Set the alarm and wake up at 4.00 am, brush and get fresh, have coffee and leave home by 4.30 am, park the car and rush into the railway station by 5.00 am for the 5.15 am train. Wait patiently for the announcement of the platform number, with no news till 5.30 go to the enquiry counter and get no response. More waiting, a round of bland machine coffee, pick up a newspaper, sit in a corner of Platform no. 1 and read through most of it while the ear reaches out to the announcement amidst the cackling noises and glancing eagerly at the far end television monitor for updates. Finally at 6.15 the ‘Chennai Express’ is sounded on the loudspeaker, to arrive ‘shortly’ on platform no. 6. Tuck the newspaper under the arm and climb the stairs to descend on the now already full ‘stage’. Some more waiting and a round of crossword in the now crumpled newspaper, with patience waned, the train chugs in slowly at 7.00. The frantic glance across the windows ends with the sight of the ‘relative’ standing at the door of S 12.
I proclaim with open arms: ‘Welcome to Hyderabad’, and uncle responds with ‘we are at Secunderabad right’, a broad grin masks my disapproval of the PJ.
The day went by with the usual ‘guided tour’ of tourist spots in and around the twin cities. The next day is for the shopping at General Bazaar, garments, pearls, Karachi biscuits and more. Late afternoon siesta plans are abandoned for its time for the return journey. Packed dinner in tow we leave home at 4.00pm to arrive at Secunderabad at 4.25pm exactly an hour before the Chennai Express departs. Some extended small talk while straining my eyes to sight the train which arrives grudgingly late by 30 minutes. The customary good bye done, I drive back home with the car stereo playing Kishore Kumar’s “Chala jaata hoon kisi ki dhun mein…” and the mind goes back to over two decades of R and D and gets nostalgic. Yes, Receiving and Dropping in short the R & D, of friends, relatives, cousins, aunts and uncles from and to Railway Stations, Bus stands and Airports seems to have been a practice, now over 25 years.
I recollect my college days when it was early morning travel by local bus to the railway station followed by the auto rickshaw ride home with cousins, then as years went by the pickup and drops by two wheelers and later by four wheelers. From summer holiday jaunts to business visits to attending functions of friends and relatives, to study related visits of younger cousins and nephews and nieces the innumerable R & D had brought lot of cheer.
This apart the numerous trips to the old Begumpet airport for R & D of friends embarking on chasing their American dreams and studying in the land of opportunities, too have been countless. In the course of this R & D, I have done lots of research and development to improve the ‘service’ with the emphasis on punctuality being never compromised.
While most brought cheer, some brought gifts, some carried light luggage others carried huge ‘baggage’, some reciprocated the ‘favour’ at their home towns while others had none of it in their dna, nonchalantly arranging the neighbourhood taxi driver to engage in the R & D or simply see off from the local bus stop unemotionally.
The fast paced life and with changing times, the visits have been dwindling, the R & D reduced to an occasional affair. These days friends and relatives book their cab from their source city, prefer staying at hotels, drop into the city and take off uninformed, some even come and make this city their own, but remain incognito.
Life goes on, as I await the next call for that much loved early morning mission and another update to my long list of R & D!