Mechanics and Police.
I woke up excited that we had come to the end of our long, slow drive into Chennai.
Although we were still over 20km outside the city centre, I had planned to arrive at our destination soon after midday.
We started on our way and luckily I received a text message with the address of our accommodation although Google was having some issues locating it. I thought it would be best to get closer to the city where we could ask for directions.
Shelin had called the night before. She was making her way to Chennai for a meeting and said she would intercept us as we passed through the city.
The traffic was very busy and we eventually picked up Shelin in Guindy.
We knew we needed to head towards a place called Moore Market but Google showed two of these. Directions provided by the locals sent us round in circles and some of the roads had diversions due to the flooding Chennai had suffered due to heavy rains a couple of weeks back.
We were eventually told that the Moore Market complex was a very tall building above the Chennai Suburban Railway Station and was situated right next to the main railway station. This tall building was easy to spot from a distance but the problem was there was only a one-way route in via a narrow twisty road through a busy market.
Rahim deftly manoeuvred the Walkmobile along the route until we reached a police checkpoint at the entrance to the station. Apparently, small vehicles and authorised buses were allowed in. I jumped out and persuaded after some minutes which included showing the police office Bobby’s cast covered foot, we were allowed in to unload for a short time.
Rahim parked the Walkmobile outside the entrance and I immediately noticed the steps up to the railway station concourse. I went ahead and made sure there was a lift. Shelin escorted Bobby to the ninth floor and I made sure our various bags, suitcases and supplies were unloaded from the bus, walked along to the lift and transported to the room. This was not an easy task as someone needed to be with the unattended bags at all times and Rahim was told he had to stay with the vehicle. I told Rahim that once everything was upstairs, he should arrange to have the Walkmobile serviced to take advantage of our 4 night layover at this location.
Eventually everything made it to the ninth floor via lift which was semi-amusing as the lift decided to stop at nearly every floor even though no-one entered or left, making it a 5 minute journey.
The room itself was very comfortable with views of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. I knew the four days spend here would be very relaxing. The rooms were actually specially reserved for senior officers of India’s world famous railway service. Railway Officer Quarters were available at every major location along the rail network for these officers to reserve and stay in as they went about their work. As I had mentioned in a previous post, Dr Kewal Singh in the UK had contacted his friend Mr T P Singh in India who had very generously arranged this location for us to stay in until the 30th of November. We rang Mr TP Singh to thank him and asked if there was any way we could extend our stay. Unfortunately there was a conference in the area and he would have to let us know if it was possible over the next few days so I returned to the room to put my head down for a while.
A few minutes later I received a nervous call from Rahim asking me to come downstairs. When I got down, I noticed the bus was in the same location as when we arrived and knew the police would not be very happy. Before I had a chance to find out why, Rahim told me the bus was stuck in second gear and he couldn’t release it!
You may recall this had happened once before but we luckily managed to get it repaired by the roadside. Here we would have a problem but Rahim had already despatched Satinder to find a local mechanic. In the meantime the bus was staying. I asked Rahim to keep me informed and decided not to tell Bobby as it would only add to the worry that was already on his mind.
I grabbed Shelin and we tired to find some local food but unfortunately there were no shops anywhere close to the railway stations and we were told we would need to travel out in an auto rickshaw to find something suitable. We were all hungry and instead managed to find some stalls within the station itself that served ‘train snacks’. We grabbed some and back to the room.
It wasn’t there long before Rahim told me the police were hassling him to move. I went downstairs and spent some time informing the current officer in charge of the situation and persuading them to let us stay. This pattern of me going upstairs to rest and being called downstairs to persuade the police to allow us to stay continued throughout the day. In between, Bobby and I managed to get a hair cut and beard trim knowing would have some important receptions over the next few days.
In the evening, the senior most police officer arrived and the tine changed. They were all out of providing favours and insisted that the Walkmobile be moved otherwise they would tow it and have it impounded. I went back to Rahim and said that since the vehicle had only second gear, it could at least be driven slowly out of the station and dealt with outside. Unfortunately the mechanic that had arrived earlier to carry diagnose the problems had disconnected various bits from under the vehicle including the prop shaft, had left and had not returned. The Walkmobile was now officially disabled as even the engine was not turning. I told Rahim he would need to re-connect the prop shaft while I went back to speak to the senior officer.
After 30 minutes I persuaded him to allow the bus to moved to empty area of the railway car park. I then told him that there was a possibly it would have to be pushed. The officer let out a big sigh and paused. I thought that was it and a tow followed by incarceration was the next thing to expect. However, the officer said he would wait until 11:30pm when the railway concourse was quiet of traffic. He would enlist the help of around 20 porters who we would have to pay and the Walkmobile could be pushed away from the main entrance for the work to be carried out. I would receive a phone call.
I briefed Rahim who told me he had arranged a local service shop to arrive at 5:30am to look at the problem. I went back upstairs with the intention of resting but knew fair well I would need to be ready for the phone call.
Bobby was craving Punjabi food so I researched what I could on Google and we we decided to make our way downstairs. It then became apparent that Bobby would have a lot of difficulty. He needed someone to support him at all times. He was in pain and tired getting to lift. He was in discomfort walking from the lift and down the stairs at the entrance. In fact any kind of step was a problem. It took a long time to get to the station entrance and I was worried Bobby would spot the bus still parked in the same position. However, due to his discomfort, he did not notice so I was spared of finding an explanation. We got to the destination mentioned by Google but there was no restaurant. By now we were starving so I told the rickshaw driver to head to the nearest eatery. The power of corporate marketing meant that further along the route I spotted a Dominoes Pizza sign and everyone agreed to eat there. After much pizza in our bellies and some for breakfast, we made our way back.
By 12:30am I made the excuse I needed some air and made my way downstairs. The lift went straight from floor nine to ground in seconds …. sheer luxury. Rahim told me no-one had approached him since my last chat with the senior officer and as far as he knew, all the police had gone home for the night. I decided to take a risk and told him to sleep until the mechanics arrived in the early morning.
I went back upstairs and didn’t really sleep. Rahim phoned my at 6am to tell me the mechanics had towed the Walkmobile to their garage and were starting repairs.
I closed my eyes and slept for 2 hours dreaming police officers and engine grease … no, it was not that type of dream!