The Night Train To Jaisalmer

I’ve seen a bit of Rajasthan. Loosely translated that would be the luxury- tours way, not the best way to do it.

This time it’s different:
It starts with an interesting work assignment.
The bestie and I are traveling together.
We’ve dumped planes for trains.
The places we’re traveling to are both on, and off the beaten track.
She’s the tour incharge. I just get to enjoy the vacation.
We can do stupid things and laugh about it.

And that’s how this journey started.
Day 1
We have the reservation printout with us. It clearly says our berth numbers.
The train halts for exactly two minutes. We both drag our bags and make a dash for it.
Relief. The chart outside the  assigned AC 2 bogey has our names on it.
It says berth 1 and 2 coupe.
Hmm. Interesting. But tricky.Coupes have bolts inside. You can be stuck in a dangerous place because each coupe has four berths.
The bestie knocks on the locked coupe.
A scared looking young mom opens the class coupehis makes it safe- three women to the coupe.

Bestie and I look around.
Definitely a really good train- AC 2 is generally not so opulent and spacious.
The upholstery is clean. The ugly distinctly pungent ‘train’ smell is missing. There are framed pictures in the corridor outside. And best of all, the bedding looks great.

Bestie and I settle in. We talk of the big earthquake this afternoon, of a friend who married into a palace, of shopping for handwoven textiles and cotton carpets, of Rajasthani food and what we planned to eat while in Jaiselmer…
And then we have dinner.
It’s been years since I’ve eaten a home-packed meal in a train. I feel ten again as we open the boxed food It’s still warm from the packing.
We’ve forgotten the paper plates, so we spread out an old newspaper.
The bestie has packed some yummy typicall train- fare for dinner. Paneer, sukhae aalu and parathas.
We’re sitting cross-legged with the dinner between us.

We eat and talk and laugh and eat and discuss spouses and kids and eat and laugh recounting incidents about how silly we were when we were younger.
We talk some more about how comfortable this bogey is.
I wonder why I haven’t been this comfortable in an AC 2 before. Bestie wonders right back.
We put away the bags and start settling in for the night.

And then the ticket collector comes in.
He looks at our tickets and nods his head in a way only Indians can.
Does it mean a good thing? Should we be worried?
And then he says: This is the 1st class coupe. You are booked in an AC 2. Bestie and I look at each other.
The cookie crumbles.
The penny jingles.
The opulence is explained.
We both giggle at how some things never change- we had stayed silly and we were okay.

She has a tennis elbow so I move the bags to the end of the corridor.
She wraps it up- We’d never book a coupe since it’s taking too many chances, but while this lasted, it was too good to be true.


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