The Train Ride Experience
I am very, very happy if I be allowed to share with you just a small fragment of the almighty Grace and Blessing’s of my dear Father, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar.
Surely, it is true that my life has been showered with His Grace and here, just now, I would like to share with you just one tiny piece of His Infinite Divine Grace, Humour, Kindness and Love.
Yet let it be known, the truth of it is, really, that without my Father’s Grace, I would not be here to even tell this one single tale. And in this Light, to share with you a little of my experience of Yogi’s blessings, what is there really to say? I owe everything, every breath to my Father! It is also true that my faith has wavered, that sometimes I have even forgotten to call my Father’s name, but still He has not forgotten me. And perhaps this alone is the greatest of the many, many blessings that He has bestowed on me. Long Live Yogi Ram Surat Kumar!
It all happened one time when I was leaving Tiruvannamalai to return to the UK. After several months of being at the feet of my Master, I was resistant to my imminent departure and hesitated and procrastinated until the very final moment. Packing and repacking my bags, saying my good-byes over and over, I got to the bus stand late, too late for the bus to have any chance of reaching downtown Chennai in time for the train ride north to Delhi…
It was a difficult day. Hot and dusty, in that sweltering, mid summer, southern India kind of way and I had left everything too late. I had too much to do. My funds were completely depleted, I had overstayed and spent everything apart from the exact monies necessary to pay for the journey to the Indira Gandhi international airport. No chance of a taxi ride to Chennai, a bus would have to do. I didn’t want to leave. I lingered over tearful good-byes with my dear friends, who through good sense, and Father’s Grace, would stay to live close to the Mountain. So it was on that day I delayed too long and before I knew it there was only a few hours until the scheduled departure of the train.
Leaving the ashram behind me, I urged the rickshaw driver to ride faster and he obliged. We reached the downtown bus stand in Tiruvannamalai in record time. But it wasn’t going to be enough. I missed the early bus departure. I sat around in the heat, nervously looking at my watch, sweating. I gulped at my water bottle. The next bus wasn’t for half an hour which by my calculations left could just get me into Chennai in time for the scheduled train departure, just, if there were no delays on the road and the central Chennai traffic was clear. Unlikely, I thought, despondently. But maybe.
I managed to scramble onto the next departure for Chennai. I chose to sit with my bags inside but the bus was heaving, full to capacity and some more. Men pushed, women sweated. Last minute purchases of fruit and water exchanging hands through open windows. The bus driver gunned the engine, horned exuberantly and we were off. I checked my watch again and grimaced, not enough time, nowhere near enough time, I thought.
The bus was making good time. Maybe making too good time, I thought uncomfortably as the bus took on yet another head to head with an oncoming lorry, swerving only at the very final moments in a series of stomach sickening lurches. Slow moving bullock carts, scooters and cyclists were all subject to the same treatment. Despite having spent many years travelling in India, I would never get used to the driving. Grimacing, I held tighter to the seat rail in front of me, “Dear Father,” I prayed, “Let me get to the train station alive!” And then, checking my watch and seeing that time was marching on irrepressibly, “Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, please let me catch this train, I’m gonna be in big trouble if I miss this one, I haven’t got even a spare paise to buy another ticket if I miss it!”
On and on we drove. These were the days before the dual carriageway had been built which now cuts the Chennai run in half. It was taking too long, I thought, eyes hardly leaving the dial of my watch. It was now clear that I was late, really late and it was going to take a miracle to get me to the train on time. We were somewhere near the outskirts of the big city and suddenly a dense fog descended on the road. The bus driver slowed down to accommodate the new driving conditions. I grew desperate, “He’s slowing down!” I yelped. I got up from my seat, pushing aside my concerned looking neighbours. Muttering wildly, I scrambled and shoved through the throng to the front of the bus. “Look!” I commanded the driver, “I have got a train to catch and at this rate we’re going to miss it! Get a move on!” The startled bus driver looked up from his wrestling with the steering wheel, I guess this model didn’t even have power steering, his brow furrowed, sweat pouring down his face from the concentration of his efforts to steer this metal monster through the assault course of the Indian Highway.
It was desperation, and madness, to urge this over wrought metal monster any faster. Any intuition that doing so was possibly interfering with the fate of dozens of co-passengers was to be confirmed as I finally managed to clamber back into my seat. The driver had taken on my concerns and his efforts to increase speed were evident in the increased violence of him swerving the maneuvers. Suddenly, out of the thick mist, a man appeared on a slow moving bicycle with two children perched on the back. The bus driver had at that very moment chosen to increase speed and pull into the inside lane to undertake another slow moving vehicle. Impact seemed inevitable. “Yogi Ram Surat Kumar!” I yelled at full force. Somehow, the bus driver managed to pull right and break hard enough to miss the family but it was close enough for every person on the bus to scream and then heave a collective sigh of relief as the deathly disaster was avoided…
That was it. Enough. I was deeply shocked by what had just happened. My selfishness and stupidity had almost resulted in an unthinkable disaster. I felt both deeply ashamed and hugely grateful all at one time. “Dear Father,” I prayed, “Forgive me for my foolish behavior, it was stupidity to hurry the driver. Thank you for saving us all from disaster.”
I was suddenly overwhelmed by an urge to get off the bus. I was in the middle of nowhere I could recognize and a thick fog still shrouded the bus, which was now stationary in standing traffic. Still reeling from the incident with the bicycle, I yelled at the driver to let me down from the bus. Throwing my bags out, I half staggered, half fell into the road. I had no plan, I only knew I felt deeply sick and shocked by what had happened and I wanted to get out from the bus. I was only vaguely aware of the time but I knew it was very late and that it would now definitely take a miracle to get me to the station on time.
Just as I stood up and collected my bags, a rickshaw pulled up beside me. It was empty. Without any hesitation I climbed in and told the driver to take me to the rail station. Again, I told the driver to drive as quickly as possible. But this time I took my Father’s name and I asked the driver to take care. The driver took off at full tilt. I started to sing Father’s name, “Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Jaya Guru Raya!” The rickshaw sped along, darting through the stationery lines of traffic. “Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Jaya Guru Raya!” I sang, as the rickshaw swerved and tucked in behind a slow moving lorry. I sang and sang and sang. The fog cleared and there, right before me, Chennai Central Rail Station. Time check, the train was leaving in 30 seconds.
I threw a couple of hundred bucks into the outstretched hands of the driver, thanking him with all my heart. Grabbing my bags I set off, sprinting, not a moment to lose. The station was full of people, passengers of all shapes and sizes, noises, whistles, announcements blasting from dozens of loud speakers dangling from the high vaulted roofs. “Out of my way!” I yelled, as I careered through the crowds. “Coming through!” and “Yogi Ram Surat Kumar!” People leapt out of my way. Sweating, blood pumping, legs burning, I scrambled for the platform. Too long! Too long! I thought as I raced. Departure time was past. I was late by at least 3 minutes, I couldn’t possibly make it now…
Arriving at the platform I could see the Express train pulling out of the station. “Waaaaaaait!” I cried. But the train was picking up speed, I couldn’t make it. With arms outstretched I clutched at the image of the final guard’s carriage as it disappeared down the platform. And suddenly! Massive screeching of metal on metal! Air brakes pumping gas, hissing, brake’s holding. The train was stopping. I couldn’t believe it! I could not believe it. The final carriage was still on the platform and the train had stopped. Not even thinking about how or why I ran down the platform, grabbed on the door of the third class carriage, threw it open and clambered in. I had made it. I was on the train. I collapsed onto a bench and was welcomed by the other passengers. “My Dear God, I thought. “What just happened? HOW?”
“It’s a miracle,” came the reply, “A miracle.”
Within moments of my sitting down in the third class carriage, the train pulled off again. It can’t have been more than 30 seconds. It was then that I realized that I was both exhausted and trapped in this carriage, my berth was a few carriages down the train and there was no way through. Not to worry, the other passengers comforted me, I could hop down at the first stop and move along to my allocated space. Which is exactly what I did? I found my bed and collapsed into a deep sleep.
Some hours later, I was awoken by the shaking of one of the train boys. It had got dark and the rocking of the train had soothed my weary nerves, I felt much restored. “Are you the English man?” he asked? “Are you the English man that nearly missed the train?”
“Yes, “ I answered, a little disorientated. “ Yes, I am.”
“Please, come. Come!” He indicated that there was no choice in the matter. “Please, come to the Train Master now!”
I had no idea of what was going on. It had already been such a strange day that I had no clue of what to expect but it seemed I must do as I was bid. I rose, a little unsteady, and followed the boy. We weaved through several carriages, swaying from side to side with the onwards progress of the train through the night until we reached a door, marked ‘Train Supervisor.’
“Please, go in,” the boy indicated.
I knocked and when prompted from within, entered. The cabin was dimly lit and sparsely furnished. A copy of a calendar from Durga Printers swung from a hook on one wall. On another, a small altar housed an icon of Hanuman and Krishna, on which a colored bulb flickered. The train supervisor was dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, slightly yellowing at the cuffs. His moustache drooped over his upper lip and his dark eyes looked sullen, depressed. “Are you the Englishman? Are you the fellow who missed the train today?” He asked.
“Yes sir,” I replied. “Yes, that’s me.” I had no clue what to expect next.
“Oh, sir!” the Supervisor’s face suddenly became animated in a sea of emotion. “I cannot believe it sir! I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I am deeply unhappy, sir!” He turned to look at me full in the eye, clutching at his hands with nervous wringing. “Forty five years of service sir, forty five years!” I was perplexed, becoming slightly nervous myself at this unexpected and unusual interview.
Perhaps sensing my confusion, he continued. “Yes, sir, you see, I am the Supervisor of this Express train. Forty five years I have given service and not one train have I supervised late. It’s a very important position sir, very important. An express train, you see, express! Express trains must never run late. It is not allowed, not allowed.”
“I’m so sorry,” I began, beginning to think that I was now responsible for delaying the Chennai to Delhi overnight Express train due to my desperate platform pleas. “Forty five years of service.” A tear rolled down one cheek. “And tomorrow I am retiring. You see this is my final tour, my final service. I have never made such a mistake sir. I just don’t understand how it happened. Never, never!”
I was confused. I was not sure quite what was going on. As far as I was concerned, I had missed the Express train to Delhi but by some miracle it had stopped just as it left the platform. I was still of the understanding that the train had been stopped for this mad, cursing Englishman, that it had been stopped to save injury in my making a last bid attempt to board a moving train.
“Never before sir, not in forty five years of service. Never have I done anything so foolish. You see I had to stop the train because I left my briefcase, with all the train registers and everything, right there on the platform! I just don’t understand sir, I cannot understand how this thing happened.” The Supervisor looked at me with a great sadness. “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” I said, smiling. “This is not your problem, not your problem at all! We will tell your supervisor’s that you stopped the Express train to help me, that it was simply an act of good service since you could see my desperation to catch the train. Bring me some paper and I will write a letter for you, I’ll write it all down, I’ll tell them everything. Please don’t worry, don’t worry at all.” Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, Jaya Guru Raya.
I humbly offer this experience at the feet of my Master. Thank you. A million times thank you.
Long Live Yogi Ram Surat Kumar!