Christmas In Western India

I’ve reached the beautiful state of Gujarat this morning spending Christmas Eve in a train.

I personally love train journey’s. But air travel being so convenient and affordable, train travel has become a luxury for me. Any body who has ever been to India and has travelled by the Indian railways would agree with me that it is an experience in itself.

Our booking was in the sleeper class in a what we call the 2nd AC. It means that there would be two parallel berths one above the other and you can travel comfortably and sleep. Though we had booked our tickets two months in advance, we were stuck in the waiting list.

The Indian railways makes a chart two hours before the departure of the train and that is when you come two know of your fate in the train. We were given just two berths. The meals would be provided for all four of us, but the berths were just two. We were pretty bummed out after we saw the list but we were assured by everyone around us that we would get the other two berths if we just try and convince the ticket checker.

Yes, the ticket checker is god Indian railways.

So we went to the railway station and got into the train. We were served soup before the ticket checker arrived. My dad convinced him to give us one more berth. So four people, three berths.

The next thing we did was to convince somebody in our compartment to see if they could adjust somehow. And that is when a group of college students came forward and offered us one of their berth because they did’nt plan to sleep all night.

We were just lucky to get that extra berth. Believe me, people guard their berths as if their lives depended on them. And getting that one berth is like winning a lottery.

With our suitcases locked and secured we tried to get comfortable in our berths. I repeat, we tried.

Why you ask?

Because we got corridor berths and they are smaller and narrower that the normal berths. So my dad, who is larger than an average person found it really difficult to fit comfortably into it. My mom and sister slept peacefully all night.
I on the other hand was up nearly all night. I can never sleep in trains. I’m always too excited to get any sleep. Also there was a baby in the adjacent berth who swore to cry every time I fell asleep. I really pity his mom. The poor woman kept trying to get him to sleep. And to say nothing of the stations that kept coming and the people that kept boarding and de boarding the train. To say that they were loud is an understatement.

So all. I could do was to get out my headphones and listen to my favourite music all night. I did managed some eye shut period in between.

The train stewards woke up everyone at 6 in the morning with bed tea before we reached a major station. Two hours later after I had hogged down the breakfast I finally fell asleep for like 40 minutes before the speaker in the train loudly announced in three languages that we had reached Ahmedabad. And my journey to one of the most colourful states of India began.

Race Against Time- Part 1

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I’m sorry for being off the radar for a few days. I’v been juggling college, office and a quick trip to Amritsar these days. Needless to say now I’m exhausted.

This trip to Amritsar was planned 2 months back. It was supposed to be a quick one with us leaving early morning and coming back at night the same day on Sunday. But I had no idea what was in store for me.

We were four people travelling together. Me, my dad, our family friend and his son MJ. So we reached the railway station early and got settled in the train for the 6 hour journey. Now, I’m usually very exited to travel in trains but the moment I settle in I start feeling extremely sleepy. I had planned to click a lot of pictures on the way but I just ended up being really really drowsy all the way. No amount of crosswords, Ludo, and chamomile tea could help me stay up.

The only pictures I managed to click were of the railway stations and that too because of a bunch of overexcited British tourists who used to bring out their camera’s the moment we stopped at any station. It is thanks to them that I too got motivated to move my butt and bring out my camera. 

We reached Amritsar exactly on time. Now, MJ’s dad is  REALLY particular about time.  And since we literally had just three and a half hours in Amritsar, he made us dash out of the train to catch an auto rickshaw for the Golden Temple. We were actually running after him. And to say nothing of the poor driver who he kept prompting to drive fast. 

When we reached the Golden Temple we raced to get off our shoes, deposit our bags, get out our camera’s and lenses, and just ran inside. The Golden Temple is usually crowded on Sunday’s because people form the nearby cities and villages come there for ‘Darshan’.

MJ and I had planned this as a photo trip. We wanted to capture as many pictures as possible of the city and the Golden Temple. But we had no idea we would be just running to get in to the line to get inside the temple. We did manage to click some pictures. It was a bright sunny November morning so the pictures did turn out pretty decent. 

It took us one and a half hours in the line to get inside the temple. We said a quick prayer, gave our offerings to the priest and moved on. It was so crowded we could hardly say inside for 15 minutes.

When we checked our clocks, we realised we just didn’t have any time for ‘Langar’. So we came out of the Temple and decided to have lunch at ‘Kesar Da Dhaba’. It is a really famous place in Amritsar which serves authentic ‘Dal Makhni’ which is cooked in a traditional way on the tandoor. It takes 12 hours for this dal to ready. 

We didn’t have time to walk to that place so we took a battery operated rickshaw. Now Mj’s dad instructed that driver to drive as fast as he could because we had to catch a train soon after lunch. And that chap drove like a crazy possessed man. Amritsar is a really old city with narrow lanes and this chap drove at such a high speed that we just hung on to our dear lives and hoped and prayed that we don’t smash into someone. 

Me and MJ enjoyed this ride but my dad, who is not fond of high speeds especially in such narrow lane kept screaming at the driver to slow down, but that just made him drive more fast much to the horror of my dad!

We reached the Dhaba in a record 4 minutes. MJ’s dad gave us clear instruction to eat as fast as possible and then rush towards the railway station to catch our train. He actually made us gobble down our food so that we are not late. The dal was delicious and despite the fact that we were late,(According to uncle. According to us we had a good buffer time to reach the station safely) we follwed the dal with some equally delicious Phirni (A Kashmiri rice pudding). 

The journey to the station was equally fun for us and torturous for my dad because uncle made the driver go as fast as the poor rickshaw could go. We reached the railway station and ran towards the platform. The train was already there and people were scrambling to check the confirmation lists. We had a confirmed ticket so me and MJ just got into the train, found our seats and just crashed into them because we were so tired of running. We were just about to keep our bags on the overhead racks when uncle came in telling us that our name is not on the confirmation list. At that very moment a family of four came and said that the sets on which we were sitting were theirs and they too had a confirmed ticket. Confused, we got off the train to look for a ticket checker. 

When we found one, we showed him our tickets. He gave them a look, smiled and told us that we were late for our train. When we gave him a weird look he explained that we had the tickets for the train that left Amritsar at 5 am that morning. And we were standing on the platform at 5 in the evening thinking we would catch the train.