Now, this is an LP trained and experience in operating a passenger train and he showed his class. Terrific acceleration and precise deceleration at every halt enroute and he was able to manage the Rewari – Delhi Sarai Rohilla almost 25 minutes faster than the morning saga where our express train was made into a passenger. The best I could compare it is with how an highway expert driver would suffer in city traffic. Our train to Jalandhar later in the night is supposed to leave from Old Delhi and we had a couple of hours to quickly pack our stuff and get to Old Delhi, where we would re-unite with our team leader. If I recollect correctly, it was Id that day and it had a surprise in store for us
My friends and self quickly freshened up, packed our bags, fueled up with a few roadside parathas, tea , french toasts and stuff and made our way to the station to take the next train to Old Delhi. Our tickets were not confirmed and read RAC 7,8 & 9 when checked last. Having followed the trend, we were sure of it getting confirmed and made a quick customary check to find our berth allocation. Much to our horror and surprise, confirmations decided to give us a pass and we had to be content with a final RAC allocation. Since our travel for the next night also rests in balance, we decided to book a last minute Tatkal reservation in any train for travel the next day. We were fortunate enough to get the final 4 Tatkal 3AC tickets on the Udhampur – Sarai Rohilla AC express, which is notorious for its 30 minutes before time arrival
The next Old Delhi bound passenger arrived with its customary 15 minute delay. Fifteen minutes later, we were offloading some of our luggage at the Old Delhi cloak room attended indifferently by a couple of inefficient attendants. After praying for the well being of the luggage, we regrouped quickly and met our organizer with his efficiently packed luggage and decided to quickly roam around the station to lift up our spirits. After spending close to an hour roaming the not so enjoyable streets and bylanes around the station, some passerby took pity on us and reminded us of Id and that the city was dry upto its bone. It took another 5-10 folks to convince the entire group and we took the long walk back to the station and settled for a simple tasteless station restaurant meals and kadak roadside tea. By now the rest of the gang arrived and after a bit of platform hunting for first time Old Delhi station users like me, we managed to find our platform and our train and quickly settled down to what is going to be a long and restless night. As the clock moved past 22:45, our Pushpak hauled express, chugged out on time with the TTE assuring us of a berth very soon
What happened next was an absolute mess or a well organized scam by our TTE. A large group of travellers started messing around completely with their berths between multiple coaches and the TTE was completely exhausted and confused by the time he could verify the occupancy off every single berth. After a long 2 hours, he gets back to us and requests one of us to move to a berth in another coach. Eagerly looking forward for a quiet night’s rest, I was quick to move in the direction indicated by the TTE with my luggage only to realize that the berth TTE had to offer us was already occupied by a legal passenger. This drama happened with another couple of such discoveries by the TTE with the same result. Subsequent offers by the TTE were politely turned down by us as we found staying the night up seemed to be a better proposition than trying to shift berths every ten minutes. Having said that we had 4 berths for 6 of us and decided to play musical berths for the night. Luckily for us an elderly couple who wanted to deboard around 5 AM in the morning were all set and ready by around 3 AM just in case they miss their destination and we were able to occupy their berths albeit for a short while. The only entertainment on such a stressful night was our own technically , but not in spirit elderly trip organizer asking the elderly lady (Well she must be around 50 I guess) , “Auntyji, are you getting down soon ?” and the subsequent responses. With the elderly couple de-boarding at Ludhiana, the entire gang was able to take a very short, but refreshing break to rejuvenate ourselves for an exciting day ahead
Reached Jalandhar cantonment around 6:15 in the morning. Just as were regrouping and deciding our next course of action, we felt some T-rex like vibrations of Jurassic park and high pitched screams from an unmistakably electric loco as the New Delhi bound Amritsar Shatabdi express decimated Jalandhar cantonment with pure aggression and demonstrating the doppler effect to perfection. The closed environment of the railway station made the experience very sinister to say the least. Hired a couple of autos and got ourselves dropped near Jalandhar City station and checked into a budget lodging for freshening up and getting ready for the visit. A few of us decided to visit the station to evaluate and gauge the distance and time it would take to reach the station from our lodging. Having gone all the way to the station, we decided to get the tickets for our train to Kapurthala RCF as well to avoid last minute panic. Quickly returned to our lodge, freshened up and with all documents ready, made our way to the station. Our local passenger is scheduled to leave for RCF at 9AM. Breakfast & tea was quickly followed by a spirited dash in search of our DEMU only to wait for the next 15 minutes for it to depart.
The DEMU motorman decided to make good of the delay and let the reins free of the DEMU which could have given a run for the money for even the Bhopal Shatabdi. After a nerve wrecking, bone rattling, mindless aggression off 30 minutes, we found ourselves right at the gate of RCF Kapurthala and what happened next took us completely by surprise