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The Great Escape
by Dr. Sanjoy Kumar Satpathy

S C B Medical college, Cuttack was closed after a confrontation between medical and engineering students. We were asked to vacate the hostel within twenty four hours.

Balasore which was my home town was situated some hundred seventy six kilometers from Cuttack. It used to take four to five hours by express train during those days of steam engines to reach Balasore. I had my school and college education at Balasore before I got a seat in this famous medical college of Orissa. Balasore was my favorite holiday spot because of many reasons but to name a few the greatest one was to eat home made food, play cricket with my younger brothers and my class mates and go and spend some time on the beach. But to be true to my self it was the love of my heart throb of school days, our neighbor’s beautiful daughter, which used to drag me to that place at the slightest of pretext.

There was hardly any bus communication to Balasore from Cuttack. So the best and fastest way to reach my house was by train. For a student like me it was always exciting to travel by train and that too without ticket or with a platform ticket. The earliest train was at twenty thirty hours, an express train from Puri to Howrah also known as Howrah queen, specially meant for sophisticated Bengali families. After purchasing a platform ticket I was loitering in the platform no 1 of the Cuttack railway station with my brief case containing some shirts and medical books. Most of the time the books were taken to impress my parents for seldom I could get time to open them leave aside reading.

Puri express was late and so was the Madras mail but mail trains being a more important were allowed to arrive in platform no. 1. Suddenly some one from the compartment of the mail train called my name. I was a bit surprised, how come some one knows my name? When I went near the door of that bogie I was astonished to see my school and college mate Deepak standing tall at the door in military uniform. He hugged me and asked- where I was going. When he came to know about my destination he forced me to come with him which I could not deny. I whispered in his ears that I had only a platform ticket to that he told don’t worry no TT comes to military vans. I was still a medical student but he had joined defense forces after his graduation and was going to Shillong on promotion. Physical exercise and good food and may be scotch whiskey, had made him look like a real sahib. Once others military personals came to know about me I was treated like a VIP. We started talking about our school and college days and how we used to remain absent from NCC parade classes. After discussing those by gone nostalgic moments of our life  suddenly there was a lull. The scratching sound of steel wheels and the deafening horn of the Canadian steam engine made our silence conspicuous.

To break the monotony Deepak asked me if I would like to share some scotch with him. Before that I had never seen or touched VAT 69 scotch whiskey bottle except seeing it on the silver screen. That was my first taste of Scotch whiskey in life. I do not remember how long and how much we consumed. Never for a moment did I think of my getting down at Balasore at the middle of the night and how to confront my father who was dead against alcohol.

It was the month of October and winter was not far off. The cool breeze and whiskey made me go in to my dream world. Suddenly as if my girl friend was whispering in my ear – hello, where are you going? With a jerk I got up from the berth and looked out side. With the  typical dim lights outside I could know whether it was Bhadrak or Balasore platform. Before I could ask any one the train had started moving. I could wear only one shoe on my left foot and with a suit case on left hand and the other shoe in my right hand rushed near the gate. A military constable told me -the train has picked up speed, sir don’t try to get down now. But he did not know that the next stoppage was after two hours and I did not have enough money to come back. With the high alcohol level and the fatal attraction of my girl friend I jumped out of the running train.

The next thing I remembered was, I was lying flat on the platform. The platform was being renovated and so, sand and small pebbles were lying on the surface which made me skid with my brief case under my chest and the shoe saved my palm on right hand but my right forearm was badly bruised and blood was oozing out of it. Some of the people standing on the platform in stead of helping me started abusing me left and right for putting my life in danger and told me that it was due to the almighty that I had escaped from death.

No one not even my younger brothers and father know about this VAT69 episode. My father is no more but I never regret for not telling him or any of my near and dear ones about that Great Escape. That was my last drink I had in my life. 

20-May-2007
 
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