After my graduation, I took up a course in Chartered Accountancy (CA). For this we had to spend three years working under a qualified CA along with studying & giving our exams (articleship). I was just out of college & quite young. The CA office was located in the other end of town from where I stayed. Like most Mumbaikars (people living in Mumbai), I would take the local train & travel for an hour to reach my place of work. There was a direct train from where I stayed to the place I worked, but the frequency was just once in 20 mins. One particular morning I happened to miss this direct train. This meant that I would be late by 20 minutes for work. In a rush to reach office, I decided to take another train in the same direction, get off at a station midway & then take a connecting train to the final destination. This effort would save me 10 minutes. (The entire calculation must’ve taken me just few seconds then.)
Mumbai is a crowded city & many times you miss your trains just trying to wade through the thick traffic of people. To get the connecting train at the next station, I would have to climb up a bridge & cross over to the immediate next platform. Both the platforms were separated by two railway tracks. One track had trains going south & the other going north. I realised that if I have to push through the crowd, climb the tall bridge & reach the other platform, I would never make it on time & would miss my connecting train as well. I was already very late.
I chose the easier, faster & illegal (yes illegal) option. I decided to jump down from the platform I was standing on, cross both the tracks & climb up the next platform. This process would take me less than a minute. In a city where time is more important that anything else, many people risk their lives & do that. Well, there was really no risk. All you had to do was to make sure no train was approaching. The idea of being greeted by an upset boss made this decision very easy. Jump..run..Climb… so simple.. (That’s the thinking capacity at the age of 20!)
So here I was clutching my office bag on my side, wearing perfect formals, with my entire focus on the time & the railway indicator flashing the time for the next train. And then I jumped. Crossing the first track was really easy & must’ve taken me 3 seconds. There was a real narrow gap between the tracks, just enough so the trains don’t collide, but broad enough for a lean person like me to stand. Just as I was to cross track two, I saw the north bound train approaching at the bend. I had no choice but to wait for it to pass. Just then, out of nowhere, a lady appeared next to me. I was really nervous (because I was late & also on seeing the train) & didn’t look at her face, hence I have no recollection of what she looked like. She asked me if this was my first time crossing over. I nodded yes, wondering why on earth was she trying to make casual conversation at a time like this. Then she pointed to a brick & asked me to step on it & stand straight. ‘DON’T MOVE’ she said. I wasn’t in a position to apply my mind or argue & hence just followed her instructions without any real understanding as to why she was doing this. Then suddenly out of nowhere, a south bound train came speeding on the other track. Here I was, standing on a brick on a narrow gap & in between two speeding trains going in opposite directions. I froze like someone had cast a spell on me. One small move & I would be blown into pieces. I continued to stand there even after the trains had passed, when the lady (she probably snapped to get me out of the hypnotic state) said, ‘now you can go’. This entire thing must have happened in not more than 20 seconds.
When I finally moved & turned to thank her for saving my life, I saw there was no one there. I looked ahead to see if she had walked on, then behind & there was no one there too. I quickly crossed over & got lost in the sea of people moving to catch their train & then went on with my life. But, alone I was in my thoughts, wondering if she was really ever there or was she an illusion. Maybe she was GOD!
Yes that was the last time I ever attempted crossing the tracks ever. 😀