Baroda is a thousand kilometers from Delhi. Or a twelve-hour train journey or one half hour flight. but it took me 27 hours to find my way home, only because I had to meet a person in Bhilwara, in the middle of Rajasthan, not so well-connected by rail and no airport. Thus, began my research, looking at flights to nearest airports, train and bus connections. And then I realized that there was only one way to get there and get back home.
I began my journey at seven-thirty in the evening from Baroda. Boarded the Karnavati Express to Ahmedabad, a two-hour journey. Most of the journey was uneventful and I spent most of it on a Skype call anyways. I reached Ahmedabad station and went straight to find a place to eat and as always, the station had a Comesum, Indian railways fast food chain. Though I choose to sit in the air-conditioned room, I realized that it was going to as hot as the outside, since no one bothered to keep the doors closed!
After having a spicy special thali (paneer, biryani, dal, etc etc) and a diet Pepsi, I moved towards Platform 12. The helper at Comesum was kind enough to direct me, trying to speak in his recently learnt English. Platform 12 turned out on the far end, the last platform at the station. Luckily, I had ample time to get there. To my surprise, it was empty and missed the hulchul of the other platforms- no crowded kiosks, no people sleeping or waiting on the platform, no animals! And to add to the surprise, I realized that I was on board a meter gauge train- very few of them left now!
I met a Korean student on the train, who had been traveling all by herself in India. An MBA student, she (Sheena) had already been to Goa, Hampi and was on her way to Kerela before catching an infection on one of her toes. After a visit to the local Government Hospital in Hampi, who decide to clean the infection without anesthesia, she was advised to take bed rest for five days! Losing hope, she skipped Kerela and took a 20-hour bus ride to Mumbai, before catching a flight to Ahmedabad. And there she was, in the same compartment, on her way to Udaipur. I organized for a doctor to see her in morning in Udaipur and went off to bed.
We parted ways in Udaipur and I was on my way to Bhilwara, a three and a half hour drive. In the last few years, the highways have finally developed in India, making it a great way to travel. Our highway to spotless four-lane road, with no potholes and no traffic. I wish I were driving but then let the driver take over. He was very learned and decided to become my guide as we drove, telling me the name of the factories, the rivers and the villages. He stopped at an intersection called Mangalwar Chowk (Tuesday Crossing), which was crowded by worshippers and tourists. This crossing is known for its Hanuman Mandir (Temple) and the breakfast, which was a poha and a kachori!
It was noon by the time I reached Bhilwara and had been traveling for almost seventeen hours! After a quick meeting and lunch, I was already out by one fifteen, on my way to Ajmer to catch my connecting train. This 120 kilometer journey was quite stressful as I kept looking at my watch and crossed my fingers as we sped towards Ajmer. On the way, we crossed a village called Beer, and how I longed to stop over for one! But then, either it was a beer or the train! I managed to make it to the station just in time to catch the train. I sat and saw one person sleeping on the platform and knew that’s what I wanted! Yawn….