It’s been a while since my XL days that I enjoyed staying up almost the entire night.
Sunday 6th Sept
11.45 p.m. – I reach Baroda station armed with a ticket on Avantika Express to Bandra, Mumbai.
11.55 p.m. – The train arrives. I board and take my seat. The old man sitting in front of me stares at me in a strange manner.
Monday 7th Sept
12.10 a.m. – The train leaves Baroda. Surprisingly the TC arrives within 5 minutes to check people who had boarded the compartment at Baroda.
12.05 a.m. – I show my ticket to the TC. So does the old man, mumbling something in Gujarati pointing fingers at me. Turns out I’m sitting on his seat. The TC gives one look at my ticket, and says “aap ke paas valid ticket nahi hai. Utro ya fine bharo” I’m like WTF! He points at the date – 6th Sept. Ah, Brilliant me. Me, an MBA grad, with the experience of booking a zillion tickets online on irctc has done it again. (yes, again!)
12.10 a.m. – The TC calls me to a corner and gives me a 3 digit figure. Not much you would say? Well I had 200Rs in my pocket. He nods his head in disapproval. Orders me to pay or get out at the next station while I ponder why the hell we don’t have atms on trains.
01.05 – Bharuch approaches. The TC is back, and probably as a last attempt reduces the figure by 50Rs and gives me an ultimatum.
01.10 – I see the last bogie of Avantika express leave Bharuch station while I walk to the ticket counter. The dog sleeping on the platform gives me a half look, and decides that his sleep is worth too much than barking at me. I notice that the Aravali Express & Saurashtra Mail are next to arrive. Thankfully I find an SBI atm and load myself with cash, armed enough to get myself an AC first class ticket.
02.10 – Deja Vu. I see the last bogie of Saurashtra Mail leave Bharuch station. Talk about Murphy’s doings. Turns out both Aravali & Saurashtra mail don’t have any seats available. Now I have two choices – wait till morning for the next train to Bombay or catch the next one going the opposite direction back to Baroda.
02.20 – So Baroda it is. Thankfully the Lok Shakti Express was going all empty to Ahmedabad. I find a fellow passenger who is not able to sleep and chat with him for the next one hour.
03.10 – Baroda station rocks. Even so late in the night, all the tea stalls are open and active. Even Bombay stations are dead by this time! Post a cup of hot tea, and some snacks, I look for options.
03.15 – The Garib Rath Express chugs in. And thankfully with empty bogies. This time, I handover the quoted 3 figure number to the TC without any arguments and get myself an berth.
04.00 – Even Murphy and his forefathers couldn’t hamper my sleep. I snore away to glory.