By Eva Buzo
“You’ll never make it, the traffic in Kolkata is too heavy,” said the man sitting next to me.
I didn’t like his ‘can’t do’ attitude. I had to make it. I was taking the midnight train, if I missed it I would be in the soup, having not booked any back-up accommodation and I had just two days to get to a wedding in Delhi, 1 500 kilometres away.
At ten-thirty I emerged from the airport, greeted by a hoard of taxi drivers.
“I need to get to Kolkata station by midnight,” I said.
They all laughed.
I didn’t like their attitude either. Google Maps said the trip would take half an hour. How bad can traffic be at this time?
“I’ll tell you what, let’s just have a go,” I said to a lanky man dressed in a white kutar. He bobbed his head from side to side, as Indians do to indicate concern as I got in the back.
Hanging from his rear-view mirror was a picture of Mother Teresa.
“You like Mother Teresa?”
“She is my God, I pray to her.”
We pulled out of the airport parking lot into a line of stationary cars, all honking their horns contributing to the melody of chaos that sang through the streets of Kolkata.
“Impossible,” he told me again as I started to feel concerned.
“I’ll give you an extra hundred rupees if we make it.” He bobbed his head again and punched his horn with extra vigour. That oughta do it.
We rolled past shacks and slums as time ticked on. Women in bright saris walked faster than we were going in the car carrying baskets and bags while men stood around fires eating chapatti. At least I was seeing Kolkata life.
I glanced grimly at my watch. Eleven-thirty. I was starting to get agitated. If you asked me to list places I didn’t fancy sleeping in the world, Kolkata central station would be close to the top, probably just below Baghdad. I sent a quick prayer up to Mother Teresa.
A moment later we found ourselves at the top of the bottleneck and broke through to an empty road. How much pull does she have in this town?
My driver picked up speed as I held my breath around every corner, waiting for the gridlock to reappear.
“It is never like this!”
“Go, go!” I urged him, sitting forward in my seat.
“God is with us!” He cried with glee, the streets now a blur.
“We can make it! Come on!”
“GOD IS WITH US! GOD IS WITH US” He was now laughing madly as we screamed around the corner, pulling into the train station. I thrust double what we agreed into his hand, gave him a quick salute, flung my backpack across my back and ran off.
“The Himgiri Express?” A woman pointed down the platform.
Racing past two security guards who saw my determination and cheered me on, I was mere metres away when a whistle blew and it started rolling forward.
I took two final lunges and with all my strength tossed my bag through the door, throwing myself in after it.
I had achieved the impossible. Never in my life had I felt more like Indiana Jones, my only lament was not having a hat to wave in triumph.