Some of the posts that I write are in response to my pass-time motivation source, plinky. Here is one among them–a little snippet from my experience of travelling far from home. Like I mentioned in the title, I remember the data accurately; and I guess that is an indication of how strongly my experience is rooted in my memory. After a 38-hour long journey on the then famous AP Express, I reached Delhi. I went there to attend an International Public Relations Festival organized by Public Relations Society of India. And here we go with the story of the longest journey I took till now.
On a visit to British Library to pick up a book on Economics, I started casually taking a look at the leaflets kept on the reading desk. Someone might have left them there before I occupied the space. In my hand was a book, I recall vaguely, titled “bricks-and-mortar to clicks-and-mortar”. Don’t be surprised, because it was usual for me to deviate from my planned reads; just because any of the several things about a book I accidentally lay my hands on could be really impressive. And so it happened, the deviation from Economics to Technology. It did not end there because these leaflets on the reading desk were colorful. I picked up my favorite color, the green one. It was a brochure inviting participation in the International PR Festival to be organized at Delhi. The registration fee for the conference was INR 5000. That was a lot of money back then (even now I think that is a lot).
But, in 2005, I was only 21, and like most great-men-of-my-age then, I too was high on needs and low on awareness, with intoxicating energy and lackluster purpose, a feeling of I-know-it-all coexisting with an apparent peanut-size wisdom. I went home with the book that now became a carrier for the brochure.
Rationalization is perhaps an invincible evil. I had invented may be a dozen different reasons about why I should be attending that conference. Let me remind here, I was an engineering student in my final year (okay, some of you know that I was doing my MBA first semester too…so what?). My father is definitely the most supporting person on this planet. I can dare to say that because he not just allowed me to get resources to succeed, but he allowed me burn resources to fail and in the process let me learn. At every opportunity I have, it is my duty to acknowledge his contribution to who I am or what life I enjoy today and in time to come. So, getting back to the story, I persuaded my father to let me to go to the conference.
Then, in comes my mother to spoil all the discussion between my father and myself with her one ‘silly‘ doubt, ‘Delhi is very far… how can we send him alone?‘. That is a killer question. If mothers are reading this, I would like to tell you this–there is a first time to anything. So, let us grow. Instead of pointing the problem, suggest a solution to make things work. Please. And then, my father had put a condition that almost kills aspirations, that I should promise to be with someone that he will find to take care of me at Delhi. And what else could I do, but promise. I did.
But then, there was another challenge. It was the last week of November. And there weren’t too many days to go to the conference. So, how do we register, book tickets, find accommodation, find out how to commute from place of living to place of conference….woah, too many problems to solve. And then, I found a name on the brochure, Mr. Narasimha Rao, Head of the PRSI Hyderabad Chapter. We visited his place, if I remember rightly, somewhere around the ‘old MLA quarters colony’ in Hyderabad. He was in a white casual attire when we met him first, at around 8 PM that night (can’t recall the dates here). Sitting in his wooden chair and rushing through things, he promised my father that he would take care of me at the conference. I had a strange sense of relief. My father gave him the cash necessary. And as we walked out of his place, my father told me that he already made arrangements for my accommodation at Delhi. He had spoken to a friend of his, who was in a brigadier rank in the Indian Army, and found a room for me somewhere around RK Puram, Delhi. My tickets to Delhi and back to Hyderabad were booked too. AP express both ways.
After a forgetful train journey, where the only relief was a girl who shared my reading interests and carried John Grisham’s ‘First among the equals’, I got down at the Delhi Junction, and found myself swinging, unable to stand still. I had an old-fashioned suitcase in my hand, two sweaters on my body, and a winter-cap covering my ears. In a matter of just over a day-and-half, I found myself completely different. On top of it, I figured in two minutes after my stepping out of the train, that life will be difficult with out Hindi, which I did not know much then, nor know much now. I still recall vividly how I fell down the staircase at the exit because I was still swinging and my body head-to-toe was just wanting to be held together.
After struggling to reach Uncle (brigadier) on his phone, I decided to make a bold move. After all, I was a big man (6-foot, 90 kg, made-in-andhra student). I found a bus stop, moved there, and asked directions from a traffic police and tried recording his response I expected him to give me the number of the bus that goes to RK Puram, but the number never came. Actually, on that day, I did not see a bus with a number at all. All I saw were buses with symbols such as ‘+’ and ‘-’. I don’t exactly recall how I managed the situation then, but I do remember that it took me about three hours to reach my destination, and I crossed IIT on the way. Someone later told me that I traveled more than I should have, but I was glad I somehow reached the place my father told me, safely.
The place was under army control, and I had to show my identity, wait for a few phone calls to come, produce my registration slips, fill in some forms and I was finally shown a room in a corner to the right side of the corridor that I walked. It was a small room with two beds, and I was told that I would be sharing the room with someone else.
Who did I meet there, what happened after that, and how I returned to Hyderabad is a story that I could perhaps write a long essay on. For now, I would like to mark a mile here.