I woke up around 7.30 am thinking maybe there is some hope that the train might catch up on lost time?
As I got down from the upper berth I noticed most of them were still sleeping and it looked like it would take another 2 hours and more to reach Kathgodam.
The man in the lower berth below me was already up and awake and sitting so I requested if I could sit too.
We started talking. His name was Sunil and he worked in government service and he commuted from Dehradun to Haldwani 2-3 times in a month. He was a resident of Dehradun.
Very friendly, he was curious as to what made me travel all the way to Almora. Especially after knowing I was from South India and yup, traveling alone!
I told him I was trekking and all that and he said, Accha aaj kal ye bi ho raha hai? Hamare log bi trekking karte hai? 🙂 (This is happening now? we Indians started trekking too?)
He kept asking so many questions on whom I was visiting, who were these people, was I married, was I studying or working? What did my parents think about me traveling alone? I enjoyed the soft interrogation in a way because that’s in our blood and I mean Indian blood, a trait that’s imbedded in us.
One tends to ask very personal questions to each other and it doesn’t matter that they met a few minutes ago! This is the thing about trains which flights cannot ever give. A chance to interact, communicate, to be with people, in a way to understand a culture too.
Airports are sterile and so are the people, aren’t they? But trains and stations burst with life and energy!
Sunil also mentioned that this particular train usually runs late. Sometimes this train reaches Kathgodam as late as 12 noon! I was like Oh Man, I got so used to the efficient South Central Railways I usually travel in, this was new to me to experience Northern Railways.
Deepta called me and I told her that am still in the train and will call her once I take a cab from Kathgodam. Overhearing this, Sunil my fellow passenger told me No, No, don’t get down at the last station – Kathgodam. Get down at Haldwani, one stop before that. In fact most of them get down at that station itself.
He also mentioned that instead of taking a taxi at the station which would be expensive, it’s best to take an auto and go to the taxi stand there.
From there you would get plenty of shared taxis. Usually shared cabs were 200 Rs per head but if I wanted to sit in the front seat next to the driver, it would be 300 Rs. A little extra for the leg room like those budget domestic flights 🙂
Believe me, a really useful big tip this was! So if you are planning on going that side, now you have the info.
Sunil also gave me his contact number. He said, any emergency or any info you require please call me. I know your friends will pick you up from Almora but that’s a long way off. Kindness like this melts your heart.
Luckily the train arrived at Haldwani at 9.30 am which was not bad at all. I got down and saw that Sunil was right. Almost 90% of passengers got down here and as I came out, I was accosted by 15 to 16 auto/ cab guys.
It becomes very claustrophobic when you have people surrounding you and asking you and a very clever technique actually. You just want to get out of this mess and most probably you will agree to anyone quoting any price. But this applies to lesser mortals not to Indians!
I walked away from the station and hailed an auto outside to take me to the taxi stand.
As I was approaching the taxi stand, I already saw a taxi guy waving at us at the main road. He already had 4 guys in his car and was waiting for one more passenger. Immediately I said, I want front seat and no sharing, how much? 300! That’s it, I got in.
I looked behind and saw the guys and said a big Hello! There was a confused perplexed expression on their faces with a slight smile 🙂
So our man, the driver not only had 5 passengers, he was able to shove all our luggage behind and also take one more big box that had to be dropped off at Almora and all this in a small Maruti Zen.
This man was quite a character. I remember him as Pan- Gutka Chewing, Temple loving Nadeem.
It was going to be quite a ride!