Monday, 21 October 2013

That fateful summer night...

It was during the summer of 2003 that I decided to do my MBA internship in an IT firm in Mumbai. Before the madness started, I came home to Guwahati to spend a few days with my family. I was to board the Guwahati – Mumbai train thereon since flight fares were unthinkable for a student those days. It took around 3 days to reach Mumbai and Ma could not imagine me sitting amidst strangers all alone for so many days. Hence, Deta (my father) offered to accompany me to Mumbai and see me to my aunt’s place there.

We were late in booking the train tickets and the AC compartments were all full, leaving us with 3 Tier sleeper seats. Deta and I got the vertically arranged seats near the door of the compartment. It was end-June and the heat seared us through the door and the windows. To add to it, the train was to travel through Bihar and our compartment was packed tight with people heading for Bihar. Ticketless, all. They squatted on the floor, some squeezed into spaces on the berths, ignoring angry glares from the rightful occupiers. I put up my feet on the seat and pressed my face to the window to escape the uncomfortable, claustrophobia-inducing atmosphere inside the train. 

We travelled for more than 24 hours in that state. Sleep was something that would not come to me. I feared that somebody might rob us of our luggage and I sat huddled up in my seat, hugging my purse. My eyes fell on the watch on my wrist, and I remembered…

“What do you want as a gift?” Deta had asked me that day, 7 years back, when I stood 2nd in my class.

I had taken some time to think before answering him. “Deta, I want a new watch.” That was the first time I had ever asked for anything from my parents.

The next day, Deta had bought for me a beautiful Titan watch with a bracelet like strap. I had not expected such an expensive watch. 

I unclasped the watch from my wrist and put in the purse for safekeeping. I regret that action to this day.

The train finally stopped at Barauni Junction in Bihar at around 8.30 pm and miraculously our entire compartment became almost empty. We realized then that there were actually only a few of us rightful occupiers in the compartment. Deta stretched himself out on an empty berth and tried to catch a wink. He must not have slept, either. The train then started with a jerk and it slowly began to ease itself out of the platform. A burly man came hurriedly towards the door. Perhaps he had come to see off someone and had to disembark the train. How terribly mistaken I was.

The man passed me and before I could realize what had happened, he had snatched my purse out of my hands and jumped off the train. I have only blurred recollections of what took place after that. I vaguely remember screaming out “Give back my purse!” and jumping off the train after the thief. The train had by then picked up good speed and I found myself being hurled onto the rocky patch of a huge open ground. I stood up and gave a chase in the darkness. The man was trying to climb over a wall and I held him back with all my might. He could not shake me off and called for somebody else beyond the wall. He had an accomplice.

The other man appeared. There were now two of them. “Do something!” I heard one of them hiss to the other. As I held on to one of the many purses the man had with him, the other guy smashed something on my head and suddenly all went black. I remember seeing the lighted windows of the train at some distance before I lost consciousness.

When I regained consciousness, I found that the train had stopped a little way off. Someone had pulled the chain. I remember walking up to the train through the vast field and asking the people at the door to haul me up. I had walked through the compartments in a daze, looking for Deta, and everyone seemed to shrink away from me in horror. It was then that I realized that I was bleeding profusely from a gash on my face. Deta, in the meantime, was searching for my body on the railway tracks. People say it was a miracle that I escaped relatively unhurt, both from the fall and the attack.

It has been 10 years since that nightmare and I still have a small scar on my cheek as a reminder of that fateful night. I have been called both stupid and brave for my actions. True, that. And yet I feel sad whenever I remember the little sentimental knick-knacks my purse had contained, including my precious watch.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the thieves had knives or any such weapon with them. I would not have lived to write about that day, I am sure. And then I wonder, what would have happened if I had something with which I could summon help? How I wish I had Smart Suraksha with me, then. (This App, at the press of a single button, sends your message of help to five pre-chosen contacts from your contact list. Along with the message, it also sends across your location even if the GPS on your cellphone is switched off.) 

It is rightly said that trouble does not come announced. It is prudent to be alert and keep one’s senses about when it strikes. I hope somebody learns from my mistake and not act on the spur of the moment. Better still, I hope the Smart Suraksha App finds acceptance and it proves its usefulness to the society. Let there be no crimes committed towards women. Amen to that.

I am participating in the Seeking Smart Suraksha contest at in association with Smart Suraksha App.


  1. Replies
    1. Wow... This is a terrific story.. And its difficult to say whether your actions were brave or stupid. I guess your sentiment towards your watch and other things made you run after him. What did your Deta tell you??

    2. Oh he was just relieved that I was safe. But since then whenever I took a train, everyone had only once advice - don't jump off the train!

  2. That's indeed brave, jumping off a train is no mean task, many would have just let go!

    1. I hardly gave a thought as to what I was doing, it all happened in the split of a second. I guess I am a possessive person and my bag was too precious for me to let it go.

  3. Gosh Sangeeta!
    Really chilling tale! Thank God you escaped...albeit with that mark...
    Loss of things is lesser loss than loss of dear ones. I'm so happy for you and your parents that you were saved...
    Purse-pulling can cost us really high! Ms.Arunima Sinha became an amputee bcoz of that, yet conquered Mt.Everest. Not everyone has that much grit!
    You do have some spirit to jump off the train!
    Take care! Best wishes! :)

    1. Thanks, Anita. I don't know what had got into me to jump off the train!!