I reached Coonor Mountain railway station at 12.50 noon. The ticket counter will open only 45 minutes before the train departure time at 3 o clock. With so much time to kill what do I do? A single girl with a shoulder bag, camera bag and a hand luggage, as it is, I was attracting a lot of attention.
I quietly sat in a corner chair, in front of the closed ticket counter till 2. Just then, a police officer glanced at me and in quick steps went straight ahead to the platform. Something about me must have bothered him, because he came back.
‘Where are you going?’ He asked. ‘
To Mettupalayam’, I answered. ‘
What?!’ he nearly shouted.
‘Madam, Ticket counter here stopped issuing tickets to Mettupalayam a week back. What are you waiting for? The train comes full from Ooty itself. In Coonor, they don’t issue tickets anymore. Go back!’ he said. ‘Go back! Take the bus to Mettupalayam. It will make your life easier. You will reach sooner. Now don’t waste time, please go!’ The same was also now repeated as an announcement directed at anybody who intended to travel to Mettupalayam by the UNESCO World Heritage train from Coonoor.
One of the many things my father says, in a funny way, is ‘when you want something badly even if logic says you can’t have it, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer immediately. Give it a little more time before YOU decide it is not going to happen. Between then and your decision to accept ‘no’, things can change’.
So here I was, sitting adamantly in the bench for another 30 minutes after the police officer tried to chase me away. When an insider says it can’t happen what are the odds that it might happen?
After 30 minutes, seeing me sitting in the bench unmoved, he came up to me.
‘How long have you been waiting?’ he asked.
‘Two and a half hours’
He made a face, ‘Why dint you book it online? These days everyone does it that way?’
‘Because it is eternally booked’ He sighed and shook his head. ‘Ok, when the train comes, in the general compartment if there is, ‘IF’ there is space for one person then you talk to the ticket examiner. If he agrees let me know, I shall manage and get you the ticket here in Coonoor’ he said. This means an extra effort for him. If there is space, he has to go, look for the ticket seller and get it printed. I doubted if he would take such a pain. The train arrived. It had not stopped but the officer shouted out to the Ticket examiner standing on the train steps asking if there was one seat. And casually the ticket examiner replied, ‘yes!’. I patted myself for not having taken ‘no’ at its face value. I jumped in, ran and took the window seat. Let the lands slide, mountains crack, I was not going to move an inch from there.
Now, where is the ticket? The police who had helped came next to my seat window and said, ‘Give me 100 rupees’. Ticket in the second class was but 10 rupees. When I handed over the money, equating to the look on his face, I froze. Oh my god! Is this a new way to make money? To the adamant travelers like me do they buy tickets this way? Oh fuck! What have I done?
15 minutes later…I saw a hand extend with a ticket and the exact change. Instead of thanking my stars that day, I thanked the police officer whose intentions were genuine and I happily waved back to him with all my teeth showing for finally making my dream mountain ride happen!