Thursday, August 15, 2013

My most memorable Shatabdi journey

This is the unedited version of the story that won the 'Holidays by Shatabdi' contest by Lonely Planet in June 2013. You can read the published story here
It was 1997, I was all of ten years, travelling to the great Indian North for the very first time. After losing myself in the fascinating Mughal stories my Dad told us while travelling around Delhi, we were headed to Chandigarh.
Shatabdi was going to be our ride from Delhi to Chandigarh. I was excited about travelling in chair car for the very first time, but mostly it was because my mother had informed me that these tickets came with food included. Being an ardent lover of train food, I was happy about not having to throw a tantrum to get the parents to buy food on train. It was to be a short journey of around 3 hours and all of us boarded the train. Being the youngest in the family gave me the privilege to the window seat and there I happily sat looking out at the lands whizzing  by  while munching on my breakfast.
Around two and a half hours later, I informed my mother that I had to go to the toilet urgently and she dutifully escorted me to the train’s toilet. It was already occupied and there was a small occupied sign that appeared on the door when it was locked from inside. A door that could tell you the toilet’s occupancy, to my ten year old mind it was like magic! So when I got in, I had to lock it so that the door could inform the outside world that it was occupied. Of course, my mother who was waiting for me outside could do just the same.
After completing my business, I tried opening the door and soon found out that the door had gotten jammed. I asked my mother to open it from outside (nothing a mother cannot do when you are that age) and when she also could not, panic mode set in and loud bawling followed. Soon enough I could hear my entire family outside trying their luck at opening the door frantically since we were to reach our station in a few minutes. Finally thankfully someone from the pantry came and had to break the lock and bust the door open.
The brief moment of happiness when reunited with the family was followed by a lengthy scolding from the parents and to my amusement a few other passengers we did not know. We finally got down at Chandigarh and continued with the rest of our trip.
I have had a lot of Shatabdi journeys since then, but this definitely is the one I will be telling my grandkids about.


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