Monday, December 23, 2013

The Railroad Fixation

There are a lot of firsts in life. First watch,First cell,First job and a whole lot of first experiences.I have this habit of keeping track of firsts,however ridiculous or unimportant they seem.Though I went to two different countries,both times by a plane,I never flew domestic.I should have been excited when I finally got to do so,But all through the journey,I wasn't .I felt like I was breaking tradition.

My sister was back from the USA after a gap of three years.I was very restless and wanted to meet her asap.But the placement season kept me from running off home.I did have a ticket back by the first train possible,but had to postpone it because of some application business.Still, I tried getting a tatkaal ticket so that I could get a train.But it wasn't meant to be.So I had to accept the fact that  wouldn't be going home in a train.why do I have this stupid fixation with trains?

I did have some good memories from my childhood.I remember calling 131 or 132 to find out whether the train to Hyderabad was on time.We used to take an auto to the station and get in the reserved compartment and pay a fine.For a very long time, I didn't know that the general compartment existed.Sometimes,we used to take the Shatavahana from Hyderabad to Warangal. This was the train I believed was the fastest in India,Just for the reason it was faster than the other ones I used to travel and the fact that I used to travel in it.(In my defence,I was a small kid with big ego).

The two years of my intermediate were probably the most important ones in determining how I ended up.Though I feel IIT has had an impact on my personality,it wouldn't have been possible had it not been for some decisions during this time. My parents boldly chose not to let me join one of the (jee)factories in Hyderabad(something I can't thank them enough for) and I was only too happy to stay at home.On the downside, you never knew how good you are.If you were in the top batch in Narayana or Chaitanya, you can  just  read the material provided for two years and be sure of a rank.Here,You have to decide what you read,how you study and what to do.So,I ended up getting everything I could lay my hands on.I had all the popular books on Maths,Physics and Chemistry.I subscribed to all the possible magazines and postal materials possible.I had materials from Aakash,Resonance,Bansal,Time and lots of other random material.It is one of these subscriptions,FIITJEE to be exact,that led to my attachment with the railway.

Fiitjee has these All India tests which are very reputed and having taken their material, I was eligible to take them.The only problem was that they were held in Hyderabad.So I did take the rail route to the test.In my first year,I used to start on saturday afternoon.There was this passenger which charged Rs20 for the trip.I always used to try and read something on the way ,but was disturbed by curious co passengers,each of them having their own advice on life and education.But then,It was fun.The people also were so different.I had talked to guys such as principals of schools ,auto drivers and migration workers from Orissa.I remember praying for the express to get delayed so that I reach early,but getting held up for the crossing one station away.Then my uncle used to pick me up and take me to his place where I would spend the night before the test.In my second year, to save time,I used to get up early and catch the 4:40 train to write the test.The test used to have the same pattern as the old JEE (9-12,2-5) and was generally out of sync with my curriculum.Halfway into the second test,I used to start weighing solving unanswered questions against catching an earlier train(the Shatavahana again!!).I always took the former,and then rush to the Secunderabad station,which was 5 min of walk from the center.I still had some tough decisions to make.Whether to try and get into the 5:40 express which would reach already full,or to take the 6:20 one in which I would definitely get a seat.I did prefer the 6:20 one.The Padmavathi express from Secunderabad to Thirupati.I used to check my solutions with the ones given after the test and calculate the marks.I sometimes had my friend and  junior,Savant for company in the ordeal.I used to have a generally one-sided conversation with him,poor guy never used to talk much.I had better ones with some other passengers,or best ,used to listen to conversations without getting into one.And boy,they were interesting,especially in 2009 before the general elections.I used to reach by 8:30,on sunday at the station  where my dad used to wait.Good Memories.

But the best memory,or the one I remember the most was this.As I was travelling in the general,which is at the last of the train,it used to take some time before I could reach the exit.By that time,there would generally be the announcement of the next train,the Charminar express.I used to tell my tired self "Do this for a few more times and work hard, and in some time you will get on that train ,going to IIT Madras".I told this to myself every time in that station.And it came true!!

Now ,everytime I come home for a weekend,I try and book a ticket in that train on a sunday. Everytime I get on it, I feel proud to have made it.That sense of achievement might not be obvious to many, But even after 4 years,I still feel amazing.Cause its not about IIT ,its about workinf hard and getting something you wanted and you knowing it.Most of the times,when we reach early,I get to see the Padmavathi coming on to the platform.I smile and  tell my mom or dad,"You know,I used to come in that every sunday"while take a glance ,trying to see if by chance, there is a boy with bag ,some Fiitjee papers, and dreamy eyes...