My professional commitments along with my personal motives have meant that I have been travelling a lot recently. Yet if I have to recall my last train journey then I will have to go back almost two years. Perhaps for most of us caught up in busy life,where time is precious, a train journey has become an incoherent idea. The grand old “Bhartiya Rail “has become too slow for many who are pressed for time and have got accustomed to the idea of accumulating air miles.
So when we firmed up our plans to visit Jodhpur and Jaisalmer this Christmas, one of the exciting part was that we were back to India’s lifeline as our mode of travel. An odd and unsuitable return flight schedule to Jodhpur made us choose an overnight train journey between Delhi and Jodhpur. Once the decision was made we moved on to the absolutely daunting task of getting confirmed tickets for ourselves .This can be a nightmare in our country especially if you do not have a “five year plan” of all your intended journeys. The fact that we had only one overnight train suitable to our plans made it even more difficult. IRCTC’s site is definitely a mirror of our burgeoning population. The circle on your computer keeps revolving and you gaze at it like a crystal ball wondering what is in store for you. As we planned this trip only a month in advance of our journey, we bought waitlisted tickets in all the classes of AC coaches leaving everything to the principles of probability. As a contingency measure we also bought confirmed tickets in sleeper class for both onward and return journey. The idea of travelling in the sleeper class, on a cold wintery December night was giving us the chills so we hoped against all hopes that our AC tickets would get confirmed.
After a month of diligent tracking and a failed attempt at getting confirmed Tatkal tickets, the day of our journey had arrived. The waitlist number on one of our tickets had trickled down sufficiently to give us one confirmed berth in an AC coach so we were confident that we would not have face the chilly night. As we got going in the evening IRCTC turned Santa. We got the message that the other waitlisted berth had been confirmed. This was a perfect gift on Christmas Eve. Last minute confirmation of a waitlisted ticket is everyone’s fantasy in this country. We reached the Old Delhi Railway junction after a short and sweet drive of about 2 hours traversing through the peak hour traffic in the national capital. Tucked away in the busy area around Chandni Chowk its old red building takes you back to years gone by. There was the usual commotion associated with our railway stations. A slew of travel operators lined up just opposite to it offering bus and taxis for onward journeys for passengers who had alighted here. Interspersed with them were typical food joints and stalls on a station road. Porters hustled with their carts loaded with cargo. The usual negotiations with ”Coolie” were taking place at the entry gate. This was the friendly chaos which makes most of us who grew up travelling in trains feel at home and definitely a huge departure from orderly airport terminals.
We had a filling dinner at Comesum which is a hygienic food joint in the precinct of the station. While in college I have had quite a few meals at its Nagpur franchisee. After our meal we headed to platform number three to board our train Mandor Express to Jodhpur. It was already stationed there when we reached the platform and we settled down in our comfortable berths of an AC coach. I got the customary cups of tea from the platform which has always been a ritual for me.
At the scheduled time the train departed and the journey to the Great Thar Desert had begun.