January 22, 2008

Journey to Agra

The distance from Delhi to Agra can be covered by super fast trains in as little as 3 hours. I travelled to Agra by Intercity, a train that is not fast, let alone super, and it took me more than 5 hours to reach. This happened since I had not made prior train reservation and therefore finding a seat in a fast train on the previous night of a journey is generally almost impossible.

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.

Baaa..

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!

A Vendor on the train

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.

10 comments:

final_transit said...

First, this is a exciting story and second, its inspired by me - what could be a better combo :P
Its always fun to travel Indian Railways. Even if you have a reserved ticket, you have to fight to get that seat :)

- Priyank

indicaspecies said...

Priyank,

Do you mean to say fighting is fun? ;)

I'm delighted that you found this 'true story' exciting. :)

backpakker said...

Stories always make a journey more interesting..and people as well..I like the way you make a simple story like this interesting ..i could almost visualise the cafe ..its like someone said good writing is abt making the ordinary extraordinary ..

indicaspecies said...

Lakshmi,

I'm pleased that you found this interesting. Thank you. :)

imac said...

Interesting story with great photos, remind me not to travel by train in India. thought it bad here in UK.

San said...

Celine, your telling of those "insipid incidents" (your words) is never insipid.

You're making me want to travel!

That room does look like a pleasant destination in which to dream of next day's adventures.

Keshi said...

o when do I get to go see Agra? :(

Keshi.

indicaspecies said...

imac:

Thank you.
I had no trouble with the London tube at all. :)

indicaspecies said...

San,

Sweet friend, you are so kind. And I'm glad my post inspires you to travel. Oh yea, the next day was marvellous that included revisiting the Taj Mahal. :)

indicaspecies said...

Keshi,

When you decide to travel, perhaps then!!?? Time to smile now. :)