Gondwana Express pt. 2, Jabalpur – Delhi

Britt and I were riding high on our way back to the Jabalpur train station. We had just had one of the best vacations of our lives, and we also had a travel companion on this leg of the trip. One of the volunteers from Kipling Camp was headed back to Delhi, plus the Kipling Camp representative that drove us to Jabalpur was going to stay with us until we got on the train. The only concern we had was that one of our two train tickets wasn’t confirmed.

We purchased our tickets two months prior, even so, one ticket was “waitlisted #1”. From what we can gather, being “waitlisted” is just a way to oversell the train tickets, and give false hope to those unfortunate ones given false tickets. The only way your waitlisted ticket is confirmed is if there is a cancellation or a no-show. Immediately when we booked our tickets we knew that the one was not confirmed, but after asking several expats and contacting Kipling Camp staff we were assured that a #1 slot was good as gold. No worries! That is until we arrived at the Jabalpur station only to find out that there were absolutely no cancellations or no-shows, and that we only had one seat on the train.

Thankfully, we had a national with us who could converse with the ticket collector fluently, but that didn’t do much good. The conductor was dead-set on not allowing both of us on the train, and our poor travel companion was waitlisted #12, no way she was getting on! Panic began to settle in, and we started weighing our options. We could book a flight from Jabalpur to Deli, but the next flight wasn’t until tomorrow. We could try and get on another train, but the next departure wasn’t until tomorrow.

“Do you have cash on you?” We were a bit confused by this question, but the Kipling Rep. looked serious. “Yes, but we only have large bills.” Immediately he gave us 5 100 rupee notes for 1 500 note, and told us to slip the conductor 200, no more, and then get on the train. What?! He must be joking! Unfortunately, he wasn’t. By this time another Kipling Representative had showed up and the conversation started all over again. Time was ticking, and there were only minutes before the train was to depart. I started scaling the train, trying to figure out a way to climb on top to endure the 17 hour trip clinging for our lives. It seemed like the most legitimate way to get out of Jabalpur at that moment.

All of a sudden, Britt and I were being pushed toward the train door by the Kipling Rep. #2. The conductor was no-where in sight, as we were pushed onto the train and told to go and find a seat. Now we’re in a pickle. If we get caught now or down the road, we risk the chance of getting thrown off in the middle of no-where. If we don’t get on the train, then we’re stuck in Jabalpur for the entire night. After weighing the options we decide to risk it, and go to find the one seat that we have booked.

Once again, we’re riding First Class A/C so that means 4 to a berth, except now it’s 5 including both of us. We sat down, taking up as little room as possible, and man-alive did we get some dirty looks. The second we sat, the middle-aged woman across from us started yelling in Hindi, unhappy, no doubt, that there are too many people in our little room. Her husband, who is sitting next to her, says nothing, but just stares us down like we were two pieces of trash. The man next to us speaks English, and proceeds to tell us that we are breaking the rules. “Yes, yes, we know. But we have no choice!” They continued trying to convince one of us to get off, but when the train jerked forward they no longer saw the point in arguing with us, and just glared, especially the woman.

It turned out that the man next to us, who was clothed from head to toe in a salmon color linen outfit, was some kind of god-man. It wasn’t 5 minutes after we took off, that a crew of his disciples invaded the room, each one removing their shoes and bending over to touch their foreheads to his feet (all the while sticking their hairy butts up in the air, for the rest of us to awkwardly avoid looking at). Now there was not only 5 of us in what was already a small 4 person berth, but there are now 7! And it was very apparent that the disciples were much more welcome company than we were.

knock. knock. knock.

It was the conductor. We both held our breath, as the disciples left and he took everyone’s tickets, leaving ours for last. We had our money out, ready to bribe him. Our riding companions were looking at him just as intently as we were, eager for him to kick one of us out. Fortunately, that did not happen. He looked our ticket over, and then said he would try and accommodate for the both of us, but until then we have to share a bunk. phew! We were safe! We decided to give our angry and disappointed pals their space, and crawled up to our upper bunk. Granted, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing, sharing an upper bunk on a rickety train, but it was better than the alternative! Here’s a pic of our bunk before Britt climbed up…

Several hours in to the trip, when we were all fast asleep the conductor came banging on our door and told Britt to move down to the next room. There was an opening. Reluctantly, Britt left, but everything turned out just fine. We were both able to stretch out, and before we knew it we were pulling in to the Delhi station. When we got out of the train we saw that the volunteer from Kipling made it as well, although she didn’t fare to well, getting kicked from seat to seat all night long. Nevertheless, we were all where we needed to be!


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