The first order of business if you want to take a train ride in India is to purchase a ticket. The government (who owns the railways) has a convenient website for making your choices and purchasing your ticket. Convenient if you are a holder of an Indian credit card, because otherwise, forget it. Our friends in Bangalore kindly offered to help us book our tickets, which was wonderful both because it saved us a hot mess at the train station, and because it helped us walk through the alphabet soup of choices of where you can sit and whether or not you can lie down, travel in AC, etc. There is CC AC (Chair car air conditioning), etc, etc. They have a nifty SMS system of notification and paperless ticketing, so I was getting pretty upscale vibe about the operation.
We were dropped off at the station by the taxi, and therein lie our first challenge, because usually our driver takes us, and he knows we are ignorant in the ways of Indian travel, and so hustles us to the place to see which platform we are leaving from, then navigates the crowd and carries a bag or two up and down some steep stairs, (I usually need one bag just for teaching materials, heavy materials) then searches for our exact car (another set of letters hidden in the secret code on your ticket) and deposits us directly in front of the car. Added to that is trying to step gingerly over and around the scores of people who are in various stages of repose at the entrance of the train station. Whew!
We were on our own this time, and tried to imitate our driver and look confident as well. We got as far as the correct platform (sweaty after heaving the bags up and down the stairs) then we deciphered the car we were looking for. We realized we had no idea which direction to walk, so one of us held the bags and the other served as a scout, first going all the way to the end of the train looking for the correct letter combination, then after no success retreating and walking almost all the way to the other end. We’re not sure if there is a system to the order of the letters, but we couldn’t see a pattern. Fortunately we had enough time for the inefficient system of trying both directions, because these trains are long.
Once we found our seats, we prayed the AC would be turned on soon, because all the windows were closed, the electricity was not yet on, and I was leaving a small pool of sweat anywhere I touched the vinyl seat. It wasn’t long before we were on our way, and S had no trouble utilizing the sleep accommodations. I usually can get lots of work done because there is a live electrical outlet in each of the cabins. It’ That happened again, and what was supposed to be a 5-hour ride turned into a 9-hour marathon quite quickly.
el, for me. We were rolling along when suddenly we stopped, where we sat for over an hour.
However, we survived, got off the train, and once more schlep the bags up and down platforms before we have escaped with our possessions. The next challenge involved finding our hotel’s car, and then understanding what in the world he was saying to us, as we tried to connect with him for the better part of another hour. He kept saying he was in the parking, but when he finally appeared he was driving in the front entrance, so I’m not sure whose parking he was utilizing, but it definitely wasn’t the train station’s. Our Bangalore friends assured us that train ride was quit It makes the mode even more inviting. Last night we took another voyage via train and we almost missed our stop, because someone was sleeping (not me) and I was too engrossed in my work (watching Glee reruns) to notice the time. Good fortune smiled on us because an employee dashed into our cabin to make up the beds for the evening riders and he told us we had 2 minutes until Bangalore. At first I thought it was an Indian two minutes, but in fact we were stopping. We were thankful he stopped by, but there isn’t usually any announcement of where the train is stopping. The train ride in India is meant for those who can learn the system and navigate it on their own. Check out the numbers and languages on the side of our car to see what I mean. Our ticket read: C and S Greenleaf (we knew that part), then PNR 4714613528, Trn: 16592 Frm MYS to SBC Cls-1A, P1-HA1,5 P2-HA1,6. See if you can find the clues on the side of the car. Oh, they also post a hard copy of the reservations on the side of the car where you belong, so they aren’t totally heartless. However, you have to find the car first, which proved a challenge for us first-time-on-our-own passengers.