I generally avoid reaching Pune early morning. There are reasons and experiences to arrive at this conclusion.
Once when I reached my residence, which was Staff Quarters of my workplace at 5.30 in the morning, the auto rickshaw driver asked me ‘only Rs. 300/-‘ . I was aghast. Because even with ‘half return’ charges, the amount could not exceed Rs. 120/-. My residential area was lonely then. The security guards were not at the entrance of the complex. There was no one on the road. When I started saying ‘no’ to that amount, the auto driver coolly said, “What if I snatch the laptop you are carrying? Remember that there is nobody to help you at this hour.” I was taken aback by the bluntness of that man. But ultimately I thanked him for clearly indicating the result. I did not want to lose laptop for saving a meager amount of hundred rupees. So, I gave him the money he wanted. He was happy and I was happy.
Long ago, Pune railway station had pre-paid auto booth. During those days this was monitored by a police constable. The customers had to pay only one rupee at the booth and the actual fixed amount once we reached the destination. Once when my train arrived Pune at 5.00 in the morning, I went to Pre-Paid auto booth. The police constable looked at me and enquired whether I was alone. Then he advised me to wait at the station for an hour. He kindly advised me to ‘have a cup of tea and purchase a newspaper; you will not understand how the hour passed’.
I was surprised and asked him what the problem was. During those days lot of passengers were looted by auto rickshaw drivers. So, he did not want to me to take any chances and wanted me to commute safely after 6.00. When the police is not sure about your safety and security, you are obliged to follow his suggestions.. for your own good!
And those who are compelled to sit at any station for hours know how painful the experience is.
With these kinds of experiences, I take care that I do not reach Pune early morning.
But the other day, Ahimsa Express, which reaches Pune at about 5.00 in the morning, was the only available option. I took the train reluctantly, but did not want to go and wait at Pune station. I decided to get down at Shivaji Nagar station for a change. I anticipated that the train would reach there at about 4.45, and there would be lot of commuters – catching the early local trains for Lonavala.
I alighted at Shivaji Nagar, lot many people also got down, so I did not realize what time it was. I do not use wrist watch. By the time I reached platform number 1, I realized that it was completely empty. All the people who had come by the train had gone out, and there was nobody to catch the next train. I looked at the watch on the platform and realized that it was just 3.30 in the morning.
That emptiness of the platform was attractive and peaceful. No, I was not frightened. The empty platform was so beautiful that I forgot that I was alone there. I had couple of deep breaths and the cool air was indeed refreshing. The dog that was nicely sleeping at the side of one bench opened his eyes and looked at me disinterestedly. No barking of dogs. No trains. No human interference. As if I was suddenly put into a mysterious world – where everything is known but looks strange. It was a visible illusion. It was a moment of completeness and calmness. It was amazing to feel that even artificial human made things can be energizing at times. It was the moment which gave me lot of strength. Once again I realized that material progress does not necessarily contradict inner growth.
After about half an hour, crowds started pouring in. The tea stall and the newspaper stall opened. The trains started coming in and going out. The world became normal. It took some minutes for me to adjust with that emerging world.
That emptiness had so much fullness. I will always remember this experience when I struggle with contradictions in life!