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A Journey

Indian Railways
Train number: 18610
Boarding Station: Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Mumbai
Destination Station: Ranchi

Traveling long distances by trains is nothing new to me. However this particular journey in 2013 has been vivid in my memory. Thanks to my peanut salary and a last-minute travel plan, I could not book an air ticket for that trip. So, I decided to go by train. Cherry on the cake, I could manage to get a berth in the humble non AC sleeper class only.

My journey started on a scary note when I found a drunken passenger next to my seat. Thankfully he got off at Kalyan, the next station. I heaved a sigh of relief and waited for my other co-passengers to board the train. One middle-aged woman came and sat next to me. A married couple followed her. Two college going teenagers filled the remaining seats. And my long journey of thirty-nine and half hours actually started.

Sitting by the window, I enjoyed the view outside. Small talks followed. The middle-aged woman had come to visit her son in Mumbai. She complained about how her son had got a new job in Mumbai and how his salary was not enough to afford a good accommodation. The young married couple were expecting a baby and they were going to Allahabad- the wife's hometown. The teenagers were heading home for the vacation. For me, the best part about train journeys is that people tend to strike a conversation with fellow passengers. Especially, if you are traveling in a non-AC sleeper coach. The conversations are lesser in a AC sleeper coach and are minimal in a two hour flight.  It seems that duration (and price!) of a journey are proportional to conversations among passengers. "Do not talk to strangers," my parents warn me often when I travel alone. Nevertheless, I participate in such conversations.

I met curious glances when my fellow travelers came to know that I was on my own. There is a famous dialogue from a well known Bollywood movie- "Akeli ladki khuli hui tijori ke jaisi hoti hai" (A girl travelling alone is like an open treasure box). The glances of my co-passengers tried to convey this message (After all these years, multiple warnings and endless glances have still not deterred me from traveling alone).   

Next day, my eyes opened with the early morning shouts of tea vendors and hawkers. There is something magical about the hot tea in a kulhad. Or the Vada Pav or Pohe Jalebi served at the stations. One can make a long menu based on the local delicacies served at these stations. And there are occasional surprises too. By midday when I was feeling sleepy after lunch, two Naga Sanyasis hopped on the train from Naini, a small station before Allahabad. Kumbh Mela was after a month and they were going to Allahabad. Needless to say, it was quite shocking for my sleepy eyes to stare down at the Sanyasis (Ahem, Ahem).

Unfortunately, the rest of the journey was devoid of shocks and surprises. The train moved on to come up with new co-passengers, new stories and experiences. By then, I was getting drained from the long journey and slept like a log. Early next morning, I reached my destination to my sweet home.

**This post first appeared on my blog on Quora. 

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