More than 3 years ago, around this time – a phone-call triggered a life – no overstatement this.
It was a Monday evening and I’d returned the same morning from Kerala, where my wife (say M) waited the arrival of our kid, scheduled for Feb 14 (no kidding) – still more than 3 weeks away.
And after a long day’s work ( more so, as I was slated to quit the company by that Fri, subject to meeting some unreasonably stiff deadlines) – I had a disagreement over a trifling issue with M, the reason, laughably mundane ( and I don’t even clearly remember the details) but enough to get my feisty M all worked up. Then, over the phone – I realized first hand ( no books or Wikipedia had prepared me for this) – that a tiny impulse of indignation was enough to trigger labor.
While M scurried off to the hospital in a pre-arranged taxi with a pre-packed overnight bag (thoughtful in-laws) – I got home with my head in a tizzy. It still could not sink in – so soon – false alarm most probably. But still, 3 weeks soon, it was not impossible – but all my preparations to switch my job before that and take a week’s leave – to welcome the newbie, evaporated ? Enough to trigger diarrhea – and I sat on the WC, and checked on Indian railways site to find that the last train for the day was already gone ( it was well past 11). Getting to the bus stand was the only option – but only my mo-bike would only be fast enough for that but then where to park. So I went to my b-i-l’s place,to find a parking slot for my bike and to get a ride to the bus-stand at midnight, which I eventually did after some coaxing ( he knew, that otherwise I was crazy enough to ride all the way to Kerala on that bike).
So an hour or so later I found myself on an “Express” service of the Karnataka Transport Corp. ( the 24 hour Blr-Mysore service of which I’d always admired) – there was no direct bus to Calicut or Coimbatore till morning – so segmented travel was the my only option to reach Thrissur. Although M sounded surprisingly calm as well as spirited – Murphy made me fear for the worst – all those medico episodes I’d read of in Reader’s Digest and seen in Discovery flashed through my eyes, connected, as a looping trailer, of umbilical cords wrapped around the necks, making sleeping impossible – it was also possible it WAS a false alarm and that the hosp after doing some business would discharge M, asking to come another day for the finals (and for more business).
My faith in the K(arnataka)SRTC Express was jolted when the bus broke down around 2 or 3 am near a tea-stall at Who-knows-where, the driver seemed to try to fix the engine – which seemed to emit an abundance of steam or smoke or both, accompanied by the skull-capped conductor who seemed to help while being visibly peeved by the account of my predicament (“my wife is in labor, sir” in the best Urdu I could manage) – as I tried in vain to hasten up their efforts. The driver seemed to have his eureka moment when he fished out a tree branch or an old rope or something to fix the incontinent engine – and it looked like we were finally moving off – at 20 kmph – but moving nevertheless – till the engine gave another hiss and filled the front of the bus with smoke once again. Another temporary fix and the driver managed to get to a KSRTC work-shop-cum-bus-depot and called it a day ( he could retire early today) – and we waited eagerly for a relief bus – but one that never came – we, a harried island of wakefulness among a sea of sleeping souls – drivers, mechanics, empty buses, all asleep.
Finally the conductor escorted us back to the Blr-Mys highway on foot – everyone trailing him for that savior bus – empty one – just for us – but one that never came – instead the conductor was trying to flag down any other KSRTC bus that he could – as if his khaki provided us with the credentials that we were not bandits. One bus stopped after many attempts – there was a mad rush – the woman in front of me fell on my legs – but the scramble paid off when I found myself tightly packed in a space fit for half a person.
Mysore was conquered, with a whimper – 135 km in 4 hrs, 400 km or so left, and my phone – gasped one last time for charge and slipped into coma – snapping my ties with M and the rest of the world – from now on – I would not know if a new life was born – or whatever happened to the existing life – and worse – I didn’t remember any phone numbers either, to call from a booth, e,g. it was the very … traumatic.