Thursday, August 05, 2010
Lost and.... found ?
I'd gone to Ajmer for a couple of days. We (me and my brothers) went by 9.40 pm Aravalli Express from Borivali on Saturday (31st July). This train reaches Ajmer at 4.40 pm next day. On our return journey, we came by the super-fast Jaipur Bandra Express, which leaves Ajmer at 8.30 pm and is supposed to reach Mumbai at 1.30 pm next day. Of course, the 'supposed to' remained a supposition only as next day early morning, we were told by the chai-wala who got in at some station at 7.30 am, that the train was running an hour late.
As our seats were confirmed at the last moment, they were scattered. I was to occupy the side seat (bottom berth) diagonally opposite to the compartment where my brothers were. They were allotted upper and middle berths opposite to each other in the one compartment. Our bags were pushed beneath the seats as we occupied our positions in the train. This train has two major halts, from where people were to board the trains at later stations at a later time. A major halt was at 1.30 am in the night too!
As majority of the travellers slept and even switched off the lights and drew the privacy curtains, the people coming in later, were clueless where to sleep and were pulling the curtains to check the seat numbers. People were adding more luggage, adjusting their own, while the earlier commuters slept. One passenger was to board our compartment too at 1.30 am, and we saw him in the morning!
Several people got down at Surat at 11.15 am next day, including two (mother-son) from our compartment, where our luggage was neatly tucked beneath the seat. The man who boarded the train at 1.30 am had two big baggages tucked beneath the seats where our luggage was! His family was in some other compartment. After he brushed his teeth, he moved in with his family. When the Surat duo got off with a lot of luggage, which included severals bags beneath one entire seat, a big box between two seats and a few bags here and there, I had a slight doubt where my bag was! I told my brother. He though I was joking, and shrugged it off in true brother-sister tuff style! And anyways, in a First Class AC compartment, one rarely comes across people with malafide intentions. As most people got off, we had also moved into one compartment and sat together. Because of non-stop rain from Rajasthan and dull and dark weather, we were bored major part of the journey.
The train was to reach Borivali at 2.30 pm (4th Aug). At around 1.50 pm , we started assembling our bags and preparing to get off at Borivali. It is then that I realised that my black trolley bag was missing! Again my older brother pacified me saying it might be behind the luggage of the man who got in past mid night! My younger checked behind that too and finally confirmed that the bag was missing ! My heart sank. It had my clothes, and some traditional stuff I'd picked from Ajmer and Pushkar for friends and family. It also had some personal things and cosmetics. Plus it had tucked between a 'janamaaz' (again picked from Ajmer Sharif), a special Arabic to English pocket sized Quran gifted to me by a colleague. Now this is a special possession, as I checked and found out that it is rare and a Saudi Arabia publication, not easily found locally.
I was angry at my brother for not taking my words earlier in the day seriously. We re-checked all the places including the top berths again. Again, same result - 'bag not found'! I called my Dad to inform him. He told us to check the surrounding compartments in the same coach. We did that. No result. In fact, when we started asking people around, some even got defensive. I called my brother-in-law for his advice. He told us to look out for TC or railway police and inform them of the theft first. Meanwhile both my brothers were checking under other seats in the coach. The man of husband-wife-baby family sitting on the side seat of our compartment, told us that only one group had vacated the compartment since morning. The mother-son at Surat. But hearing that I gave up hope that the bag would ever be found. He suggested that we take the PNR number and names of them and later trace their numbers through railway and check if they'd picked my bag by mistake. Knowing how little time one had once back to Mumbai routine life, I had little hope. Also, following up with people of Surat only on a hunch, was useless. My Dad suggested that even if we don't find the bag, it was better to inform authorities at Borivali station of such occurences so that if these are frequent on the route it could be highlighted (and action taken).
In life, I've learnt to mentally calm myself as I've learnt to cope with losses and shattered dreams. Only this time it was material, so I thought, what's the big deal anyways. Only I didn't want the Quran and another religious book inside the bag to be disrespected by anyone. Also, a few things taken for others, meant something to me. Losing 'my' things meant they could be replaced. Thinking of all these things, I prepared to get off at Borivali which was only a few mins away. Even the PNR number of the Surat duo was collected. The TC remarked that such instances were unheard of in upper class compartments. When I reflected back, the Surat duo had also taken their luggage in front of my eyes. I would have noticed my bag being taken away, if at all. But I couldn't recollect anything. I was irrirated at the person, who'd tucked his bags over our luggage and was nicely sitting 4 compartments away with his family. We'd questioned him also in the beginning and checked through their bags, but he said he hadn't moved any bags! In fact, there was a mini chaos in the entire coach as people came to know of the incident. Most of the people were going to get off at Bandra (the final destination of train). I also wondered if in the night as the train halted at places, some outsider might have pulled the bag away, seeing people in deep sleep.
Finally, Borivali came and we prepared to get off. Again as we passed the 'bohra' family (the ones who'd got in at 1.30 am), my older brother asked them to contact us in case anything was found anywhere. Now the man really took offense, thinking we were doubting him. We got off at Borivali station with the remaining baggage and waited. My brother went back in the train to give his mobile number to the passengers going further so that they could contact him in case they found anything. Though no such luck seemed possible, as we had checked most places. After a 10 min halt, the train started to move. And my brother was seen coming back..... with my black bag! It was like magic. Almost as in the movies, when the hero finally emerges through a foggy background..... I asked him how and where he found it. He said as he got in the train to give his contact details, the man from the Bohra family pointed to a bag lying in a corner, almost near the last compartment near the door (4 away from where we were seated!), and asked him, 'Is that bag yours?' When my brother saw it, he realised, it was !
I immediately called my Dad. I told him that my bag was found. His words began to fumble, his voice was trembling and he was almost in tears as I could sense from his voice! I asked him why he was crying. He said, "Your Mom just said that since we were returning from the house of Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz, such a thing can never happen! And no sooner did she complete the sentence, you called to say that your bag was found!" This entire realisation, also made me emotional. Such miracles I'd heard of, but experienced for the first time. We said, 'Shukran Allah, Alhamdullilah' and proceeded towards home....