The train from Delhi to Agra departs at around five in the morning. My friend Irfa and I woke Shailja’s sister up and bade farewell. Shailja was out till late last night and her sister said it was okay to not wake her up. We jumped into the taxi Shailja booked for us earlier.
Sleepy and slightly disoriented, I tried to keep my eyes peeled on the way to the train station. I was running through whatever I have read in guidebooks, forums, and blogs about the scams in train stations in my head. Intimidated? Hell yeah. It was dark, cold, quiet, and our first time in a train station…I couldn’t think of anything worse than that. Oh wait. I counted on a map…there were 19 platforms. Holy moley!
I have another tab opened right now to confirm the number of platforms; according to Wikipedia, there are 16. You might also be thrilled to know these: “New Delhi railway station is the third busiest and one of the largest in India. It handles over 300 trains and 500,000 passengers daily with 16 platforms. The New Delhi railway station holds the record for the largest route interlocking system in the world…” So it’s not 19, but 16 platforms is still a lot!
Our taxi stood out like a sore thumb. People were eyeing us from outside like they’re birds of prey. My eyes instantly lit up. Men were standing just outside our taxis, waiting for us to get out. Some looked like they were trying to open the door. The driver pulled over and said, “Four thousand rupees”.
“WHAT?! That’s like eighty freaking dollars!” I screamed.
“Really?” asked Irfa.
“Yes! Because one thousand rupees is twenty dollars!”
The crowd outside thickened. I got pretty irritated.
“That’s impossible! It couldn’t even be more than one thousand rupees!”
“It’s a two-way price ma’am.”
I decided to call Shailja. Yes, 5am in the morning. I passed the phone to the driver and I could hear Shailja screaming on the other line, “WHAT RUBBISH IS THIS?!”
After quite a long conversation, the driver returned my phone. I asked, “How much shall I pay him?”
“Two thousand rupees. And get out of that cab.”
Those men outside were waiting for us to get out. They were trying to earn a living by carrying our bags for us. Nope. Not a chance. I always carry my own bag. It helps that by nature, I am grouchy in the morning. You don’t want to piss me off.
Dressed to the nines, a man came up to us, “Foreigners? You must wait at the foreign counter which opens at 8am”.
I remember reading this bullshit. Rolled my eyes and turned to Irfa, “His scam is so yesterday”.
Ignoring the man, we walked towards the entrance. We didn’t know for sure, but the locals were heading toward a huge stairs. Two exhausted white guys were standing in the middle of the crowd. “Do you know if the platforms are in there?” He replied with a shrug while his friend left.
The conman was still hovering and talking (more like mumbling) to us. We almost got to the huge stairs when I felt his hand on my shoulder. He was trying to stop us from climbing the stairs. I turned and stared at him. I cant remember but if it’s not “HEY!” then I would have said “WHAT THE FUCK?!”
I was really intimidated by the number of platforms. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I remember the whole place looking like a prison, all metal and covered up. Monkey see, monkey do. We followed the stream of people. Thankfully, our platform was the first “exit”. We left that prison-looking passageway and saw our train. It was the right train, same number shown on our tickets. Phew.
The platform was pretty empty, while the train was packed with passengers. Holy cow. Most have boarded the train. We were standing a few cabins away from the head of the train, lost, disoriented, grouchy, nervous and panicking. We boarded the train and tried looking for our seats. We asked a passenger and he said we weren’t in the right cabin. We got off the cabin.
We saw a few men gathering outside of the train. We checked it out and realised it’s a namelist. Nope, our names were not there. We just got on board. Wrong cabin. Again. Time wasn’t on our side. We had no idea when the train is leaving but the empty platform suggested the time is near.
A man in uniform was standing with that same namelist. Even if he doesn’t look “official”, we would ask. There was no other way. He looked at our tickets, looked for our names and showed us the way. We heard the horns. Irfa and I looked at each other and we ran! We got on board. We found our seats, threw our 11kg backpacks on the overhead compartment, then settled nicely in our comfortable seats. Surrounding us were locals. We stood out like sore thumbs. As usual.
The train moved a few minutes after we have settled down. Breakfast was served! At 9am, we got biscuits ad tea.
So this was our first train experience in India, from Delhi to Agra! Watch the video!
At 9.40am, another meal was served. I was happy with the simple food – tasty, spicy, and warm. The potato fritters are really nice. My bread were mouldy though. I was hungry and couldn’t care less, I pinched the moulds out and ate them anyway (please don’t do that if you have weak stomach). My lassi was expired too, but nothing happened to me ;)
We also caught the sunrise from this trip! Read it here!