My company thinks I qualify for AC 2 tier, if I travel on work. So, when I was asked to travel to Hyderabad, I booked my ticket in the same class. Quite an experience.
Even before I proceed any further, let me tell you that I have never ever traveled higher than 2nd class (sleeper class, for the uninitiated) and have never ever been on a plane. The closest I have been to a plane was when I visited the prairies in the American Middle West. Aren`t they called ‘plains`?
I reached the station one hour in advance – a habit I have nurtured in years of 2nd class traveling. After all, in second class, reserving the ticket doesn`t entitle you a seat. You still have to land up early, strategically place your baggage under the seat and take a deep breath (to increase your width) and take a big portion of the berth for yourself.
Apparently, all this is not required in AC 2-tier. I was told the coach wouldn`t be named S-1, S-2, S-3 etc…but AS-1, AS-2, and AS-3. I asked the porter: “Why are they named AS-1 blah blah?
He was quick to respond. Maybe somebody else like me had asked him before. He said: “That`s because the tickets for this class are “Always Sold” and it is difficult to book in this class.”
When I tried to enter the coach, the coach assistant shouted at me: “Why do you want to enter now? Want to commit suicide?”
“Sorry. I didn`t know this was the coach ear-marked for derailment,” I said as I got down and walked towards the assistant.
“No stupid. You have come an hour earlier. We will switch on the AC only half an hour before the train is scheduled.”
“Can`t I at least leave my luggage inside and come back?”
“If you want to look like a grilled chicken, go ahead.” He seemed confident and that`s one reason why I decided to sit on the stone bench.
I didn`t want to look like a grilled chicken in Hyderabad. That too dressed!
Once the train began the AC coach started getting colder and colder. A few hours into the journey and my fellow colleagues who had earlier complained of high temperature had started wrapping themselves in the curtains. Apparently, the bed-sheets and blankets supplied weren`t enough.
The assistant did no good by announcing that the knob to bring down the temperature had broken.
With no solution in sight, the passengers were asked to pair up to ensure warmth. I walked up near a pretty girl and stood there waiting for the TTE (Traveling Ticket Examiner) to pair me up with her. Unfortunately, just when the TTE arrived…an old man pushed the girl behind and stood next to me.
The old man and I spent the night huddled, on the same berth.
When I got down at the station the old man asked: “Are you new to the city? I can put you up in a nice place. Let me know.”
Wonder if there is a paucity of handsome males in Hyderabad….for they started chasing me the moment I landed.