The Train Journey
I picked up Major Tandon. On arrival at the railway station, to our dismay we found the train was late by two hours. We regretted not checking up about the timings. Bad planning. But it was too late for amendments for regrets. I exchanged the warrants for tickets and we went to the waiting room.
The train arrived. There was no reservation for us. But we were lucky to find two berths which were to be available from Bhopal.
`Now, this is called murder of time, bad planning and the limit of carelessness,’ remarked Major Tandon.
`What’s happened to warrant such remarks, sir?’
`Happened? Damn it we waited solid two hours, doing nothing at the station; at least we could have found out about the reservation.’
Ùnnm..., to an extent, yes. But let us presume we did. So?
What could we have done? The fact remains; no reservation! No reservation!! In no way would it have been better to check than not to check. I would say sometimes such carelessness indirectly pays and helps in controlling the rate of heart attacks, so common these days. If we’d checked and had found that there was no reservation, we would’ve been brooding over it for two hours with mounting tension in varying degrees of hope - causing unnecessary and increased fluctuation in the blood pressure.’ I said and looked at Major Tandon with a grin.
Major Tandon saw his carelessly made statement being torn to shreds by a person much junior in age, service and knowledge. It hurt him. So to drive home the point and prove his statement, he sat erect, thought for a minute and said.
`You sound like a fatalist. Right?.... But I believe in timely action and proper planning. It leads to happy endings and results. Believing in and waiting for miracles to happen, in fact, is a domain of weaklings. In my opinion it is the cause for what you have said and many other ailments of the mind. Your argument is also stupid, in that, the blood pressure which was disturbed and shot up all of a sudden could be more dangerous than the slow tension,’ he continued, `Do you understand this Captain Rathaur?’
I, looking quite amused, paused for some time and then countered Major Tandon. `Yes, sir, I understand, - but I am not convinced with your self-contradictory argument....’
`Wait, sir, let me explain it first, and if you still want to improve upon what you said, you’re welcome to do so’, I said and continued, `First let me put it straight. I never denied and disagreed that there shout not be or there is no requirement of timely action and planning as you’ve said. Rather I hold that belief and till this point fully agree with you. Still, planning may not always bear fruit. Otherwise Alexander, Changez Khan and Hitler would have ruled the world. Sometimes even timely action and intelligent planning prove most disactrous. History is witness to such failure of the most-worked out plans - which, historians and intellectuals later came out with their comments that the plan was faulty because of this or that. If that had been worked out accordingly, history would have been different... Yes history would’ve been different if the reasons put forward later were adhered to .... But the word Ïf"is a big factor. Without this word everything would’ve been different. And alas! The workd Ïf"exists and takes significance. It creates a belief in divine creation of the universe - without denial of revelation.
You may call it miracles.... otherwise persons of the calibre of Napoleon, Hitler, Churchill, Nehru and so on, would never have gone wrong with their superb intelligence and penchant to cater for the minutest possible details while planning the future... If that be so then it manifests that even while planning there’s some unknown force at work which influences each action without making its presence felt; taking one towards success or failure. You may term this force anything. It means the same.’ I paused for breath and added, `Now the same analogy can easily be implied in the routine life of a common man. Anything which is bound to happen, will happen, despite any amount of good and intelligent planning. Hence, a fatalist will never allow his blood pressure to shoot up in the face of failure such as that we were about to experience a short while ago.’ I stopped abruptly, looked at the face of Major Tandon for any sign then continued, Ànd I am sorry to say that a staunch believer in planning, like you, has failed to plan our move.... But I say once again, even if you had resorted to detailed planning, we would’ve achieved nothing, except for staying two more hours more with the children. As for reservation, I still think wer are better off without planning it.’
`No, but that means you don’t attach any importance to planning.’
Ì never said that. Rather I believe and value it the most. But only where it makes difference or is likely to, on my anticipation and expectation over certain problematic situations. I put every effort and stretch my imagination as far as the tissues of my brain allow.’
`What if your planning fails?’
Ì try and work out alternatives, depending upon the situation.’
Ànd if it still.......’
`Fails. Then it fails. Haven’t I said, sometimes the best of plans fail?’
`But you said you plan where you see impact.’
`Yes, that’s correct.’
`Do I take impact here means success or failure that can make you happy or miserable?’
`So it is.’
Òkay, if that is right then won’t you consider a night train journey without reservation as miserable?’
Ìn that case, I’ve proved my point. We would’ve planned our move and made efforts while at the station - and not wasted the time,’ said Major Tandon looking triumphantly at me.
I laughed and said, `Sir, you’ve come to square one. You’ve proved a point which is uncontested.’
`What do you mean?’
`Right. I’ll make myself clear this way - there are two things one is a plan and the other is spontaneous reaction to a situation. A plan involves number of factors. First is substance; i.e. the AIM, around which the whole plan revolves. For instance you wish to construct a house. Thus construction of house becomes your aim. The various factors to make your plan successful, are acquiring knowledge of houses, the material, its cost and the availability of labour, both skilled and unskilled - the time by which the house is required and, finally, the time available. Each of these factors is directly and proportionately responsible for the success for failure of the plan, in this case the house construction. Of these, time is the most important factor. Now let us go back a bit. Why do you require a house at all?.... The answer is to make yourself comfortable, to seek protection from the weather and in some cases from wild animals and reptiles. But one may question, couldn’t house providing the basic necessity of shelter be constructed without the plan? Yes, it can be. But it would not be a house of your choice - it would lack the desired amenities and may cost even more than one property planned and constructed according to one’s choice. The planned house definitely has an edge over the unplanned. And Sir, this is planning and its advantage’ After a pause I continued, Ì shall now come to the other aspect of our discussion.... Supposing we’d gone hunting in a dense jungle, planning to return before nightfall. But something happened and we lost our way and could not do so. Here we are confronted with an unexpected situation. It’s too late for planning. Immediate action is required. This action could also be termed as an alternative which in this case are two: either to continue the search in the darkness or to spend the night with little make - do arrangements. How we react at this stage depends upon our state of mind and ingenuity. Here we can’t plan. We simply have to make one of the two choices : Either we continue trying to find a home in the darkness or we rest in the jungle until daybreak. At this stage, no amount of worrying or planning would help. You’ve to take the situation at face value, relying on instinct. We were also put under similar conditions, by the circumstances in respect to our rail reservation. Miracles do take place but they are fragile and take a long time coming. No one gets reservation in no short a period as for days, when the choice is limited. A plan may succeed, but not always....’
`What do you mean, choice is limited?’, interrupted Major Tandon.
`The only choice we’d was to travel by the Grand Trunk.. on 18th. Wasn’t that so?’ I replied.
Ìf that was so’I continued, `then no amount of planning and enquiries would’ve been of any use, except being an exercise in futility. On the other hand, without worrying and disturbing our minds we are better off now than we would have been, had we made a plan in detail’, concluding, I looked at Major Tandon.
Ì think I have got to agree with you. As we were lucky to get berths so you’ve scored a point. Eh? How do you say TIME is the most important factor of all?... What if you don’t get labour or material?’
Ì didn’t say the other factors were not important, but that their importance is judged in relation to time. This then makes TIME as the most important,’ I explained.
`You mean the importance of factors vary?’
Èxactly. Surely you know that?’
Ìf I say I don’t?’
`Then, sir, I shall explain. But before that let me order tea for us’, I said, seeing the waiter passing and ordered two teas.
`Would you like anything with tea?’
`Nothing’, said Tandon.
At that I nodded to the waiter, then turning to Major Tandon said, `This was a must,’and smilingly continued, `Well sir, I will come back to the topic. If you have labour and no material then the latter becomes important and vice versa....’
`Then what of time?’
`The importance of time remains supreme : for, you can procure the material and labour from anywhere, if you have the means, But you can’t procure TIME; not at any price.’
`But supposing you don’t find labour and the material anywhere, then?’
`Then I am sorry to say - you may be called a pessimist,’ I replied laughingly, and with a view to easing tension I abruptly changed the topic, asking, Òh! Sir, by the way did you enquire from the CO about the true nature of our assigned duty?’
Major Tandon sensed the change in topic. Being an intelligent man he was aware of the weakness of the subject he was defending and looked wilted - picking up an argument which he himself was opposed to.
More often than not, a person takes up a topic carelessly, merely to establish his superiority over his opponent, even though his own ideas may coincide with those of his opponent. Same was the case with Major Tandon. Thus, he quickly availed himself of the opportunity to change the topic.
`Yes, I talked to him after the party in the JCO’s Mess,’ replied Major Tandon.
Ànd what did he....’
`He said, he was not aware,’interrupted Major Tandon and added, Ì think your doubts are unfounded. Rathaur, this is the first time that a new type of cards were issued. We don’t know which branch of the Intelligence set-up, deals with them.’
Ì hope so,’I said and turned my face to glance through the window.
Outside, because of the train’s motion, it appeared that stationary objects like trees and shrubs were possessed with a life that was their own and raced past the train window. I mused how the earth, because of the relative motion appeared to be trying to outflank the train faster immediately outside the window, gradually slowing towards a standstill on the horizon. A grove of kikar trees intruded upon the scene. The nests of bavas hanging down majestically, swinging to and fro in the gentle breeze of the sultry evening - rays of the dying sun percolating through the kikars scraggy branches - bayas winging through the trees; all silhouetted against the spectrum of the waning sun. I became totally immersed in this soothing tableau as the train moved on. As if in a trance I muttered, Àll Illusion’, as if prompted by some deeper recognition. Major Tandon’s voice intruded and dispelled my ruminations. `What is this illusion?’
I, straightened myself, thought for a while and sai, Èverything is an illusion in this world. I mean what the eyes see may not be so - looking at the same object with the same set of eyes from a different angle at different times gives an entirely different view. Everything changes with the change of circumstances and environments... I was enjoying this spectre of illusion - looking at the Earth, at the horizon, moving in a circle with the speed of the train. Eyes are watching the movement of Earth, but factually it’s the train which is moving and not the Earth. This is what I called as illusion..’
`Then what do you mean by all illusion?’ Asked major Tandon.
`Right. This means, life of a person is nothing but an illusion in a wider ter.’
`Sir, you’re becoming a philosopher!’, quipped Major Tandon.
At that time the train was steaming into the station. There was great hustle and bustle inside the train and on the platform outside. The train jerked to a shaky halt. There were instant shouts for coolies - a jumble of voices - all incoherent, yet piercing to the ears; people running in and out of the train, some collecting their luggage, others counting and yet others searching and shouting for their lost kids who were actually standing beside their parents holding their hands, probably forgetting even themselves in the collective anxiety - running ahead of each other - pushing here and kicking there, as if to avoid some impending calamity. After some time, everything looked calm as if nothing had happened! Passengers were buying fruits, reading papers; sipping tea, some even searching for a water tap, but this time, all too patiently, faces beaming with joy at having overcome the crucial battle of securing a seat or a place for themselves in the train or some were even enjoying the spectacle of those less fortunate who were unable to secure a place.
I watched with intent each spectacular sign of this mad, mad world, where every one is concerned only about himself and himself aline!! There was a spate of uncontrollable feelings which I myself was not in a mood to analyse, or couldn’t, due to a sudden overwhelming rush of feelings.
It was Bhopal. A conductor came and, after some enquiry about the entraining station, allotted two side-berths to us. The berths were vacated by a couple. The remaining occupants of the compartment were two persons, one and old man, looking like a manager of some concern and the other a young man, probably an executive or a travelling agent of some reputed firm. I found out after some courteous conversation that both of them were our travelling companions till the destination.
Here, dinner was served. After the meal, I fell asleep while turning the pages of INDIA TODAY a magazine I had bought at Bhopal.
The night journey was nice and peaceful.
Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home |