First Class!

We had a great deal of uncalled-for excitement at home on Tuesday evening. We were to meet a friend for dinner at 8.30. At 7.30, I took out the train tickets for our forthcoming Ranthambor trip, with the aim of sending the exact details to my esteemed parents, who are accompanying us on the trip. My heart almost stopped as I looked at those frail pieces of paper and desperately told myself that I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing.

Seasoned travelers that we are, we had got ourselves entangled in one of the most common travel mistakes of all times. You know the one I mean: For example, if you want to travel on Saturday night and you find a flight or train leaving at 12.30 a.m. (or 12.05 or whatever) you have to remember that 12.0anything is actually Sunday morning, not Saturday night, so you have to change the date when reserving your ticket. Well that’s what we had done, and that’s what we hadn’t done. So, we found ourselves booked on a train back from Ranthambor to Delhi one full day earlier than planned.

When you consider that this is a three-night trip that involves exactly one stationary night, you’ll realize just how precious that one night is. Or “would have been”, from the looks of it.

It was Tuesday and we were scheduled to travel out on Friday night. That gave us all of Wednesday and Thursday and a few desperate hours of Friday to sort out our return journey from Ranthambor. Of course, it doesn’t take quite that long to book a ticket on Indian Railways over the Net; but, the requisite tickets should be available, which is not usually the case five days before travel.

After I had convinced Amit that I was really seeing what I didn’t want to be seeing (which was not an easy task) we frenziedly attacked the Internet. Very few seats were available, scattered across different trains, leaving at various times between 9.45 p.m. and 6 a.m. By now we were hyperconscious of the date/time differences and consequently kept looking up the wrong dates and times and arguing ferociously about them.

Nor was our job made any easier by the Indian Railways website. IRCTC played her little games with us, sometimes responding immediately to a mouse click, sometimes taking agonizing minutes to refresh, and sometimes arrogantly or coquettishly turning her ugly back on us and timing out altogether, forcing us to log in and plead fervently with her all over again.

Meanwhile, we tried very hard and unsuccessfully not to imagine that the few scattered seats we had so far found available were being snapped up at some ticket counter somewhere in the country even as we waited impatiently in front of our computer screen.

At last, it was 8.00. This meant we would be late to meet our friend for dinner, but at least reservation counters across the country would be closed. Now our only competitors for the precious tickets would be battling with the caprices of IRCTC just like us.

We found two two-tier AC seats available on one train and hastily booked them for my parents. Now, at least their return was assured. As soon as this was done, we found a train that actually had SEVEN seats available. Plus, unlike most of the other trains which were faster, this one actually took over seven hours to do the distance, which meant that we could even get a full night’s sleep.

We immediately booked four berths, ignoring the fact that my parents’ tickets had just been booked. Having booked in a hurry, we would have to cancel those at leisure.

And you know the best part? The four berths we had booked were… AC First Class! Now this is an experience I have long heard about but never had the luck to meet face to face. An experience of fabled comfort, luxury and wealth. I can hardly wait.

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