The Universe always balances things out. I never knew how true that was until my journey from Coimbatore to Jodhpur. The thing about train journeys is that, I enjoy them but too much of a good thing is not necessarily brilliant. A 40 hour journey, directly from Coimbatore to Jodhpur requires more grit and determination than I possess. So I always break my journey in Bombay, or when my father is in a particularly generous mood I take a plane.
My journey to Bombay was amazing. I would count that as one of the best journeys I have had till date. The first day was pretty uneventful, with me sleeping most of it away. I love that the Indian Railways has installed curtains, which I put to maximum use. The only negative point was that the side berth did not have a socket, so I had to keep asking permission to use one of the sockets by the main berths. That aside, the main positive was that I had the whole window to myself and I could look out to my hearts content. And boy did that prove to be a boon for the second day. The train had to go through Khandala to reach Mumbai, and that is one of the most beautiful stretches I have ever been on. It looked like a page fresh out of a fairy tale, all green and magical. It helped that there was a slight drizzle so everything looked fresh and new.
That was also the time when I met him. He was standing by the door, when I went outside to get a better view. He was funny, cute, and attentive and had the gift of the gab. He was also representing his state in a National swimming competition, in the under-12 category. He was fabulously easy to get along with, and he made me revisit my childhood by making me play games that I had last played when I was 14. I loved every minute of it. The icing on the cake was going home to spend the day with my cousins and their wonderful dog.
This journey was in stark contrast to my journey from Bombay to Jodhpur, which I would rate as one of the worst journeys in my life. It’s probably in the devil’s diary of successful accomplishments. It started on a terrible note, where I almost missed my train and caught it with less than a minute to spare. It got worse. The porters were extremely smart. They knew I just didn’t have the time to bargain and I ended up paying 270 bucks to the porter who carried my luggage. As I settled down in my berth (side berth again), I realized that I had forgotten to buy a bottle of water and had to use an apple to quench my raging thirst. As the day progressed, I realized that I was in the compartment next to some of the noisiest girls known to mankind.
I tried tuning them out, first using the strength of mind, and then, when that failed, by plugging in my earphones and listening to really loud music. That seemed to work, and I imagined that it wouldn’t be long till they went to sleep. It was nearing 9:30pm after all. I didn’t know it then, but I was very wrong. They kept gossiping, giggling, screaming, clapping and jumping till about 12:20 am. There was a brief period when I thought all had quietened down and I finally pulled out my earphones. To my extreme horror I heard them speaking from the berth below mine, and they went on to play antakshari for the rest of the night. If my upbringing had not stopped me, I would have probably leapt off my berth and slapped one of them.
I was woken up by high pitched chattering the next morning. I never thought I would feel so, but I was extremely relieved when the train pulled into the Jodhpur station. If train protocol didn’t expect me to keep moving with my luggage, I would have probably fallen on my knees with cries of “Praise the Lord”. It soon dawned on me that my guardian angel had taken pity on me because a porter took me to the auto stand at a very reasonable price and very soon I was bouncing my way to college in one of Jodhpur’s many ‘wannabe’* autos, without any further drama. What happened when I entered college is another story altogether.
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The autos are not wannabe autos. In fact they are perfectly decent autos; the only issue being looks is higher up their priority list than speed. Some friends from my batch coined the term ‘wannabe’ autos in the first few months of college. It just showed that we looked down upon these unconventional autos initially. But when the time comes and these autos are finally phased out, a small part of most of us will probably miss them.