Indian Railway System…adventure/disaster?

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Just before midnight last night I jumped onto a moving train, luggage in hand, head-first into a crowd of armed Indian soldiers who had been oggling at me for the last hour and a half.

While I consider myself to be the kind of girl who can take a rough and tumble adventure, all I could think about as I hid under my sheets in my top bunk cot was “how can I make sure this never happens again?”

I can’t.

It’s just one of those unpredictable things.

We were an hour and a half early for a premium train we had purchased non-refundable tickets for a few days prior.  We could not have predicted that the train, which looked virtually empty online, would be a sitting duck for the massive crowd of military-men at Tundla train station who were hoping to turn the unsold seats into their free rides North.  And we could not have predicted that someone on the train would lock all of the doors to lower the competition of nabbing their free cot.  And we could not have predicted that only one door would finally manage to open..and with not more than a minute to spare before departure.  Or that we’d have to push through a crowd of men and muskets just to make it too late, and leap onto the train.

Most terrifying travel moment ever.


Fun facts about the Indian train system. (Just kidding…these facts aren’t fun…(just kidding, these facts aren’t “facts” but rather our best guesses at the chaos that is the Indian railway system.))

1.) There is a handy dandy website for the Indian Railway system that tells you all kinds of information about your train number, availability, price, distance, times, etc.  But…in order to book online it appears you need an account and in order to have an account it appears you need a local phone number.  This is the only thing we can figure out though the website never really defines the reason for denying our purchase attempts.  This seems the likeliest explanation we can come up with.

2.) Ok so we can’t book on the website we can at least use it to collect information about the train we want so that we can fill out our ticket request form at the train station and submit it to the appropriate agent.  Not sure which agent to submit your form to?  Just look for the “handicapped, elderly, and foreigners” line.

If you’re unsure about your train information, you’ll need to find an “inquiry line” first before visiting the other line.

Be ye forewarned though that the inquiry line can get a little un-line like.

3.) As far as I can tell, military members are allowed to hitch unsold seats on trains.  Not SO allowed that the train will unlock all its doors for them though….


Ok I’m writing a bit glibly but the thing I want to touch on most here is that travel is unpredictable even when you think you are accounting for its unpredictabilities.  You see, by the time we got to the train station the 30 minute rickshaw ride through chaotic traffic had already felt like a bit of an adventure, not to mention the attention we seemed to draw from the crowds at the train station as the only westerners.  And even before that, simply arranging our ticket had already felt like an adventure as they refused to book it at the train station since it was a “special” ticket for a “special train” that supposedly required more personal information.  It was such a “special” train that it never got posted to the display boards during our entire hour and a half wait.

It just came unannounced, locked.

Strangest thing.

Sometimes an adventurous day ends with an adventure.  Or a disaster.  Depending on how you look at it.

What do you think…is the travel wearing on me to make me shaken up by the events above?

Was that an adventure or a disaster in your opinion and what are your disastrous adventures or adventurous disasters?

9 Comments on “Indian Railway System…adventure/disaster?

  1. Wow, that does sound scary! I am happy it all worked out.
    I will seem like an adventure in a few days. My sister and I almost had to jump out of a moving taxi in Instanbul once. It took my nerves a few days to recover, but now it is one of my favorite travel stories

  2. I think you’re right; If it feels chaotic in the moment, it will probably make a great story later! 🙂 Already feeling a bit better about it (now that I’m hidden away in my hotel in the mountains.)

  3. Hmmm. Brave or just completely stupid/foolish/clueless? How many stories have we read about cute foreign women being gang raped in India recently, while their SO were killed or beaten savagely? Of course, they all thought they were safe – until they weren’t. But hey, it’s an adventure you can blog about and tell friends, so it’s all good, right?

    Face. Palm.

    • So what’s the solution?
      Avoid the train all-together on the off-chance that the more expensive premium train I’ve reserved tickets for will show up with all its doors locked again? Avoid India all-together?

      Avoid anywhere that dangerous things happen? At which point…i’d be staying in Amish Country Ohio where I grew up.

      • I wouldn’t mind Paul… His best stories are ones he reads on blogs and then tells others about while commenting that people like you are “soooo stupid”.

        As Al Pacino said in “Heat”… You could get killed walking your doggy.

        Oh Paul… Not everyone’s war stories end in High School. The world is a dangerous place… Every square mile of it. Get off your block and live a little.

        • lol!
          I like to believe that Paul has lots of secret adventures that are dangerous and thrilling. Like maybe he’s Banksy. Or maybe he’s a professional parcour artist.

          Either way, you’re right. The world is dangerous so in order to enjoy it, we have to inevitably do some dangerous things.
          Like walking your doggy. 🙂

    • Paul, Are you saying all Indians are rapist? How is that not racism? (albeit the media we consume is)

  4. Holy cow Carrie! I just read Drew’s post and I’m glad you guys are okay.
    I’m sure you already got plenty of “that’s stupid don’t do this again,” but life is too short. You can stay in Ohio and get hit by a truck. You guys just have to be street smart, take care of each other, and stay in shape (so you can run after trains or kick attackers in the nuts).

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