Sridhar Venkatasubramanian

Classics Inspirational Others

4  

Sridhar Venkatasubramanian

Classics Inspirational Others

An Enchanting Tale Of Our Tour Of South India-Part 13 Of 20

An Enchanting Tale Of Our Tour Of South India-Part 13 Of 20

4 mins
23


OUR SOUTH INDIA TOUR IN 1975


How a stranger helped us when all hope was lost

After spending two wonderful days in Madurai, we travelled to Tirunelveli. The town has several historical monuments, with the Nellaiappar Temple being the most prominent. The city is also renowned throughout the state for a sweet called 'Irutu Kadai Halwa'.

 

From Tirunelveli, we took an afternoon train to Tiruchendur at a distance of 60 km. It takes about a couple of hours by Train. So, we were planning to return the same evening to Tirunelveli after having darshan at Tiruchendur temple which is one of the six houses of Lord Muruga. Tiruchendur temple is located on the shoreline overlooking the Bay of Bengal in the southeastern part of Tamil Nadu.

 

Since we were put up at my mother’s eldest sister’s place at Tirunelveli, we had no luggage with us.

 

Our journey to Tiruchendur was uneventful. We had a good darshan and enjoyed strolling around the beach for a couple of hours. After the Rameswaram episode, even I too got a little bit of courage to play with the waves. We had some snacks at the beach and came to the railway station to catch the train back to Tirunelveli. It was at the station our problems started.

 

When we reached the station, we found it empty. We came to know that the trains for that entire evening had been cancelled and the next scheduled train was the next day morning at 5 a.m. It was the same story we experienced earlier at Kanchipuram when we came to board the train to Tiruttani.

 

When we enquired the station master, he told that all the evening trains have remained cancelled for the last one month, due to a coal shortage problem. He also showed the notice board at the gate informing the fact. It was our mistake to have missed that.

 

So, we came to the bus stand to catch the bus to Tirunelveli. Luckily, buses to Tirunelveli were quite frequent.

 

When the conductor came to collect the tickets, my father asked him for the fare to Tirunelveli. It was Rs.2.50p per head i.e., Rs.10.00 in total. But unfortunately, my father had only Rs.9.00 in his pocket. As we had prepaid circular railway tickets my father carried only a small amount of cash with him. The rest he had kept with my aunt at Tirunelveli for safekeeping. Out of the cash he had, some amount had already been spent at the temple and for buying snacks. In those days we didn't have facilities like ATM cash dispensers.

 

My father then suggested that he would stay back at Tiruchendur and spend the night at the railway station platform, as the money with him was only enough to purchase three tickets. He said he can come to Tirunelveli by the early morning train with the prepaid circular ticket he had. But mother was reluctant to allow him to spend the night on the railway platform. She said it would also make her sister worry.

 

My father then explained his plight to the conductor and showed him the prepaid circular railway ticket too. But the conductor couldn’t be convinced. He said he can’t issue a ticket for Rs.10.00 when we have only Rs.9.00. He asked quite sarcastically that whether we expected him to pay Re1.00 from his pocket.

 

Then my father asked him how far we can travel for Rs.9.00, whereupon he said that we can go up to Palaymkottai and issued a ticket up to that stage. My father said to us that Palayamkottai is only 3-4 km from Tirunelveli and so we would walk from there. We were very tired by then from all the walking we had on the sea beach. But there was no way out.

 

When the bus reached Palayamkottai we got up from our seats and reluctantly walked towards the gate for getting down.

 

The conductor who appeared quite strict till then broke into a smile and waved us back to our seats. He then told my father in a whisper, “I can’t allow you to travel up to the Tirunelveli bus stand but will drop you about ½ km before that. It will save you about a 3 km walk.”

 

I didn’t know what made him change his mind. Maybe he must have given a thought about our plight especially as it was past 9’o clock at night and we had to walk 3-4 km to Tirunelveli on a dark deserted highway. Of course, he was taking a big risk considering that if a checking inspector had come on a surprise round, between Palayamkottai and Tirunelveli, he would have been in trouble. Anyway, on that day, nothing untoward as above happened. The conductor appeared to us as godsend. As promised, he dropped us as soon as the bus entered the Tirunelveli town and blew the whistle without even glancing at our waving hands.

 

In the next episode, I will share the episode of witnessing the Railway Police Force conducting a search operation and other stories.


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