The local train rides in India were quite an experience for us. And an adventure too. Being on one of these train rides means you have to expect the unexpected.
Our specially requested so-called most comfortable and most expensive seat that we pre-booked at International Tourist Bureau in New Delhi days before our departure from New Delhi to Agra, turned out to be a reserved AC chair car seat that happened to have been already taken by some passengers of a family from an overnight journey before stopping by New Delhi where we boarded and headed to Agra.
We had to take this local train as our initial idea of booking the popular foreign tourist train became impossible when our original plan was interrupted and that resulted the reshuffling of our itinerary.
Apparently, the seat you see in the picture where we were seated was supposed to be another local passenger’s, next to the window and he was gracious enough to give it to me and my sister while he took a seat and shared with the other locals opposite us. At the same time a mother and her child were also shared our seat while the husband and daughter were seated opposite of the same berth. It seems like anyone and everyone could just switch seat and move from one place to another anytime they want in the train in India. And the funny thing is none of them ever gets angry when someone comes and sit with them even though it is not their reserved seat at all.
If the local do not fret over such inconvenience, I think there is no reason for foreign travelers like us should either. There seems to be some kind of calmness in the midst of chaos. I must say that the locals are rather protective and helpful when they know that you are a foreigner traveling in the local train. Be ever open to whatever that is going to happen and enjoy the ride baby!
Here are some of the photos taken during the 4-5-hour train journey from New Delhi to Agra.
Scene we saw in front of us. A couple having their lunch in the train. While a man resting his ‘Hong Kong’ feet on the cushion seat where the couple were enjoying their curry and chapati.
An Indian boy climbed up on the upper sleeper to have some privacy with his laptop. Well, what surprised me was to see there were power sockets provided in the train. Not bad after all for a local train!
Indian ladies in their colourful sarees.
After the ticket officer checked our tickets and found out our reserved seat (yes, notice the single seat, not plural) was occupied by a family, some of them were asked to move and the seat was given back to us. Well, not exactly per our numbers but in the same berth. It was a Punjabi family of about seven people – a grandma, a father and mother of two, and two sisters, in the same berth.
This is the picture of the grandma. Throughout the whole journey we saw some amazing sights as an idea how the locals travel in the train. Apart from buying food and drinks from the train wallahs that walked down the aisle every once in a while, they had their our supply as well. They basically brought in their entire home into the train! Brought along with them a huge bag of murukus, big bottles of Coke and Sprite, glasses, bowls and plates, and to my surprise, even a huge tank/container of drinking water that could feed the whole family for days!!
So that was the journey from New Delhi to Agra. We stayed one night in Agra. Saw the Taj Mahal and headed back to New Delhi on the following day.
This is a picture of my sister. We were waiting for our dear train to arrive at Agra Cantonment railway station. When it did arrive with passengers already from other cities, and it was a snake-long train. We were running from one end to the other end of the train trying to look for our berth. I imagined we were in the Amazing Race reality show or something. At some point we wanted to stop and ask for assistance but there were no uniformed officer around that seemed to care to assist foreigners like us! And yes, we finally found our berth right without any help. And the adventure was just about to begin!
I have never been so shocked in my life when we entered the train and found out the assigned seat for both of us was this single upper sleeper. I could not figure out how on earth the officer at the International Tourist Bureau in New Delhi where we booked this return train journey from Agra to New Delhi, would ever be so kind to give us such surprise! At the time of the booking it definitely did not come to our mind this would be the kind of seat for two.
So here you have two girls squeezed into a space of a single sleeper. This works only in India and no where else! Luckily the train journey was about 4 hours and I managed to catch a little nap along the way. We made do with that limited space we had at the top of the world with the air-conditioner blowing just a few centimeters away from my face. Oh, but thanks to the thick maroon curtain that somehow blocked the direct wind from the air-conditioner from hitting my face so hardly.
Nearing the end of our journey, when some of the passengers already got off at the the station before New Delhi, it was such a relief for us that we could finally climb down and move to some of the vacant seats. The passenger below us on our earlier sleeper seat was a Russian traveler who hardly spoke English. He seemed very comfortable with his seat.
We finally reached our destination safely. What a journey! All I could say was, where else in the world can you experience such wonderful train rides other than in India? It was unbelievable, unspeakable, unforgettable.
Do check out the rest of my India trip photos on my flickr.
Disclaimer : This is a very personal travel experience I had in India. It does not mean that everyone who travels to the country will definitely go through the inconvenience I went through. Every travel experience is unique as the country is unique. But expect the unexpected in India.