Boarding A Train – An Adventure !

Boarding a train in 1960s and 70s was not less than an adventure.

There was no reservation system. Seating was on first come, first serve basis like it was in aircrafts until two decades ago.

Boarding a train in peak season had to be well planned, particularly if you were travelling in a group. The entire group, young and old, would put all their experience and thinking caps on. There’d be discussions, debates, extrapolations to finally arrive at a location on the platform where the probability of getting comfortable seats was higher.

Those who were not so smart, the elderly, ladies and children were given charge of the baggage. The plan was to peep through the windows on the train’s arrival and at a lightning speed place a baggage or a handkerchief at an empty spot, vacated by the passenger getting down at that station. Next, you’d crawl inside through the window and occupy whatever seat was available. In case the window seat is not vacant, request the window passenger to place some belonging of yours on the closest vacant seat.

Once inside the compartment, while some members got busy conquering more seats, others would get the baggage in.  The boss-like ladies and the elderly members of the group were given first preference to sit.  Ah, what an exercise!  One could see the triumph on their faces!

During absolute top peak season, one was considered lucky if he found a place to sit in front of the washrooms the entire night of travel.  One would put his head on whatever support available; it could be his own knees, a suitcase placed in front, or the neighbour’s shoulders.

If not crowded, you could spread your legs on the bench and sleep.  On the upper side in the compartment, there were racks to hold luggage. Those who were more courageous would dump the baggage and sleep on the racks.

There could be a one-by-two system too. On the racks, either you sleep by turn or two people could sleep together with heads in opposite directions!

With all the art and technique you possess, sometimes you still wouldn’t find a seat. Then, it’s time to use your diplomacy!  Depends how good you are!  Do it in three stages.  First, through the window or door, somehow manage to enter inside the compartment and get a place to stand.  Next, pass on a nice smile to the person already sitting followed by some friendly talk.  Finally, encroach by requesting him to give away a part of his seat.  Mission successful! People would be generous probably because that was the way he got his seat at the earlier station!

Author: Badri Baldawa

Editor: Meeta Kabra

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About badri

As I approached 68 (2013), my son, Anand insisted that I had proven enough in my 45-year long career and it was time I took life a little easier; enjoy traveling (that I love) and social life. Yet, I somehow wanted to contribute positively and was exploring my options. My son-in-law, Navin suggested that I should write and share my experiences, “being a self-made man, you should tell the next generation how you overcame various obstacles to reach this position, in both, business and social circles.” He pointed out that while I was sharing my experiences with family and friends, as they approached me, a blog had the potential to take your voice to many, many more. He also insisted that I start mentoring youngsters who were new in their businesses. I was convinced. I offered my services pro bono, as part of a Guidance Program. Also, I started writing on this blog, bringing out figments from my memory as experiences that might be of value to the readers here. My daughter Meeta is sweet enough to spare her time to edit what I write. As a youngster, I thought one meal a day, one set of school uniform a year, a public place to study, lack of finance and basic shelter would keep me from achieving my dreams. To compensate, I started giving 110% of what was normally expected. Yes, 110% even in bad deeds! This worked. The very limitations started inspiring me in different phases of my life – meritorious results in studies; strength to shoulder family responsibilities; satisfied employers; establishing a successful business of my own; and in my adventure trips and other travel plans. Having done what I wanted to, I agreed it was time for me to expose myself! I felt, through this blog, I could and should share my expereinces. Hopefully, readers would find some bits useful and if not, they’d enjoy reading. Look forward to interact with you. Happy Reading, Badri Baldawa

6 thoughts on “Boarding A Train – An Adventure !

  1. Everyday experience of exploring Western, Central and Harbor routes of Mumbai…
    Specially those embarrassing moments when those fish selling ladies and sabji wali aunties, occupy the area near the door when you have to get off the train..!!

  2. hi nice to read as always and i think u must had the same feeling when we travelled together for kumbh mela with the crowd at allahabad stn and the train we took, i shared the 1/2 seat on our way !!!

  3. While reading I went in flashback as I have my own sweet and bitter experiences of journey by train…

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