the bogey was shaking horribly, despite being A/c.
However, it reached Bengaluru at its expected time. I got off the train, having told a man to help me unload my suitcase onto the platform, and waited. My uncle came after 10 minutes and took responsibility of my suitcase and we went to his apartment which is just behind the railway station.
Fun time ahead! We enjoyed a lot in Wonder la, basically a water amusement park with dry rides as well.
The rides were scary and exciting at the same time. There was a play pool and rain dance as well. We had to walk barefoot all over the place, having deposited our slippers and belongings in lockers made available to people. I was scared of entering into the pool initially but I held my aunt’s and cousin sister’s hand and all was well. I just loved it, the feel of cool water against my skin, standing under the blazing sun, though wading through the water is difficult. On one of the dry rides, at a point of time when it was in mid air, we could see the whole park spread out in front of us which was breathtakingly beautiful. We changed into dry clothes afterwards.
My cousins’ family was going to Goa for a reunion of Naval cadets and their families. Those four days I spent at my grandparents’ place. I visited the ISKCON temple which is near their house.
Their house being on a hill, I was not getting mobile network inside the house and so was unable to use Internet while I was inside. So, I had to keep walking to and fro on the road outside their house to send replies to my Whatsapp messages.
My birthday which falls on May 25 went off wonderfully. I got presents from my cousins, uncle-aunty and grandparents. We had ordered a birthday cake which I cut in the evening, to all singing ‘Happy Birthday Vaishnavi!’in the background. A hearty dinner followed.
On the return journey, imagine my surprise to find a girl from my college in my compartment! What a pleasant coincidence! A Bengali uncle-aunty and that uncle’s mother were also in my compartment. Aunty started asking me where I was going, said that they too were going to Pune, exchanged a few words and kept asking me about the Bengaluru metro, as their daughter was going to stay in Bengaluru for her higher studies.
They kept talking amongst themselves in Bengali, without once guessing that I can follow a conversation in Bengali. Mazaa aata hai when people speak freely in a tongue, thinking others won’t understand just because thanks to movies, Tamilians are supposed to speak Hindi with difficulty, let alone other languages. I don’t tell them that I can understand what they are saying, kyuki usmein hi toh asli mazaa hai.
The journey taught me to be independent: being responsible for my luggage and handling it, seeing that I bring home all that I had taken, and more whatever I had been given and had bought in Bengaluru, adjusting with passengers on the train, taking my meals when on the train, on time, overall it was a test I had set for myself on how well I can take care of myself without my parents’ help and timely advice. Though the first day I forgot to carry my bath towel into the washroom and had to make do in its absence, it was worth it!