An attempt to reserve such a seat, just a few hours before travelling, was being made from a drab internet cafe that had slow connectivity and no printer. Anyway, I owe my heartfelt thanks to one of my friends who was very helpful that night. He not only managed to make a booking on Intercity on my behalf but also arranged to get a print out of the reservation slip. Where else did he have to go and how he managed to get a hard copy from the printer-less-cafe is still not clear to me, since at one point (perhaps seeing the bored look on my face while he was occupied on the net) he sent me away from that dingy cafe to join other friends who were waiting nearby.
Did I tell you about what a daunting task it was to reach the cafe itself? It looked like it was perched up on an elevated area of a relic of a building that was sure to win the favour of World Heritage Sites, if only someone was in pursuit of an antediluvian monument. To reach that net cafe was like climbing half of Mount Everest.
An old man settled there with a magnificent beard and intriguing looks refused to grant me permission to photograph him. How he managed to scale up there in the first place will be a perpetual mystery to me. I descended and ended up clicking a picture of a few sheep instead. And all these events took place late night after a delicious dinner at Nizamuddin.
So, the next day, when the train I was to travel in finally chugged in (it was delayed to start with), its compartments did not stop at the assigned electronic indicators on the platform, and I blithely sat down on what I 'thought' was my reserved seat. During the journey at one point, watching the locals rush in and rush out into the compartment I was in, like they were playing hide and seek and was nobody's business, I realized I was not in the right seat!
Once I vaguely understood the concept of numbers written outside each compartment from a local traveller (how silly of me not to know that all this time!), I could have carried my little baggage and quickly made a dash to my own reserved seat in between two train stops. That way I could have continued my journey in style with comfort-seeking tourists and other high-handed category of people (no, I'm not one of them) that travel only on reserved seats.
However, I decided against it as the present arrangement gave me an opportunity to mix with the locals and it was pretty engaging to interact with them. There were times though when I wished the place wasn't as noisy, and it was then that my MP3 promptly came to my rescue. Anyhow, time passed by fairly quickly and I especially took delight in chatting up, and at times giggling at ludicrous jokes, with a small group of college students and did not want to trade those moments with anything else then.
Tourists of all kinds are everywhere. For me, it's the joy of mingling with locals that is unmatchable.
Anyway, after many more stops at several local stations and a few more insipid incidents, I was finally approaching the end of that journey that tried to test my patience unsuccessfully. But for the freezing cold, I was not exactly deterred. By the time the train reached Agra, it was almost midnight. Fortunately, before leaving, at the last moment I had arranged prior booking at a hotel in Agra knowing well that I would not stay in Delhi for long.
So, at around midnight, after bravely fighting off the touts, brags and bluster at the Agra railway station and following a bone-chilling ride in the auto from the railway station through the icy winds, fog and sleet, it was a relief to reach Agra's Mansingh Palace and I was delighted to bask in its comfort and luxury after a long and interesting journey to Agra.
This post has been inspired by Priyank in his comment here when he asked me to write "the stories" and not just post pictures.