Three days before my day of departure, I was left stranded with a cancelled ticket and I still had not managed to find a place to stay when I reached my destination. I had no other option but to ask my father to come down to Mumbai and help me out.
The best part of the journey was right at the beginning. It was the Auto-ride to the Railway Station. When I called up the auto-driver from the list on the notice board, I had no idea it would mean anything more in the whole scheme of things than just a ride to the Railway Station. I was in for a ride that would help me realise some tiny part of who I really am. If life is a journey of self-discovery, each person we meet along the way is a guide that helps us discover something about us.
The auto-wala was a very sweet fellow. We struck up a conversation on which year I was studying in, how long this course is, you know, the general questions a curious auto-wala would ask his law-student customer. Things took a turn when it started to rain and he ran out to the back to get the rain-shields so that the water does not reach me. As I sat there watching him put those on in the rain, some part of me just melted. When he dropped me off at the Station (2 and a half hours before the departure time), I could have paid him every last penny in my wallet (that’s right, if you want to swindle money out of a woman there are only three things you need to be; male, good-looking and chivalrous!). I suppose that auto-wala didn’t have any clue about that, so he asked me the exact amount, I paid him that and he wished me ‘good luck’. I had this weird invincible feeling that you get when something makes you really happy and you are convinced that nothing can bring you from this feeling of bliss.
Let’s just say I am not used to a guy going out of his way to ensure that I am fine. However, that is not the only reason. The males I have known have generally made me believe that Chivalry is long dead and that Gentlemen are this endangered species that live in some remote corner of the planet unchartered by the female gender. There are two sides to it. On the down side, every time a male goes out of his way to be nice to me, I am sceptical and I end up questioning his motives (and oftentimes, aloud!). However, on the plus side, I end up building a little more respect for that person. A friend once told me, it is always good to be a pessimist; you are either right or pleasantly surprised!
And there I was, at the entrance of the station feeling ‘pleasantly surprised’ and having no idea as to what to do for the next two and a half hours. I ended up trying to spend some time in the ladies waiting room. I walked out of there after exactly half an hour and started moving around trying to find a place to eat something. All I’ll admit is that, if I had been pessimistic about the prospect of finding something I would want to eat, I would not have ended up feeling all that dejected.
After wandering about for the whole of half an hour, I finally managed to get my luggage in front of the one train I had been looking forward to travelling in, ever since I saw it at the Calicut Station. I went in gladly seated myself on the side berth. Out of sheer boredom I decided to check my berth number on the IRCTC website, only to find out that I had misread the number (My seat was actually the adjacent upper berth). I got on to the top and made a few phone calls. Soon after, I was sound asleep and only woke up early the next day.
I have one simple theory about Indians; give them the best of anything in their country and they will amaze you with how dirty they could make it! For instance, the new compartments in the Duronto Express are fitted with proper toilets that come with a flush and all, so you no longer have to mark the entire stretch of your journey with your bowel wastes. However, fitting that into an Indian train means that the next passenger that enters has to be the one flushing your waste out of the toilet so that he/she can use the toilet!
However, otherwise the journey was pleasant, what with the in-house catering and all! They served us with Coffee, Breakfast, Starters, Lunch and Evening Snacks and before we knew it the train had reached Lokmanya Tilak Station. I managed to click a few pictures between these meals and although I do not suppose I managed to capture the beauty of the Konkan Rail Network, I will let you judge that for yourself.