Some weeks back IFMR, Chennai organised a Business Quiz. The key factor of thinking of taking part in it was the cash prize of Rs 24000. (Business quizzing considered by serious quizzers as a trivial pursuit is more for the money and the glamour of winning the big ones like Brand Equity and TATA Crucible.) So the cash prize lured my team mate and me to Chennai. The quiz was ok with a mix of old chestnuts, recent business trivia and decent connects. We missed qualifying for the finals by 4 pts which is a mile in quizzing standards. But what actually made attending the quiz worthwhile was the journey there.
I had no reserved tickets either by train or bus. A flight was out of the question unless sponsored by my organisation. If someone from my organisation is reading this maybe you could offer to sponsor the next time I face such a situation. The solution...travel by unreserved train in the general compartment.
So I landed at the Cantonment station at about half past nine, bought a general ticket(Rs 102 all the way to Chennai) and waited patiently for the first train to Chennai to come. The Chennai Mail came promptly( most trains which start from City are on time at Cantt.) at 22:55. The general compartment just behind the engine loomed ominously and passed me by. (The G8 Make Poverty History concerts had lesser people per square foot than this compartment.) People were literally flowing onto the platform.
The patient man that I am, I decided to wait for the next train in an hour and assumed that people do not travel at midnight. They proved me absolutely wrong. The Cauvery Express which wheezed onto the platform just short of midnight had both its general compartments in the front,full. I didnt bother to run up to the rear and check if the other two were relatively freer. I had no other option but to push myself, Footloose bag and all into the second compartment. There was hardly any space to move my backside let alone standing space. And with two grumpy rotund characters sprawled all over the aisle near the door, stepping onto them was the only wise action to see that I reached Chennai. Choicest of swear words flew in my direction in a sleepy state, followed by them quickly turning around and completely ignoring me and my prodding to make them clear the way. After much persuasion the sleeping Buddhas willed themselves to clear some space for me and some other guys who boarded along with me.
Once inside, the first thing which I came across was another sleeping man. This time well placed in between the two bathrooms, covered with the only crumpled lungi he had on himself, on a heap of shaadi mahal lights(the long connected ones). Having already imbibed a large amount of alcohol, he was in a state of delirium(loud searing with occasional pleas of mercy and occasionally turning over into the toilet and throwing up violently).
Seeing the kind of faces around me, all flustered and sleepy I decided against taking my pod out for fear of being beaten up or something. I found a vacant area on the side to lean on and rest my haunches and tried to get some forty winks. Just as i was about dozing a loud high pitched lady's voice woke me up, only to be followed by angry males trying to box the ears of another in his early twenties. I still dont know what the reason for the commotion was, but the guy who was assaulted made a quick exit at the next station.
A couple of hours later I was still on my haunches, thinking why did I ever decide to travel like this when a couple of seats became vacant. I quickly grabbed my bag and flung myself onto the upper berth. It was already bagged by an elderly but rowdy looking guy who wouldnt budge at first but finally relented to sacrifice some of his space. So I settled down as comfortably as I could with my feet on the opposite berth and backside on four or six cold wooden slats.(Thankfully Lalooji has planned to change these berths to cushioned ones from this year)
After five hours of intermittent dozing and a butt which felt like it had gone through a paper shredder the strong characteristic repugnant smell of Chennai woke me and my nostrilsup at about seven o'clock. Basin Bridge had come. Some more minutes later I was on the platform. The "Ting Ting Ting" welcome note which emitted from the PAS at Chennai Central sounded like the suprabatham, after my early morning capers.
Two hours later bathed and well stuffed with my aunts idlis and chutney it was time for the quiz. Nothing much to report on that front. We didnt qualify. We saw the quiz, went to Spencer Plaza (some kind of relief at last), and caught a KSRTC Rajahamsa from Koyembeedu Bus Station(the place is atleast three or four times bigger than the Bangalore HAL Airport!) to Bangalore.
And with that we come to the end of another unsuccessful endeavour of a business quizzer who won the TATA Crucible Campus version 2006. I like to live in the past! Corporate quizzing is so bloody competitive.
And yes I did get a good nights sleep on the bus.