The Universe works in uncanny ways and it has its own ways of setting things right to preserve the delicate equilibrium that governs us all. I got a taste of this the other day in Final Destination proportions of a Shakespearean tragedy, when a much-lauded 'out-of-the-blue' rare achievement of mine was ruthlessly cancelled out, the incident which shows that we humans can never comprehend the mysterious ways the Universe works and that some things really do not exist. Or maybe it simply shows my levels of stupidity. Anyways, this is the story of a confirmed Tatkal ticket. As anyone who has tried to do so can testify, getting to successfully book a confirmed Tatkal ticket online through the IRCTC website, especially in the morning between 8 to 9, that too for a Friday, is not a feat that many mortals will not achieve probably in their lifetime. All of my infinite number of tries till that day had met with frustrating failure and tears. But this time, I was in for an illusion surprise.
How I Managed this Feat
So I needed to travel on Friday the 3rd of March 2012 from Bangalore to Kerala on short notice, and Tatkal was the only way out. But on Thursday, March 2, 2012, I overslept and scrambled out of bed at 0815, with that dreaded feeling of "it is all over". I opened the IRCTC website, expecting the usual "I want to throw this thing out of the window" levels of frustration. The website opened in a flash, and I typed in my Username and Password, I was logged in even faster! Unbelievable! I searched for my regular route, and sure enough, all seats were sold out. Just on a hunch, I tried a backup route, and: AVAILABLE - 0001! My heart skipped a beat! Forcing myself to stay calm, I clicked on "Book". All pages loaded in a flash, and within minutes I was at the final "Transaction in Progress" page! My heart was in my mouth. Seconds ticked by. I couldn't watch. Then the page went blank! I was about to cry, when the page filled up! I stole a glance at the top of the window, which said: "Congratulations, your ticket has been booked!!"
OHMYGODHOLYSHITEPICINSAMECANYOUBELIEVETHIS???!!! I sat spellbound for a couple of seconds. I could not believe my eyes. I pinched myself a couple of times. Then I jumped up, fists in the air like Rocky, letting out a cry of victory. Like a six hit off the last ball or a goal scored in the last-minute of injury time, I have done it! Hell yeah!! I could not believe my luck! I was delirious, thinking that I had PWND them all, that life was finally coming my way! I lost no time in gloating all over Twitter, Facebook and in real life to anyone who would care to listen about my achievement. I got many congrats and strutted around Like a Boss, with a smirk on my face. But little did I know that as it happens with recurring regularity in my life, anything that is achieved easily or looks too good to be true is bound to end in tears and Fail.
The ticket was for a 3AC berth on the 12695 Chennai - Thiruvananthapuram Superfast Express, boarding from Salem, TN. This route is a backup I use quite often, as on Fridays all trains will be overbooked and bus ticket charges will be astronomically high. The details of the journey to cover the 200 km journey from Bangalore to Salem to get there in time to board the bus which leaves at 2010, was minutely planned down to the last detail with my new-found confidence. The time a usual TNSTC bus takes from Bangalore to Salem is 5 hours and an SETC "Ultra Deluxe" takes four and a half hours. So to make the train in time, the plan was to get out of office by 1300 and board a bus to Salem from Silk Board latest by 1400, one hour kept as buffer. But you know what they say about the best laid out plans of men and mice.
The Journey and its Aftermath
As things will always go wrong when they are supposed to, I got late by 30 minutes in leaving office (mistake 1) which also sealed my fate. I reached Silk Board Junction at 1430. Then hunger struck viciously, and Biriyani happened at Tharavadu, Bommanahalli. 1500. Then I walked half a kilometer to the KPN office hoping for a Volvo (mistake 2). "The next bus to Salem is a Volvo at 4pm" I was informed. 1515. "Nah. It will be too late" (mistake 3). I boarded a TNSTC to Hosur thinking "I will get a bus to Salem from Hosur" (mistake 4). No such luck. 1430. I languished at Hosur for another half an hour before I got a Tirunelveli bound SETC. We left at 1705. Much the same way Indian cricket fans calculate odds of the team making the final, I calculated that I would get to the train provided this guy rips down the highway AND the train be late by at least 30 minutes. While SETC and TNSTC are not known for things like powerful vehicles, speed and fast schedules with their under-powered buses, this bus was surprisingly fast, maintaining 70 kmph most of the time. I sat out the hours which seemed to take forever, looking out of the window at passing trucks. We finally reached Salem 5 Roads at 2025. I jumped out of the bus and into an auto, which took me to the Railway Station in 5 minutes (After I offered Rs.10 extra). I raced down and up the stairs to find the platform, empty. I was informed that the train arrived at 2026 and left at 2027. The time was 2031. If only the train had stopped for its entire halt scheduled time of 5 minutes at the station...
I had failed. I stood on the platform for some time to come to terms, my pride deflated, the strut gone out. Dejected and defeated, I took a bus to the bus station and had some food. Looking around for options, I found a Ernakulam bound SETC waiting. I asked the conductor when it would leave, to which I got a very Rajinikanth-esque reply: "Pokavendiya nerathile correcta pokum. Eri ukkarunge." After some time, a bus came to a sudden halt next to my bus. I looked outside and saw the familiar green and off yellow livery of a KSRTC Super Express! Without second thought, I ran out and boarded the Super. RAK 581 of Ernakulam depot was doing the 1615 Bangalore - Ernakulam schedule. (Yes yes, I know. I came from Bangalore to Salem taking 7 hours, only to board a bus that again, left from Bangalore after 3 hours). The bus made good of its reputation and in no time we were flying down the highway at 85 kmph, and for the next 7 hours roared along without even slowing down for potholes or bad roads, occasionally jerking us out of our seats. Not much sleep happened. Anyway we reached Ernakulam at 0505 hours sharp after 6 stops. Read the detailed review of the journey here. I boarded another Super from there which took me home.
The Reason why all this Happened.
Humanity has the propensity of blaming things that they don't understand or what happens due to their own mistakes or stupidity on the supernatural. But here, that is not the case. I know clearly know the reason why all this happened. Coming to think of it, I now realize that the journey was never meant to happen after all! Why? Two things.
1. The ticket that I booked did not exist. A confirmed Tatkal ticket? For a Friday? That too booked online without even a single error, after going through two transaction pages and some 5-6 hits to the country's most overloaded server its busiest hour within 4 minutes? Too good to be true? It simply was against the laws of the universe. It could not to exist. It was an illusion, much like a dream girl or a horse-riding Prince.
2. As the guys at NatGeo say, "It was a sequence of events programmed to cause that caused this." Yes, it looks like a deliberate sequence. Why was I delayed by 30 minutes? Why did I feel hungry? Why didn't I take the first available bus? Why didn't I take the 4 pm Volvo? (Which overtook us at around 7 pm) and why didn't the train stop for 5 minutes in SA?
Combining these two, we get the perfectly logical explanation for "Why?".
It was all a glitch in the Matrix. As we all know, the Matrix, the computer-generated World that we all live in, encounters anomalies in its code every once in a while. Some of these are anomalies represent things that are not supposed to exist, and if left unchecked, will grow into unmanageable proportions which will threaten the stability of the Matrix and causing a cataclysmic crash, eliminating everything connected to the Matrix, or the end of the World. Hence these anomalies need to be eliminated. As we all know from the Architect, the creator of the Matrix, even Neo's life was the eventuality of an anomaly, the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. To correct those anomalies, the code is re-written, and during that time observers might encounter some sort of Deja-Vu. These occurrences are called "glitches in the Matrix". A glitch can even be a set of compensatory sequences of events that will inherently cancel out the anomaly in the end without physical destruction or rebooting, balancing the equation, eliminating the anomaly and bringing stability back to the Matrix, hence saving the World. In this case, the anomaly that was not supposed to exist was the Tatkal ticket (as described above). And the glitches were the series of occurrences that caused me to miss the train, causing the travel not to happen on the Tatkal ticket that was not supposed to exist. In the end, the Universe cancelled out the anomaly and the World is safe again. You have to thank me for saving the World.
Or maybe it is just my stupidity and string of mistakes and wrong decisions. :)