The Secunderabad railway station is a very clean station. Very ordered and quite well maintained. And locating the train I was to be on to Bhubaneshwar was relatively easy. Of course, it also helped that the platform on which the train was standing happened to be next to the entrance. But the place where the reservation charts were put up though was crowded. Getting a peek at the charts proved difficult. It was not an issue. All I had to do was check my ticket status on my phone by going to the Indian Railways website to see which berth I had been given. And that was exactly what I did.
It was "WaitList 8" when I had booked the ticket the previous day. And when I checked 15 minutes before the departure of the train, it was "WaitList 1". There was no berth waiting for me. Very well. I was not to be thwarted. I headed straight to the ticket counter and bought an unreserved ticket to Bhubaneshwar, and jumped into the general compartment. Which was unusually crowded for a starting station. As my luck would have it, this was a special train which had started all the way from Tirupathi. And all I could manage was to find a little place to stand and some space under the seats to dump my bag before the train started. But, it wasn't really that bad. Not as crowded as some general compartments can get. I decided to remain there till some seat emptied in one of the coming stations and I could find a place to sit.
The train, after an uneventful six hours, arrived at Vijayawada at ten in the night. And the people poured in. They poured in through the door which was next to the platform. Through the door on the other side, which could only be accessed by crossing the tracks. And also through the emergency exits. And the emergency windows that were closed were forced open and people poured in through that. Head first. Men and women crawled in. Luggage, quite sizeable ones, and children were passed trough. In the melee, it was hard to tell which was which. And when the train finally managed to leave Vijayawada, the compartment was atleast thrice as full as when it came in. There I was, stuck in the middle, standing on one leg, the other stuck between two heavy bags in an odd position and not one hand hold in reach. And I would see, in the next twelve hours, ten fights breakout in the neighbourhood, eight of them caused by a drunken buffoon just for kicks.
There I stood for the next five hours. I had been standing now for the past ten hours and my feet were getting numb. And my hands were sprained from holding on to imaginative hand holds. I pleaded with one fellow sitting close by whether I could sit in his place for 10 minutes. He very kindly agreed and I had one square foot space to rest and take the strain off my feet. And I passed out. I had never known sleep to take over like that. And the next instant, I suddenly jerked awake. It turned out that I had been asleep for half an hour. When I was about to get up to return the seat, the fellow bade me to sit down. He was to get off at the next station which was not 10 minutes away. Grateful, I went back into a deep sleep.
I was rudely woken up at five in the morning. By a kid not more than 16. And he was demanding my seat. Well, according to him, he was claiming his seat back. I asked him how was this ever his seat. And his explanation to this just drove my sleep away. According to him, this grandmother's sister-in-law was sitting in that place, from where she got up last night to sleep on the floor and which was consequently taken by the fellow who offered me that seat as he was about to leave the train. I refused. At which point, an elderly person who appeared to be his grandfather started shouting at me. I was too sleep deprived to be intimidated. I replied that if he wanted the luxury of a guaranteed seat, he should have taken a reservation. The kid was then instructed to sit next to me and attempt to push me out as I was sitting on the edge. I wouldn't budge. Eventually they gave up and on the last station in Andra Pradesh, they along with the crowd just left. The train was comfortable atlast.
The next 5 hours on the train were shockingly comfortable. And as we travelled though the green Orissa countryside, the early morning sun made the outside view magical. But, I was too sleepy to enjoy that. The train would be arriving in Bhubaneshwar at eleven in the morning and I had a precious three hours left to catch up on some long needed sleep. I drifted off dreaming of the places I wanted to visit and the sites I wanted to see and the food I wanted to taste. I woke up just in time to see the train pull into the railway station at Bhubaneshwar. I disembarked, had cup of tea and headed out. And as I left the station, I noticed a spring in my steps.