MY BIG ‘TRANSPORTATION’ DAY STARTED YESTERDAY EVENING when I departed Dharamsala on a 5-hour bus ride to Pathankot. From here it is a 13-hour train journey to Bikaner in the deserts of Rajasthan.
Transportation in India is unexpected. I remember reading a front cover depicting how a Japanese metro train missed its usual platform by a mere few inches, sending the strict Japanese into havoc. Comparing it to the erratic schedules here in India is like comparing a pimple to cancer.
Buses, especially the local ones take more hours, giving you more riding time for free. The thing is, even on long-haul trips, stops are made at very random uninhabited roadsides just because there is someone waving for it. Wanting to please, the bus stops literally at the front the passengers’ houses, very individualized I would say.
My train was delayed for 2 hours, and with that more delays were expected due to the congested rail traffic. In one of the stops, I hopped off for some mineral water and biscuits (with the conductor’s permission and along with some other local passengers). I was choosing between peanut butter and cheese crackers when I looked back and saw my train starting to gain momentum. I paid without change and ran as fast as I could by only managed to jump onto a second class berth. There was no way of going through the trains so I had to wait with a car full of curious Indians, until the next stop where I finally found myself back in to my air-conditioned car.
Another thing is the that the train does not announce the destinations. Other than peeking out through the windows every once in a while to see the signboards, there is no other way of knowing when to get off. (One Indian friend told me to ask the conductor to wake me up at my stop, but this should be a personal favor).
India’s transportation is as confusing as its culture and people, but that is expected. With more than a billion people and a vast land area to cover, there should be improvements but its current status is commendable. As for the lesson learned, I would say, with transportation, always go with it, never against it.