When you plan your travel, you probably check for availability of flights for a particular date or in your preferred airline; but when it comes to us, google knows what’s coming as it waits with anticipation and fear. And here it comes with a few recognizable keystrokes – “cheapest flights available from May – June anywhere in India”; google murmurs “cheapo.” Thanks to budget airlines, these days even we are seen in airports in orange trousers and fluorescent green shirts holding a plastic bag which reads ‘super deluxe wine shop’. But prior to that there is one more ritual, telling the entire world “yup booked my tickets, going to Delhi” with a satisfactory grin as we continue “you know May – June is an excellent time to visit Delhi.” Sun beats down on Rajpath as people proclaim “this is the end of the world,” but we, bravehearts, unfazed by the tyranny of sun, loiter around India Gate aimlessly at 47 degree temperature with an ice-cream in one hand and a balloon in another – life rocks!!!
You should have guessed it by now that flying high is not our preferred mode of travel, for that we always bank on that good old rail gaadi. Words cannot describe the euphoric feeling of being on a railway platform surrounded by like minded people spitting everywhere and searching for a corner to address nature’s call; it’s home coming for us!
A month before the journey we meticulously prepare a list of cheap hotels near Paharganj, collect phone numbers of people staying in Delhi who we met once in a shop, ‘maps of Delhi’ is now part of our precious collection of books, and of course how can the preparation be complete without an air-pillow. On the D-day we reach station minutes before the schedule departure time maneuvering through the crowd displaying high level of acrobatic skills, buried under luggage filled with items which were never used in the history of human civilization. Coolie cannot pick our bags as the gravitational pull can only be challenged if certain conditions are fulfilled e.g. the item in question is not heavier than the challenger. And hence after a valiant attempt they usually retreat from the scene without uttering a single word with a perplexed gaze, so we are always on our own. After creating a spectacle for the viewers we enter a compartment, yes any compartment because we don’t have a valid ticket and that’s the thumb rule if you want to make your train journey a memorable one. So from here on it’s all about skill and execution. So being a certified without ticket traveler, let me walk you through the procedure.
Once you enter the compartment try to analyze the situation and feel the vibe. Oh no, don’t even look at the girl with a wish to strike up a conversation, it doesn’t give a good impression to start the proceedings; there are two possibilities:
- You have been through this situation before i.e. humiliation in front of 20-30 amused spectators and you will have to live with this Shakti Kapoor image for the rest of your journey. There will be couple of compassionate glances with a silent “thank you for taking the initiative and saving us” but no one will talk to you.
- With an expression which would give Lalita Pawar a hard run for her money, she might say “hi”. Congratulations, you have just created 20-30 enemies around you who will closely monitor each and every activity of yours from now on with hawk eyes.
So control all emotions and focus on your basic need first i.e. a place to sit. Remember it’s virtually impossible right now to differentiate between you and the hawkers in the compartment with your current status; standing there with bags on your shoulders looking at the passengers with a plea on your face, so get on with the job. Look for innocent faces and quickly start short listing them; avoid healthy people. Try to be extra nice to that muscular guy by taking out a 10 rupees note from your wallet (preferably torn) and giving it to him saying “I guess you dropped your money there.” It might be of immense help later in case you get thrashed by everyone in the compartment, he might just stay away from this public outrage. Now start your campaign with those shortlisted candidates. Go there, make your face as weary and tragic as possible and like a professional beggar implore “can I sit here for sometime?” Spread your luggage throughout the compartment and make it impossible for people to walk because of your luggage. They themselves will push your bags under the seat; so you chill.
At night when everyone is getting ready to sleep and you are standing there like an unwanted salesman with a stupid smile, it’s time to pull another rabbit out of your hat. Buy two cups of tea and approach that lonely guy looking at that girl with moist eyes, offer him the tea with a sympathetic nod “I can understand.” Carefully formulate your questionnaire and start with the following one:
“So, where you from?” Don’t bother about the answer, you are not going to his house. Prepare you next question.
Following a series of questions, and once he is done with his break up story come to the point:
“These seats are quite wide, two people can easily sleep here.”
Check his reaction now and hurl the final blow
“Would you mind if I sit in one corner just tonight?”
Make sure you constantly stare at that cup of tea just to remind him that…yeah. Don’t get nervous and blurt out “can I sleep with you tonight?” Stay calm throughout the process, he might allow you to sit in one corner of his berth. You know what to do next; gradually expand your territory while he sleeps till you occupy 75% of the seat. However, if he says no then ask for that 5 rupees, which you paid for tea, citing change issue.
Wait for the TT to come. He would completely ignore you, but you know the reality. He hasn’t come to check tickets, he has come specifically for you. Stand in a quiet corner just like a drug peddler awaiting his arrival. They come, they see and eventually succumb to their financial needs; it’s a win-win situation. Once you get a berth, change your attitude, you are not a beggar anymore. Now the next step, this is the image rebuilding phase. Take out some business magazines, don’t worry no one will get to know that you are actually going through the ads. Few people will hold out their hands “may I?” You will be delighted to see that even they take as much interest in ads as you do. As a contingency plan you might want to carry few …. ummm… not so widely accepted magazines as it’s always not possible to perceive the taste of your co-passengers. Completely ignore the person who allowed you to sit earlier. May be you can tell him “would you mind taking your hanky off my seat?”
When the train enters its destination, disregard the stern glares of your co passengers and disembark on the platform in the open arms of taxi drivers, auto drivers, and hotel guys. For a second you might think that they were in some way related to you in your previous life; there are good people in this world.