Panic at the station
We had all the time in the world, then in a flash we had none.
The little detour to look into the Pothy’s sari and salwar emporium, the walk back to the railway station and the retrieval of our luggage from the cloakroom all took far longer than we expected.
We had 20 minutes to catch the train.
We were located on platform one, the announcer told us we needed platform 4.
The crossing bridge was a hundred metres but felt somewhat more when you’re carrying between 13kg and 18kg on your back/front. But its weight quadrupled when we hit the stairs upwards.
On the bridge over all the platform we reached the stairs for platform 4, and saw the sign which told us our train – number 12624 was on platform 3, which was down a different staircase.
Down the stairs to platform 3 and I look on the numbers on the side of the train: it’s not ours!
The western traveller told me platfom 3’s train was definitely going to Chennai, as 12624 should be after Kochi. “But” she continuted “if the numbers on the train don’t match your numbers, it won’t be your train” confirming what I already knew.
I ran along the platform still carrying my gear, the numbers on the train didn’t change: this was not our train.
Running back, and up the stairs which felt like ten times higher than they actually were, we were back at the top of platform 4.
Down the stairs again and one carriage along I saw 12624 on the train.
A quick check of the watch and we’ve got 15 minutes, but we’ve got no water and we’ve got to get to our carriage, 18 carriages further on.
I try walking fast but the girls are getting left behind, I try stopping at the kiosk whilst I’m ahead to get water but I’m in a queue of 5 and I’ll never get served in time, stuff it, we’ll have to hope there’s a water seller on the train – there wasn’t.
Reaching our carriage with minutes to spare, we get to our seats and someone is already sitting in them; they move when we state which seats are ours.
Sleeper Class capacity: is there one?
There’s meant to be 6 people on the two benches, we’ve got 7 on ours and two on the fixed beds above, someone’s not got a ticket. Looking across at the side berths and rather than two people, there’s three. Another one joins our seats, now’s there 13 occupying the space for 8.
It’s okay I thought, the rather officious Train Ticket Examiner won’t put up with this, he’ll chuck the rogues all out.
The TTE turned up and examined some of the tickets, didn’t bother with others. I counted 4 who had no tickets, he did nothing.
I showed him our tickets and passport, he looked glum, with an accusing look he asked me “which seat?” Looking behind at the number 12, I turned back to him, “12!” holding back the “der” which would have got me thrown off the train at the next station.
So the only ones who got any crap off the TTE were the people who booked their tickets the earliest, us.
Water, water, give me water
Two hours in the heat and we’re in need of some water.
The chai sellers on the train didn’t cut it for us, we needed a couple of bottles.
Jane hatched a plan: at the next station she’d get off, get some water and get back on. Simple.
With 100 rupees she got off.
The train was due to stop for two minutes.
Two minutes later the train pulled away, one further minute and there’s no sign of her and we’re starting to panic once more.
It occurs to me she’s got 100 rupees, we’re two hours from Kochi, she doesn’t know the address of the property, she has no identification. I could imagine the news report.
Then she appears.
And here’s a little video: