‘What, you want to proceed on leave’? The boss asked, looking at me as if I had asked for a share in his treasure.
‘Yes sir, need a break’ I tried to woo him.
‘But where will you go? Do you think you will get any reservation around this time? He continued, sardonically
‘I will try’, I said in desperation
‘Fine, you may go, if you can manage one’ he remarked in his great act of benevolence
It had been an arduous two weeks. The hectic sailing routine and constant pressure of handling operational issues had my nerves wracking. I desperately needed a break from this routine!
Later in the day the ship came alongside berthed on Ballard Pier in Mumbai. I quickly changed my attire and rushed to the Mumbai VT (now CST terminal) for doing the railway reservation. Internet booking was not available in those days and after standing in a queue, for half an hour, my turn came.
‘Where’? The clerk asked without raising his head.
‘Two tickets to Bangalore on 22 Oct by Udyan Express, I replied’
‘Not available, he replied nonchalantly after referring to a voluminous record.
‘Ok, do you have for Madras (Chennai), for the same date, by the Dadar Madras Express ‘I enquired?
He looked at me a little nonplussed, ‘Are you sure’ he remarked, as he did not come across people to enquire for ticket for another destination at spur of the moment.
Having booked onward journey, I had to try my luck with return ticket.
This time I could get only return ticket from Bangalore and not Chennai. So I had the onward tickets to Madras and return tickets from Bangalore. I felt thrilled at this accomplishment at such a short notice
I returned back to the ship in to find my boss still around. I told him about the rail reservation and he granted me leave.
I reached home in the evening to break the news to my wife. She was taken aback but was happy. Next day we boarded the train, without a specific itinerary. We flipped through the Railway Timetable, purchased just prior to boarding. After two hours of gleaning a whirlwind tour to Chennai, Madurai, Kodaikanal, Rameshwaram, Coimbatore, Ooty, Bangalore and return, was finalized. It turned out to be one of the best two weeks with no prearranged hotel bookings or onward reservations. It also was one of the craziest trips that I undertook, as far as my memory goes.