It was 6.30 am and I fell out of the berth in a tangle of limbs. We were probably pulling into New Delhi station and I wanted to collect my belongings. And then I realised the train was stationary. A quick peek out of the window confirmed that we were in the midst of lush green fields and nowhere near Delhi.

Nosy being my middle name I slipped into my flip flops and hunted down the coach attendant. There’d been an accident further up on the same line and we were all being held up. A bus full of baraatis had been run over by a train, he said.

The train began to crawl after a while and we passed similarly held up trains. The occupants had got out to stretch their legs and most of them are sprawled out across the tracks. No matter how often I see this it doesn’t cease to amaze me. The tracks are dangerous and filthy but the men lie back, smoking beedis, waiting patiently in a way only Indians can wait, for the train to finally chug into action.

Travelling back sans kids I fell back on an old and dangerous habit – sitting in the doorway of the train. I picked this one up from an ex who had made the doorway his own. I’d sit by him as he lit up cigarette after cigarette and we’d be jammed into the doorway, whizzing through the nightscapes, lights twinkling in the distance, frogs and crickets keeping up a chorus, chatting as the miles flew, the breeze on our fearless faces, voices getting louder as the train picked up speed and the rattling threatened to drown all conversation.

We finally came upon the wreckage. There was a level crossing but the bus seems to have driven around it and on to the track, into the path of an oncoming train. I can just imagine the scene. A tinny radio playing local hits and the aisle full of people dancing. An eager bridegroom getting drunk with his friends, urging the bus driver to go around the barrier instead of waiting for the train to pass. Elders smiling indulgently at the young man’s eagerness to see his bride. And then the bus is caught midway across the tracks as the train came bearing down upon them from around a corner. Maybe it was too heavy and got stuck in the gravel. Maybe something failed and the driver couldn’t get it to budge. I can only imagine the horrified silence in that bus as the entire family gathered to celebrate a marriage, a new beginning, met it’s end together. Not a single member spared. Hopes, dreams, joy, all dashed in one blinding, screeching, metal ripping moment.

Our train slowed down further, voyeuristically. The bodies had been cleared from the wreckage but one look at what was left of the bus said it all. Shredded steel, fuel tank lying in a ditch, seats ripped out of place and flung to the other side.

It was a stark reminder of what comes of impatience and breaking rules. Standing behind me the men fell silent as we rolled by, our jaws slack. Strangely, before I left the kids home this time I reminded Ma once more that should anything happen to the OA and I, I want Tambi to raise our kids. Yes, I know it’s a huge imposition, two extra kids on a young man already bringing up his own family. But I can’t imagine anyone else doing what I want better than him. Basically he gets first right of refusal. If he doesn’t/can’t, then my parents will bring them up and thank their lucky stars that they are still young enough to do it. Mother glared at me for being morbid and stalked off.

I snapped back to the present and absently noted that there were still more bits of the bus scattered down the tracks – the tyres had actually rolled so far away. Somewhere, a bride in her finery waits beneath her veil for a groom who won’t be arriving. I wonder who went in to break the news and help her wash her mehendi off her palms.

PS: I finally got home 6 hours late, at noon. All I’d had was a cup of tea I’d hopped off for at a tiny muddy station, almost missing my train in the process (it slunk off without even a whistle). I was starving but glad to be alive.


31 thoughts on “Waiting…

  1. Were the kids with you? Hope they did not see all this. One moment of stupidity can cause such a huge disaster. Feel so bad for the bride

    • Sigh… I don’t know dude. Some in the bus might not have had a say… and they all went. Every single person. Can you believe that? Not a single survivor. That night they effectively wiped out an entire family line.

  2. sigh. that sucks. and while no one can really help it if some lunatic decides to take shortcuts and drive through a railway track, whats even more startling is how so very little happens to make our tracks safer and off limits for people who ought not to be there..

  3. my dad was stuck in his train for the same reason. but what he told me was that the bus was empty. the bus got stuck on the level crossing so the driver just left it there. i hope his version is the correct one. it’s too horrible to imagine otherwise.

  4. Sad that an entire family was wiped out due to somebody’s stupidity. But i see this almost every singale day. On my way to work i have to go past a level crossing. Once the barries were coming down and 2 morons in a bike bent underneath but got stuck as the barrier on the other side was already down and they could not cross the tracks. Luckily the train was slow the guard saw them stuck and helped them get out. If only we can learn to follow rules…sigh!!!

  5. when my mom was ill, she told my nani the same thing “please raise my kids incase if something happens to me”. and two weeks after that she left us. whenever i read your blog and the fun that you have with your family, i miss mine. all the friends who return to their homes when its holidays, whose parents arrive wen they need them are so lucky to have their parents in their lives. i have a home full of people, i was lucky enough to get raised so nicely, but today i miss my parents. i miss the fact that they would have indulged my kids like anything. the pain of not having parents doesn’t strucks when you are young, it strucks when you get older and you need them even more. please MM always pray to God that you are there for your kids. no one can love them land their children like you can.

    • hug? And for what its worth I remember your childhood being full of fun too. A house full of people, frothy coffee, dogs, parathas with mango pickle. …

      And yes, I plan to hang on for a while and take care of the kids 🙂

  6. My husband is a trauma surgeon , one of his first patient was an 18yr old boy , who had just cleared some entrance exam and was about to begin his college. Tried crossing the track, got stuck. Was in hospital for good part of his first semester, lost a leg, a hand and almost every organ in his abdomen was operated upon. His father used up all his savings and his sister was to be married next year. I dont know how they managed the wedding and his college fee after that.

  7. As I read this piece..sumhwhere in between I got carried away and thought very well-written story. Its only after I completed reading it, that I shook myself back to reality. This is no story, this is what happened to somebody. It’s just so sad n ya, who is to say what mistake was made by whom? My heart goes out to the bride awaiting her new life.

    Hope u don’t miss your babies too much. And that they enjoy their summer holidays at G’parents’ place 

  8. egad.

    and here i was whining on and on just because i caught you on gtalk. sorry babe.

    and rules and such? sigh.

  9. If only people could follow rules more strictly. Why did they have to cross the barrier and risk so many lives. The sad part is nobody seems to learn a lesson even after such incidents.


    ## i loved that bit about sitting on the doorways and enjoying the ride. How beautifully u write. The words chosen to express are so apt that we smell the night wind and hear the crickets.

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