Adventure to North East India - Part 1

My Facebook just reminded me about a post that I made 8 years ago when I was travelling in Kolkata, India. It was not meant to be a funny post at that time, but when I read it again including the comments, I laughed hard πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†!!! Such a funny thing looking back to the older version of yourself and what you are capable of!

I was in my second year of undergraduate studies, going to the third year. Students had about a month of break after the annual exam during May-June. As an Indian Council for Cultural Relation (ICCR) scholar student, I had the opportunity to join the holiday trip that they organized across India. These trips (including food, entries to sites and accommodation) are fully paid by the ICCR. So all I needed to do was to get to the meeting point, the starting city of the trip. Together with 4 other girls who were also ICCR students, I applied for the trip and was approved for the one to go to the North East. Then, since we were based in Pune, the west side of India, it was a whole lot of adventure getting to North East and getting back to Pune, the west.

Imagining the adventure that I have gone through, now, I am sure I am not as strong or as willing to go through the same. Part of it was also considered dangerous. So, to celebrate those young and restless days, I would like to share with you my trip to the North East India, which covers New Jalpaiguri, Sikkim, and Darjeeling. Here we go!

Getting to North East - 55 hours train rideπŸ˜†

As soon as the girls and I were accepted for the trip, I took the leadership for arranging the transport to get there. We agreed that we would travel by train since we could not afford flight, and we wanted to experience it. We were excited, however, the time was not enough for us to secure seats in the train. We had to leave 2 days before the trip started as the train journey will take about more than 1 day. On the day, we had no choice but to catch the direct train from Mumbai direct to New Jalpaiguri - west to east!!! This train was called LTT Guwahati Express. Unfortunately, we could not book proper seats as it was already packed. Indian railways however, still allows people to buy tickets without reserving seats and they will be just waiting lists tickets. People with these tickets are allowed to get on the train but not allowed to sit.

Getting from Pune to Mumbai was easy. I think we went bus. We arrived at Mumbai CST, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, and found our train. It was full, packed with people, animals, stuff 😱. I mean, we kinda expected that there would be some space but, no, we were walking from one carriage to another, and failed to get seat. It was so tiring, and the smell of urine and sweat, added more discomfort. People sat on the floor, corridor, basically everywhere as long as there was space. What a perfect adventure!

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view from inside the train

We knew there was no space left and the train started moving, so we just kinda settled in one aisle, with a family of a young boy. We agreed that it would be safe at least with a family around and asked them if we could have some space. At that time, one of my friends from Afghanistan could speak quite fluent in Hindi so she could communicate with the other passengers around.  As the day went on, we unpacked our lunch, while continuously taking turns to find more space. That was only the first 2 hours of our ride and we still had 53 more hours to endure. All we could think of was a space enough for 5 girls to sit and rest.

Towards the end of the day, we gave up. We decided to just stay in that limited space. As we were sitting on the seat that belonged to the family, I heard the father told my friend that he would give us the seat if we gave him Rs.500. Such an opportunity from a necessity πŸ‘Ώ! There and then, we were Rs.500 poorer πŸ‘ΏπŸ˜‚

We survived our day 1 in the train. We figured out the toilet and how we could shower (flash shower) by filling the bottle from the tap in the bathroom. Thank God for the running tap! As the train went through main stops like Bihar (Patna), people started getting off the train and so we could claim some more space. At one point, few hours closer to our stop, all the 5 of us were just too tired from sitting and finding space, and we finally had the whole compartment for ourselves as the family were leaving. That night was a vague one. All I remember was me sleeping in the upper seats and I looked down the rush happening as the train stopped and people had to get off. My friends were sleeping, and I tracked the time so we didn't miss our stop.

15 minutes before we arrived in our stop, my friends were awake and we started to collect our bags. We made sure that nothing was left underneath the seats. It was hard as other people's bags were kept there. Until, my friend could not find her only bag! Damn people! Really? In that scene, stolen bag was probably very common but really people? Are you just piling bad karma for yourself by stealing from a needy college student? Finally, we arrived and there was no more looking for the bag. It was confirmed, we lost the bag !


To be continued in Part 2!

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