Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Train wrecked...

I had to make a quick run to Chandigarh from Benares on the train. My itinerary was to leave Benares and to arrive Chandigarh 20 hours later. Not a big deal but I only had the day in Chandigarh to get everything done. Then back on the train at midnight only to come back 20 hours to Benares. Approximately three days of hectic travel.

That was the plan. Plans don't always follow their set courses ;)

I got to the train station with plenty of time to spare. I checked in with a railway attendant to find out what platform I was on. I showed him my ticket, looked at the board and I was to board on Platform 4. Scored a slick spot to wait (since everyone camps out there) and sipped on my chai. In some of these chai wallas they use plastic cups, some paper cups and the most interesting of them all, little clay cups. When you're finished with them you smash them in the ground. They are very weak and if you leave the tea in them long enough they turn into mush. I watched an elderly lady that was roaming around the train platform barely squeaking out a call for aid. Everyone would ignore this frail and tender old woman. She's someone's grandmother, mother and sister. In this land where mother is so dear, how is it possible that I witnessed sadness in the most angelic sight.

As I was waiting for the train I initiated conversation with some stylish little Indians. They told me they were heading to Amritsar. I asked them if it stopped at Ambala Cantt (my stop) to which they responded yes. Everything was everything. I jumped on the sleeper class car with bags in hand. Found someone in my spot and kicked them out. Chained together my baggage and locked it up to something solid and metal. Then just sat back and was stared at. You kind of get used to it after a while. The kids I don't mind because I make funny faces and act a fool - I generally get good responses from kids. ;)

About four hours into the journey the TTE (ticket guy) comes around to check on tickets. I handed him my ticket with confidence airing on arrogance. He told me that I was on the wrong train. My reaction was muted and I simply asked him "Where am I going then?" Same destinations, just the wrong train. He told me to get out and go back to Benares and get a new ticket. Hell no, I won't go...

I managed to find an English speaking engineering student who could properly translate the situation. They gave me the green light to stow away up until Lucknow. The other train would be parked and I would have ample time to switch over. Ample time is what occurs in India in every thing one does, driving a train included. We were running an hour and a half late. This meant my big window was turned into a 5-7 minute gap to switch trains. Lucknow comes and my train goes. I'm stuck in Lucknow and I hail down some police and train people. They tell me to get back on the train I was on. I went back to the people I was sitting with before but this time around with no seat. My new friends shared theirs with me. After a few stops a sleeper was available so I caught some winks. Every time the TTE would come around the local yokels would warn me and I would hide in the bathroom until he was gone. I was an actual stow away sneaking a ride on an Indian railway.

The TTE finally discovered me while in slumber in that sleeper and kicked me out of it. All the local yokels I had become friends with made space for me... on the floor. I'm not sure if you know the condition of a cross country railway line - good thing I had that sleeping bag.

Got to Ambala and caught a bus into Chandigarh. Had a nap, had some toast and ventured out. Got all the little things done and managed to get a hold of sketch books to draw in finally.

I then had to go all the way back to Ambala Cantt for my midnight train. The trip back was a bit smoother with the exception of being 8 hours late and taking 27 hours to complete.

Funny story. Happy ending.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your contribution... may blessings be upon you ;)

Clicky Web Analytics