5th November 2018, 7 PM, Rusha, myself and a senior devotee started from Salt Lake to catch Howrah Puri Superfast express, scheduled departure, 10:35 PM.
For the last two days, we three were discussing how to reach Howrah by avoiding the infamous traffic jam. So we came out with a foolproof plan to leave by 7:00 PM (3.5 hours early), catch the ferry and will reach the station well in advance. We checked the website, it says the last ferry is at 9:00 PM. Confident in our flawless plan we knew we were in complete control of the situation.
Throughout the journey we were laughing and enjoying and sharing the experiences we had last year, we were all excited to be a part of the magnificent Yatra. Lost in our conversation we didn't notice the time. Soon we got stuck in a traffic signal for almost 15 minutes. I saw it was slightly over 8 PM and GPS said we were 6 mins away from the destination. We congratulated each other on our intelligence. I stretched my arms, warming up to get down.
But when the signal went green, the GPS behaved crazy and it misleads our driver, who took a wrong turn and now the GPS said 35 mins to reach. We asked the speeding driver if he was sure about the route, he said he was following the GPS so no need to worry.
After 40+ mins our car halted in a dark lane with no street light and he said we have reached !!! To our left was mother Ganges and to our right was a huge wall. It was definitely not our destination!!! We asked a passerby the direction to the ghat and he said it was on the other side of the river. Hare Krishna!!! We asked the driver to quickly take us there. Once we reached the main road, the route seemed familiar. We had already lost 20 mins by now. GPS said we were 3 mins away and it was almost 9:00 PM. Just to be double sure we asked a local person about the route. To our horror he said, the route was OK but the last ferry left at 8:00 PM. So the ghat was already closed.
We went numb. We three looked at each other and requested the driver to take us to Howrah. GPS showed some 16 KMs and 1hr 45 mins. The entire route was marked red, indicating a huge traffic jam. Our plan was meant to bypass this jam. No way could we reach in time.
I can imagine a few personalities somewhere above us, mocking at our supposedly Foolproof plan.
The car moved ahead for a minute and halted for ten. Each minute was impossible to bear. Anxiety and anticipation were taking upon us. I saw the devotee praying with his folded hands, Rusha was chanting intensely. Foolish me was still sitting and contemplating on the possibilities. I realized it was time to surrender. I too started chanting but my concentration went off with every break that the driver took.
Feeling helpless, I closed my eyes and thought to myself, whether I open my eyes or close my eyes or be anxious or not, the situation is not going to change. The car is driven by the driver and not me. The situation is managed by "someone" and not me. In the entire situation, I am just a helpless puppet. So why be anxious.
I tried to focus on the holy names, praying to Gurudev and Krishna to be merciful on to us.
To cut the remaining story short, by the sincere prayers of the other two devotees, miraculously we three reached well ahead in time.
However, this episode had taught me 2 very strong lessons, which I shamelessly keep forgetting again and again.
1) No matter how well we plan, for our future (be it career, marriage, family, education, retirement, health, wealth) we must never think we are in control or safe. We can just put our endeavor and there are 4 factors which decide whether our plan be foolproof or not.