So, you want to travel by a sleeper coach alone? And that too in an overnight train route! Have you lost your mind?
~said everybody who heard my plan……………
The night before my train to Udaipur, the travel jitters were back to haunt my mind with all the negative possibilities. This time they had the upper hand. I decided to cancel my ticket in the morning and go home for the weekend instead. However, when I got up in the morning, I saw my backpack- packed and ready to be carried to the royal city of Udaipur. It reminded me of my first solo trip to Himachal. Every time I mention Himachal, I am tempted to write about how and why I took my first solo trip- the wanderlust trigger. But, that post shall come when the time is right.
Now, let’s get back to where we were……….
Yeah, so, I did not have a backpack back then. And, since the trip was hardly planned, I had packed very inefficiently- too many clothes, missing some very important things.. yada.. yada.. (No more details of it! :D).. But, I survived, made lots of memories and learnt some very important lessons! I remember the gush of adrenaline when I boarded the bus and it started from the bus stop- there was no turning back from then!
Those thoughts gave me the confidence to go ahead with the trip. I decided to be driven by my philosophy completely- “If I do no harm, no harm shall come on me. I believe in simple living- being positive and staying away from negative vibes. And, most important of all- minding one’s own business!”.
With these thoughts in mind, I did some last minute packing, tidied up all the things in my hostel room and took bath. By the time, I was done, I realized I was running late and had to rush. I had yet to get a print out of my train ticket so I hurried and signed out of my hostel. As soon as I got the printout, I took an e-rickshaw to the metro station.
THE RACE AGAINST TIME:
I was chasing the schedule by then- if the metro stopped longer in any of the stations or if I was delayed by traffic, I would have to run to catch my train. I have had a history of missing trains and buses! My train was from Sarai Rohilla (DEE) which is close to Pratap Nagar Metro Station (1-2 km) on the red line. I got down and asked around for the “railway station” and reached ten minutes before the train’s departure. Having some spare time at my disposal, I went to at ATM to withdraw some cash. Then, I asked a tea vendor at the station about my train. He said that chetak express did not halt at that station. I was shocked! I told him about my reservation. He told me that I was at the wrong station. I was at Subzi Mandi station, not Sarai Rohilla.
I couldn’t afford to miss the train! Hence, without wasting another second, I ran and took an e-rickshaw and asked the driver to hurry up. I told him I had just five minutes and that I had to catch the train. I hopped on the ride. There was honking and shouting on the road. It was crazy! He tried his best to help me catch my train. I reached the platform a minute before the train’s scheduled departure and ran! And, guess what? I CAUGHT THE TRAIN!!!!!!!!!! HURRAYYYY!!!
THE TRAIN RIDE:
I found my seat and looked around. My mother had warned me to not travel in a compartment with no other female. I was happy to see a female in my compartment. The coach’s crowd was pretty decent-mostly families and working people. I was relieved! I sat and started reading my novel. The rest of the journey was pretty safe and crossed my expectations! The toilets were comparatively cleaner, the crowd was decent and it wasn’t too cold.The funny thing was that every time the train halted, I sprang up and checked where it was and did not sleep back until the train began moving again.
The T.T.E. in the train was a woman! It was amazing- I had never seen a woman T.T.E. before. I was glad and felt empowered. After the ticket checking, the police patrolled the bogies once while I was awake. I felt safe and comfortable. All my compartment mates were pretty decent and kept to themselves.
The train’s crowd mostly debarked at Ajmer. The coach got a little empty and, hence, colder. For overnight journeys, I would highly recommend carrying your sleeping bag- they are lifesavers!! That will definitely be my next purchase.
A man and his mother got on the train in Bhilwara. Their seats were near my compartment. Early in the morning, we had a chat. They were residents of Udaipur. I asked them about the auto fares and distance of the old city from the railway station. They told me about Udaipur and how it had changed in the past 10 years- from being a small town to a big city! The view outside as beautiful! There were fields with cattle and camels. The air was much cleaner and pure than in Delhi. It felt good to breathe in the fresh air. The hills in the horizon gave a surreal setting to the places along the track.
Once we reached Udaipur, the Aunty helped me negotiate for the auto. I bid them farewell. They were really nice people. You meet some amazing people while travelling!
The train journey was over and I was in Udaipur- safe and sound! :). So, this was a brief account of my first solo train ride.
I do not know if all the trains in India are this safe, but I really appreciate Indian railways and thank them for the pleasant experience. The fear cloud has dispersed and I will definitely use Indian Railways to travel in future as well!