Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fully booked

To say that my train to Kolkata from Mumbai has many passengers is the understatement of the century. Well, at least that is the case on the sleeper class bogie of Gitanjali Express that I am in.

I should have known it this morning by the very very long line of the passengers queued for the second class carriage or the general or the unreserved class. This was not the first time I saw the line moving and this morning's was indeed longer and more frantic than before.

SRO at night time

Of course, the Gitanjali Express is not dubbed super fast for nothing. It only takes 30 hours to reach Kolkata from Mumbai. Other trains I have checked that matches my schedule range between 32-36 hours of journey from Mumbai in the West to Kolkata in the East. (The hours of course not include the delays which happen with trains often.) I believe this is the reason why there are a lot of passengers in the Gitanjali. It's the Durga Puja season or the Duhserra (Dasara) festival which is widely celebrated in West Bengal, the state of Kolkata, an everyone wants to make it home.

Judging by the bunk section where I am in, and the number of people in the other bunk areas of this carriage plus those sitting or standing in between the bunks and pathways, I'd say that there's at least double the amount of people than it's supposed to be. To put it in context, my bunk area composed of 8 berths is being shared among 15 people, and that's only the number of people that I can count discreetly!


This morning, I was so zoned out for the lack of sleep the night before (no matter how comfortable Leah's couch is, I was afraid I won't be able to wake up to catch my taxi and my train) that I no longer cared how many others were sharing my lower berth. First, I tried to sleep with my knees folded in deference to the guys, err, young boys at the other end of the berth.

But, of course, I am only human and my tolerance is lesser than the usual when I don't have sleep. I asked one of the boys to move a bit since I want to stretch out my legs. In some sort of Hindi and sign language combo, I told him to just move a little for my feet to stretch and then he can have the rest of the berth's width!

You might be asking yourself why I am being tolerant at all. Why I don't just tell the people that the berth is mine and I don't want them anywhere near it. In truth, I could do that. I have the right to do that. But, see, in these long range trains spanning throughout the Indian sub-continent, there are some unspoken rules and norms. Well, at least that's how I see it.

Taking turns for space at lunch

The most common, whether I am on 2ac (6 berths per bunk area, fully air-conditioned and with food provided) or at sleeper class, it is expected that the lower berths are shared seats, al least until it's time to sleep already and everyone's supposed to return to their own berths.

The woman was waitlist 666 and she still got on the train!

However, I guess tonight will be a different case altogether. I don't know how many people will sit at the foot of my berth and I am not sure whether someone will have the audacity to actually lie down parallel me, essentially sharing the two-feet wide berth. And, the worst (or best???) part of it all is I am not sure if I'll have the heart to tell him or her that it's unacceptable.

More than the norms of Indian Rail travel, I am propelled to goodness by two main things. First, if I did't manage to get a foreign tourist quota ticket that secure my berth, I'd probably be among these passengers whose desperation to be in Kolkata during the Durga Puja led them to this situation. Second, I believe in karma and that it returns good or bad deeds on 10 folds. Right now, I have a WL170+ ticket for the fully-booked Konark Express train from Orissa to Mumbai. This ticket may never be confirmed as it's already too close to the date. So, worse comes to worst, I may be like the woman who right now sleeps in the floor between the two lower berths. I am hoping that should the same fate be bestowed upon me, there would be people who would let me occupy the same space and be compassionate about it. Or that, they believe in karma too!

In house acrobatic entertainment from girls
and boys who board the train to perform and earn some rupees
Update: at 7pm, the train is at SRO situation, literally standing room only. Right now, we pulled up at Nagpur Jn in northeastern Maharashtra. Hopefully, this will be my base come November once I start working with YUVA Rural! Anyway, already at standing room only, there seems to be no stop to boarding of more passengers. I think at this point, it's already thrice the supposed seats at sleeper. If this is the case here, I dread to even imagine what it is like at the general class.

The train stopped at Nagpur, my new home in the coming days
as I work with the Rural Office!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Namaste! I'd appreciate your comments so don't hesitate to drop me a line. Salamat po!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...