Nostalgia: The Enigma of Arrival

RBI without reserve
Jan-March 2013

Point Zero

The Enigma of Arrival

The very first day at the new job can be a nerve-racking experience. A new job in a new place can only add to the uncertainty. M G Warrier (Ex-GM), Mumbai does a rapid recall

After traveling in three trains for an aggregate period of 20 hours, early in the morning on 6th September 1963, I got off the Ernakulam-Trivandrum train on the railway platform at Trivandrum. The previous day around 11 a.m. I had boarded the Mangalore-Madras mail at Badagara station, changed train at Shoranur in the afternoon and at Ernakulam at about 9 p.m.

This I had to do as the track was broad gauge upto Ernakulam and meter gauge from Ernakulam to Trivandrum. Throughout that whole journey of around 450 kilometers, I was either standing or sitting on the floor of the train, caring for my steel trunk box which contained my valuables and clothes.

 As instructed by my brother-in-law, who had worked in Trivandrum earlier, I located the cloak room at the railway station and deposited my trunk box there. Then began my enquiries with the people, on the station about the hotel where I was to stay. The neatly-written address of the hotel of course ensured I got some quick direction and guidance. Walking for about 40 minutes and there it was, Hotel Lekshmy Nivas. It was actually a small restaurant owned by one Bhaskara Pillai. Behind the restaurant, there were some rooms that he had let out to office-goers. Luckily, I could see a couple of common bathrooms/toilets around too.

The letter from my brother-in-law contained a request to Bhaskara Pillai to accommodate me ‘somewhere’ till I on my own find out a place to stay. Pillai was a middle-aged person. He went through the introduction letter carefully and looked at me over the spectacles hanging loose on his nose. This frightened me, but the kind words that followed drove my fear away.

‘There are no vacant beds here now. Don’t worry. You take bath, have breakfast and go and join the office. I will arrange some space by night.’ he assured me. I followed Pillai’s instructions, not that I had any other option.

The day in office passed quietly. There were about 15 persons joining the same day and all of us were asked to spend the day familiarizing with the office premises and meeting the head of the office one by one, post-lunch. The meeting with boss (who was also in the board which interviewed and selected me) improved my confidence level as he told me that even on the day of interview he had identified a desk in the cash section for me and I would be working there from the next day.

Come evening, I collected my trunk box from the Railway cloakroom and reported back to Pillai. He directed me to keep my belongings in the hotel store room. He explained to me that for me, he will charge a reduced rate of Rs38/- per month for boarding and lodging, against the normal charges of Rs50/- per month for the stay, as I will not require lunch on week days.

I agreed and paid him an advance of Rs50/-.  Once I completed my dinner in the same restaurant, Pillai told me to sleep in the store room for the day adding that this arrangement will continue till some other occupant vacates. I realized that I would have for company huge bagful of potato, onions and other items along with some rats playing hide and seek there.

There was some space at the entrance and a bench (2’x6’) put sideways overloaded with miscellaneous items. By the time I was wondering where to spread my quilt, Pillai came with a hotel helper who he asked to clean up the bench and the space at the entrance. The boy did a neat job.

Pillai asked me to go to bed early with instruction that while sleeping on the bench, I should not fall by turning left and right. I smiled back at him and soon fell fast asleep. I was quite in a hurry to make up for lost sleep of the night before.

May be around midnight or an hour or two after that (I was to buy my first wrist watch two years later, an HMT Janata watch which I got by post by sending a money order in advance to the company in Bangalore!) I woke up disturbed by bright light and loud laughter with some half a dozen men sitting and playing cards in the available space at the entrance in the room in which I was sleeping. Making sure it was not a dream, I tried to watch the goings on. My fear faded away as I recognized Pillai and the room boy who had helped me in cleaning the room and preparing my bed among the people present. Pillai, finding that I had woken up, eyed me to turn to the other side and sleep. I obeyed.

Next morning, I got up early in the morning and quickly made the most of the common facilities. There were still two hours to go for office. I decided to go out for a walk. Those who had briefed me on how to go about life in a city had advised to initially walk on straight roads preferably in the same direction without using short-cuts or by-lanes.

I reached the main road, took a left turn and walked straight. At the first main turning point I saw a beautiful building at the centre of a vast compound with good lawns and several trees with leaves/flowers in different colours. Some people had told me about Padmanabhaswami temple in Trivandrum. I presumed that this was the temple, only to be told by a passerby that it was the Trivandrum Museum and the temple I was enquiring about was six kilometers away in the opposite direction.

 I didn’t take much time to give up my morning adventures and return to my place of stay to get ready office.

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K S Mani Iyer said…
Nice reading. I remember your other write up narrating your experiences in the temple premises during your school days. Surely every one has some memories of events and places where he or she has lived, very few are having mind or rather knack to put in words and write. Great.

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