Everyday experiences – 1: Solo travel in an Indian train

I was travelling to Bangalore in the Tippu Express Train from Mysore. I had my ticket and my heavy luggage. My brother helped me get into the train and kept my biggest bag on the rack. I kept my little backpack and carton with me. I had my window seat and everything was good. My brother left, I comfortably sat in my window seat number 45 in coach C1. I was content with how smoothly everything went. 🙂 🙂 🙂

I had spoken too soon. -_-

After my brother left and I informed my parents that I’m inside the train, a lady with her granddaughter came in. She gave me her ticket and asked me to check if she’s in the right coach.

I thought, okay that’s cool. I’ll read what it says and then she’ll go away.

But no.

I tell her that her seat numbers are 46 and 47 in C1 coach. One aisle-seat near me and one aisle-seat in the other row. Then it came. Every solo-traveller’s dread.

Being asked to change seats for somebody else’s convenience.

“Hmm… and what about you?” She asked. And I knew.

I’m losing this seat.

A middle-aged shrewd grandmother and her 5 year old granddaughter. There was no way I could win this.

I still tried…

..and failed.

“Aunty, I want the window seat,” I said. The mean lady haughtily said, “Mine’s window too. Can you swap seats so that I can sit next to my granddaughter?”


“Aunty I feel sick while travelling, I feel the need to puke. When I look out the window, that feeling goes away,” I half lied. The former statement is true though.

“This is AC. You can’t puke anyway,” she said very smugly, as if imparting invaluable knowledge.

What a bi-yotch, I thought.

She showed me her printout of the ticket and said her seat also says window.

Which it did, much to my annoyance. Now I had to explain to lady, who isn’t even ready to listen, that her seat is an aisle seat and what is printed in her ticket is wrong.

I pointed to the side of the train near the window where the numbers are printed along with a “W” for window or “A” for Aisle. I pointed to the number 45 which had a clear “W” near it and showed my ticket.

“Aunty, this is my seat. It has a W near it because it’s a window seat. Yours is number 46 which has an A near it because it’s the aisle seat,”

“It’s clearly written window in my printout. We sat near the windows even in the other train,” she said adamantly.

What am I supposed to do if she sat near a window in the other train?

Honestly, if she had asked nicely, I wouldn’t have minded much to swap seats. It’s the fact that she was mean about it that put me off. She acted like she owned the train and even ordered at some point in the argument that I get up from the seat that I specifically booked for and she wasn’t even right in her argument!

When I showed proof, she said, “The numbers printed on the train are wrong”

So basically, she can never be the one who’s wrong. It’s not her print out that’s wrong, it’s the numbers printed permanently on the train.

The heck was I supposed to say to this incorrigible, rude lady?

Fed up, I got up and went to the other seat. Seat number 47,aisle. An elite, elegant bystander, aisle seat number 50, looked at me sympathetically and said, “That was nice of you to do that” her accent was pretty thick, a mix of British and American, I think.

I gave her a half-hearted smile. She adjusted her Harry Potter glasses and cleared the creases in her yellow dress. She commiserated me, “I know, it’s frustrating”

I sat down and decided I’m not going to budge from my seat anymore. I can be disturbed once, but not twice. I tried to make myself comfortable in the stupid aisle seat. I kept my carton under my seat, kept my backpack on my lap, removed my phone, called my parents to inform (vent) about the unpleasant encounter with the mean lady. After I cut the call, I put my earphones on and listened to music.

No more disturbance.

No more disturbance.

No mor- I was interrupted by the huge noise. I looked right to see a girl. She looked older than me. She told me she had to go in. So I stood up, with my carton and backpack, for her to go in.

I always thought that I carried a lot of luggage, then I saw this girl.

Long, straight haired, tall, fair, make-up and bindi clad girl wearing white striped palazzos and a red top, carrying one huge bag (that you usually get in textile stores), a small black Prada cross-body bag, a medium sized stuffed bright mithai-pink duffel bag and huge airport-sized pink, a softer tone than the duffel, bag and a white plastic cover. She even had a grumpy butler bring it all in.

So once she (finally) settled in, I moved my carton and backpack back in place and sat down. I decided I wasn’t going to budge anymore. No more. I’m going to sit, listen to music, read my book and not look to my right where that mean lady is sitting.

The train started and I was happy that the third person in my row isn’t coming.

Now I can relax…

…or so I thought.

Right when I started reading my book, the mean lady’s hyper granddaughter decided it was time to start singing rhymes loud enough to be heard in the other coach.

This lady encouraged it and they kept singing rhymes. Now if the whole seat swapping drama hadn’t taken place, maybe, just maybe I’d find it amusing. But after this whole fiasco, there was no amusement. Only pure annoyance.

I couldn’t listen to my music (because the kid was really loud and I hated her grandma’s voice) or read or look out the window because I didn’t have one anymore.

Half an hour had passed, but it felt like a lifetime. Was this girl ever going to get tired?

At least I don’t have to move, I tried comforting myself. But then realized it was equally a bane as it was a boon. Right then, an old man came, waiting for me to get up.

I got up as did the lot-of-luggage-I-need-a-butler girl. He went in and sat down. He, on the contrary had only one medium sized bag.

At least the people sitting next to me are decent, I thought.

After an hour and half of journey, the mean lady’s and her granddaughter’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa session came to an end.

By then the girl next to me and the old man became friends and I learnt that she was in fact two years younger than me. These days one can never for sure tell people’s age by just looking at them.

He offered to even get her a seat in some college. They exchanged numbers and discussed education, while I put my earphones on and eavesdropped.

The journey finally came to an end and our train reached Bangalore Central. By that time, I knew:

  1. Lot-of-luggage-I-need-a-butler girl’s whole biodata
  2. All the contacts that the grandpa sitting next to her had
  3. That British-American accent NRI aunty knew Kannada fluently
  4. That I’m getting off the train before the mean lady no matter what happens.

– The first writer at Aninspired

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