The day I became a railway announcer
A good many years ago, I made a work-related trip from Calcutta to Mumbai by train. It was a long, long, seemingly never-ending journey of some 36 hours which had been further complicated by a series of inexplicable delays. A friend/colleague was supposed to pick me up from VT station upon my arrival. So when the train finally pulled into VT, I could barely wait to get to the guest house, get cleaned up and call it a day. But when I got down from the compartment, I couldn’t see him. It was fairly late in the night and I knew he had been working long hours. So I just decided to wait a little longer to see if he’d turn up. Half-an-hour later, I was still waiting.
Now, I only had a landline contact number for my friend and when I rang the number, there was no answer. Wearily, I picked up my bags while trying to decide what to do next. Perhaps, I thought, my friend had fallen asleep while waiting for me. May be an announcement on the PA system would wake him up. So I made my way to the announcer’s cabin and explained my situation to him. He took one look at me and obliged straightaway. The announcement went out but thirty minutes on, there was still no sign of my friend. I trudged up the stairs to the announcer’s cabin one more time. Again, the announcement brought no result. The third time, I went up to the announcer. This time, I had an idea.
I figured the calls for my friend were getting lost amidst the regular announcements giving out details of train arrivals and departures. Perhaps I could make an announcement. In Tamil. Surely that would perk sleeping ears up? Luck must’ve been on my side that night because a couple of minutes later I was clearing my throat to make my first ever announcement on a PA system at VT station in Mumbai. Dei Sangar naye, I began desperately hoping that those around me didn’t follow Tamil and didn’t know that I had just called my friend a dog. I went on to give details of my whereabouts. I had just thanked the staff and got down to the main corridor of the station when I heard a familiar voice. Ei!, said Shankar, I’m so sorry I just fell asleep until I heard my name on the PA system.
Note: This and many other Mumbai-related thoughts came flooding to my mind when I watched Slumdog Millionaire on Friday.