Roomies at college, decades ago…..infrequent reunion participators ….poor correspondents but hearts full of affection and love and goodwill. That summarizes me and my friend. Right now, while I write this story, she is journeying the 440 kms which lie between her city and my hamlet. My friend loves ( not in any particular order) painting, solitude, hot tea and long chats, goofy sessions with dogs and undertaking long chatty walks. She wanted to do all this, and more, at Ranikhet and planned to come up for a week.
I was delighted…really glad to get a few days with her. Expecting the usual saga of “oh-I-so-do-want-to-come-over-and-stay-with-you” changing to “oops-the-kid/s-is/are-coming over-or-some-such matter—so maybe-another-time!?”, I was pleasantly surprised to get a mail with her date of arrival—today, 5th of August.
Visitors either drive up to the hills, or take a comfortable train till Kathgodam. Two trains with two radically opposite USPs ( Unique Selling Point). The night train from noisy Old Delhi, which ensures breakfast with me, is the one I always select/suggest. It means that I get the entire day with my visitors. There is an early morning Shatabdi Express which glides out of the clean and calm Anand Vihar Terminus. Tickets are usually available, the food and seating is good and my visitors reach home at 3 pm, with a hasty lunch en-route. The day is spent travelling, and I feel cheated of that one day.
To get back to my story and my friend arriving on 5th August, I presumed and assumed that she would take the night train, so that we could start the day together. She presumed and assumed that I knew about her travelling by the morning Shatabdi train. Both of us delighted at the thought of some days together, both of us waiting to meet on the 5th…
4th night, 10 .30 pm….I send sms “at station to board train?!”. No answer. Friend fast asleep for early morning train boarding adventure. I presume “she must be busy trying to get on the train…so much of noise…zzzz”
5th morning 5.30 am…I get sms “ waiting to see you..train at 6.20 am” and then next one “boarded!!”. I assume the first sms was about the train reaching Kathgodam at 6.20 am, and the second sms had done the usual trick of getting delayed by 12 hours ( the mobile service providers and their vagaries and all that!).
5th morning, 6 am…I send long sms about taking a shared taxi, instructing her to call when she is close to Ranikhet and what would she like for breakfast. She replies “let me reach first”, and I think, “ok, let her reach the station first..she still has 20 minutes.
7.30 am…I am back from the morning walk and the doggies have had their snack. I wonder if friend has got her cab and is zipping up the hills. Two calls and she doesn’t pick up the phone. I calculate that she will be home in another hour and I start making breakfast.
8 am…my friend calls. “ phone was on silent mode..and everyone around me is sleeping”. I remark about tiring train journeys and the sedative call of winding mountain roads. Silence on the other side. “but I am in the train and people are sleeping after that early morning start”.
“WHAT?!!! What are you doing in the train now? You should be in the cab and reaching Ranikhet in a few minutes!” I holler back.
“ I am in the morning train, Mala, and it will be afternoon when I reach you.”
Talk about mistaken assumptions. Both of us assumed that we had agreed on the travel details. Both of us happy in our little bubbles of presumption and assumption and chatting on crossed lines.
It was so easy to presume that I had got it all right.. me being a good, caring friend and checking on her progress…she being a first-time traveler to the hills would need some assistance, even if she is a medical college professor. My presumptions had blocked my ears and brain so completely that even when she kept talking about her train on the 5th, I kept hearing what I wanted to hear!
This happens with friends, family and work colleagues.
It happens with me and it happens with you and it happens in every relationship when things are taken for granted.
And things are taken for granted when I start thinking that I know everything…and I presume that I know best!!
One more lesson on this journey of life!!