“Did you pack two pairs of socks?”
“I am not going to carry cold cream. Ami, you do that no?”
“Whoa! Are those Crocin tablets? Plan to set up a shop there?”
These were some random sentences uttered (sometimes even in our dreams) before leaving to Manali and Shimla. The excitement was sky high and the packing list endless. My mom and sister forced me to come up with a list of things to pack, which was a task by itself.
Lesson No.1: Remember a twine rope, safety pins, mosquito repellent and a torch can complete any list.
So I added all these and much more, packed two bags and set out. My college had organized a trip to Kulu, Manali, Shimla and other must-see-places-if-you-have-gotten-off-at-Delhi-railway-station. I was with my group of friends and other college mates. How many? umm..around 200. Fun aye!
The train in which we traveled (Karnataka Express) had to accommodate 180 manic teenagers and some tweenagers along with some lecturers (yup lecturers. We had to take them along. Rules I believe). Our fellow passengers looked very nervous. They looked intimidated by the sheer racket we all created when we got in. 3 days? No way, they all must have thought. One of them was seen crying next to a stinky wash basin muttering “death.. death.. take me” (note: you know how I love to exaggerate). We found our ‘berths’ and I got a last minute do’s and don’ts from Dad. The train was about to move. I impatiently looked around for my sister. She was stuck in a traffic jam and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to see her for another 20 days. But she made it. Wheeeeeeeeee I said and exchanged hugs and some cash (working sibling=ATM. We younger one’s are so nasty *evil laughter*). After saying our goodbyes we got back to our seats and wondered how to sort the crisis that needed our immediate attention. Few of our friends were in another compartment and we had to move them. So we went around asking our co-passengers:
“err escuse Mister large man with a frown can you please shift to berth number 43, pliss?” Lesson No. 2: Never mess with such people. just smile and offer a packet of Frooti.
“um sorry, kind lady with a badly behaved child, can you take that fabulous seat number 50 and let our friend sit with us” -so on and so forth.
Even after all our pleadings and drama two of our friends ended up in a different compartment. We didn’t bother much as we had other important issues to tackle. Like dinner, for instance. So we sat down and gobbled yummy curd rice and chutney puDi with chapaatti. We failed to notice that there was a man sitting on the edge of our reserved berth and shouting very loud in a voice that could give Rajdeep Sardesai a run for his money. “Train ko kharida hai kya?” he yelled. We all took a couple of minutes to look away from our food.
Lesson No. 3: Know your priorities while traveling. Food should be your first priority. Always.
We looked up and gave one of our get-the-hell-out-of-here looks. He was upset that most of the seats were booked before he could. Our world famous get-the-hell-out-of-here look didn’t work; he kept other passengers entertained with his sulk-sulk-blah-blah. We kept ourselves entertained with curd rice and pickle. He left after sometime. We had already decided that none of us would sleep during the journey and planned to stay up the whole night. Yes, stupid teenagers. We kept ourselves awake by talking non-stop (read: bitch*ng session). But I noticed most of my friends were yawning after 11PM. I for one can never sleep while traveling so I didn’t want them to sleep. I asked them to be strong and keep themselves awake.
They left and slept peacefully.
I kept waking up from time to time, trying my best to read the names of all stations. I was on the middle berth, a difficult spot I would say, but I managed to read 'em all. Or so I thought (they were written in Hindi and my hindi reading capabilities from a distance is err how do I put it, questionable). The train was too slow for my liking and it was ~5 AM. As it was the first time that I had woken up so early in my life I thought of making the best use of it by brushing my teeth and eating some plum cake that we had packed. Hey! you feel hungry while traveling.
The whole freakin train was asleep. How can they all sleep so peacefully I wondered? With nothing much to do after eating plum cake I went back to sleep only to be rudely woken up by eunuchs at around 6 AM. Four or five of them were all around the place - *clap clap clap* “aye hero utho..” *clap clap* “haan ..haan good morning” they wished us. I needed coffee. But they kept clapping. It hurt my head. Somebody please give me coffee, I pleaded silently. For us Bangaloreans waking up to find no coffee is like going to Tirupati and not hearing MS’s Suprabhatam or going to Tirupati and not standing in queue. More claps followed forcing me to peep through my shawl. One of them caught sight of me peeping, thinking I was a guy (don’t ask me why) tried to wake me up. After s/he found I’m in fact a girl, asked me to go back to sleep. Sweet, no? I murmured ‘coffee?’ sleepily (threw in some sympathy angle muhahahaa. clever me!). “coffee?” s/he asked me with a frown and *clap clap* called the coffee chap (who had just walked into our compartment) and moved ahead to harass a cute guy who was sleeping on the ‘passage-wali’ seat (ahem.. a cute medical student. more on this later)
Lesson number 4: Don’t infuriate eunuchs. Stay calm and smile or act sleepy. They’ll help you. Really.
I thanked the kind eunuch, which went unnoticed, paid Rs.5 to the coffee chap and had my first sip of “Brooo instant coffee”. I immediately felt dizzy. I will never be able to describe the taste of Broooooo. But my fellow coffee lovers may I request you to join me in requesting Indian Railways to ban this dreadful blend of warm water, three spoons of sugar and coffee powder tin’s lid thrown in for the effect. I vowed to drink only Tea for the next 20 days, any day better than Br-ewww.
Lesson 5: You might have already guessed, yes, say NO to coffee while traveling. It.should.be.banned.
Rest of the journey was uneventful. Oh yes the cute medical student (no, he is not the protagonist of this story). To be honest I didn’t find him cute, in fact none of us did. Much to our amusement he slept throughout the journey and kept throwing furious glances at us. Well I dont blame him, coz our chatter matched the decibel levels of the train’s engine.
And thus we reached our destination.
Now, let me skip the rest of the places we visited and head to Shimla, alright. Or on second thoughts...
to be continued....