Friday, October 07, 2005

When Kotts went to Palakonda, and his baggage went to Guwahati...

Well, not quite, but almost. You see - Kotts is a hyperactive guy - how hyperactive, you may never even imagine. Once, Praj, Kotts, and me, came back from a movie and got dropped off at the main gate of the Institute. Kotts excused himself saying that he has a sample to load, took his cycle from the aero parking lot, and flew away. While Praj and me ambled along and were nearing the Department, we saw the apparition of Kotts for a fleeting second as he whizzed past us from MRC towards the Department. Apparently, in the time that it took us to reach the Department from the main gate, Kotts has been to MRC, milled his sample in the ion beam, and was going back to the lab to load it. If you doubt the veracity of this story, you do not know Kotts. In any case, last week, our Kotts was running on several railway platforms all over Andhra, and this is the story of that adventure.

Kotts took the Bangalore-Guwahati express to go home - to Palakonda near Sikako (that is Srikakulam, for those of you not familiar with the lingo). When the train reached Madras, Kotts got down to get some drinking water and some good chai. Kotts was looking at the engine of the train, and sipping his chai, while the sneaky southern railways guys, connected an engine from the other side, and left - taking with them the Kotts' baggage. And, lo and behold, after his chai, Kotts gets this surreal scence of an empty platform with just the engine - the bogies have vanished as if it was a Garcia novel or Vittalacharya movie!

Kotts runs to the authorities, explains them the situation; they tell him to take the next train along the same route - they promise him that they would inform the authorities at Ongole to get his baggage, so that he may pick it up there. Kotts takes Coromondel, reaches Ongole, and finds that neither the superindentent nor RPF have any idea about the baggage; but they promise him that they would inform the chaps at Vijayawada. Time to run since Coromodel is already on the move - once bitten, twice shy - this time around, Kotts is careful to watch the bogies, and not just the engine.

Now, Kotts reaches Vijayawada and completes his ritual rounds with the station superindentent and RPF, in vain. Now, there is the second (and last) call for Coromondel; before Kotts starts his second 100m run of the day, the station superindentent of Vijayawada promises to inform the chaps at Vizag so that he can collect his luggage at Vizag.

If, by now, you thought that Kotts got his baggage at Vizag and went to Sikako, you do not know that truth is stranger than fiction ;-) Well, no baggage in Vizag too, but the chaps at Vizag tell him that probably the baggage is there in Ongole or Viajayawada, after all. A few frantic calls afterwards, Kotts realises that the baggage was picked up at Viajayawada - but before the news reached the station master, Kotts met him, had his discussions, ran to the RPF, had his discussions, and, finished his 100m run, and left for Vizag. Kotts came back to Vijayawada from Vizag, and picked up his baggage. And, so ends the adventures of Kotts on the railway platforms of Andhra!

Before I sign off, I guess the Institution of Indian Railways (IR) deserves a few good words; as Ram Guha once pointed out, IR is one of the legacies of British which helped strengthen our democratic foundations. So, long live IR and officers and employees of IR who come to the rescue of passengers at times of stress and trauma. (By the way, I have another adventure of Shankara, Phani, and me with IR to narrate; remind me some other time). And, it is also time to wish Kotts all the best for his post-doctoral tenure in Germany for the next few years!


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