I love to travel.
It was more of an impromptu plan..."let us go to Amritsar", said one of us.
"Aye!", we assented!!! Tickets got booked even with the salary showing a dangerously low mark. Plans made. Tickets booked. Rest is when we get set to go. That was November of 2009.
Cut to December.
First week passes by with minimal chill in the air...
"Winters do not quite feel like winters, anymore!", said I to one of my friends. "Yes, how hateful this is becoming!", said the friend.
December last week, weather reports and news channels are crying hoarse about how cruel and harsh the winters are this time...the cold wave as always true to its image, gave reason to people to stay indoors rather than venture out.
It struck me first, our tickets, to Amritsar, booked for January, first week!!! :)
What luck! We get to see winter in all its glory!!
Everyone who hears the itinerary is sure enough to laugh our plan off! And so they do.
I readily scan papers for the temperature at Amritsar, hovering anywhere from -2 to 0, each day.
Woah! This is going to be some trip!!! :)
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways books huge losses owing to cancellations of trains. The Shatabdis, Rajdhanis and Sampark Krantis are not spared. It is only but natural for the lesser locos to get cancelled...and ofcourse, delayed, at times, by more than an hour. I choose not to mention about flights, because I am an eternal "hope personified" being, and I still believe that because exceptions are always there, common sense, after all, just may be rather common! Also, because I care more for the trains...I too am travelling on one to Amritsar.
The morning trains get cancelled. So do the ones that are to run in the evening. I pray that mine does not. I calculate my funds, the other two friends too quickly do theirs. "Noting doing!", say we, "if the train ain't taking us there, a cab surely is!"
We reached the station. I scan the status board almost every five minutes. We have our share of fun too. The platform is pure chaos. People...men, women, youngsters, good(handsome)young men to look at, children, porters, luggage, pick pockets, dogs, security, F&B...we had it all there!
We clicked a few quick pics ( my other two friends are rather camera friendly, love to pose endlessly, and needless to say, they are eternal posers! :P )
A boy reads aloud on the platform, he is reading a novel... one of my buddies goes and clicks him.. he is so engrossed, he barley notices... We munch onto something...we look around at other passengers...and we stay alert...and I true to my "restless" self, keep rushing to the board to see whether our train is on time.
Soon, it is official, the train is two hours late...
We pose more, we click, we talk, and wait...finally the train chugs into the platform...everyone picks up their luggage and is ready to board the train.
"Wait!, there is still time to go", says the engine driver. Twice , thrice, it shunted... each time, raising our hopes, and crushing them to smithereens...
We are on it finally, 18:40 hours...and we leave New Delhi for Amritsar. The train is abuzz with chatter. People offer unwarranted advice on the time it would reach Amritsar, and more. The chap behind us cannot stop talking...and all of my life I had been thinking I would put any obsessive conversationalist to shame with my gift of the gab!
The train is doing just 20 kmph, for the records...and we are starving ... when the attendant gets the tea, he smiles and says, "Madam jee, it all depends...".
We get it.
We cross Panipat in three and a half hours...ask anyone who has been on that route before what it means. In short, it spells doom for the people on board the train!
We have had soup, and then dinner, and the "eternal crap" sitting behind us is still going on. He is just unstoppable. When people don't realise, they ought to be made to realise. Soon enough he minds himself.
Our enthusiasms did not flag despite the train's delay...and we also know by now that we are not to reach Amritsar before dawn breaks...
Winter at its best...a journey that generally lasts six hours, lasted almost twelve. 05:45 hours is when the train whisltes onto the platform.
PS: If I continue to write about what happened when we reached in this post, I would have fewer readers than what I presently do...more in next.