Loads of foreigners in the compartment and also noisy kids; one set spiritually inclined the other decibel-ly! With all this however the train is quite comfortable – AC chair car – with breakfast served. After a few minutes of departure a person comes and sits beside me on the vacant seat and gives me a big smile. In another few minutes we start conversing. I tell him about my limited ticket up to Meerut.
“So when did you buy the ticket, did someone tell you to buy it?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye. This man of a smallish build was well dressed and his black leather shoes were shining; he sat in style beside me.
“Yes, the person at the ticket counter where I was all night,” I replied back, to which he started nodding his head in a gesture of knowingness.
“Good,” he continued, “that was clever of you – unfortunately I came at the last moment and had to speak to the TC to enter without a ticket. So where are you from?”
“I am from Bangalore, I hope I can extend this ticket beyond Meerut; where are you headed to?,” I ask him.
Saharanpur or someplace he tells me and he is without a ticket; and I look more nervous than him – he is perfectly nonchalant; I then realize that many people could be doing this regularly.
The checker comes up and I mention to him if I can get my ticket extended till Haridwar.
“Speak to me in a while – I will let you know,” says he in a gentle voice; my ticket less co-passenger speaks to him in some sign language which I completely fail to fathom and then the TC vanishes! He never comes back.
Meerut arrives and we are told to vacate the seats by a mother-daughter duo perhaps, no - in all probability bengalis I figure. Me and my ticketless friend – apparently he is a manager with some Ayurvedic firm - move on, although I put up a brave face in front of the ladies; ultimately the ladies get the priority you see!
We move into the next compartment and find 2 seats vacant. I am sitting in between two people and they seem to be daily travelers. I feel extreme embarrassment in sitting between them like a ticketless traveler. They are calm and silent - going about their activities, reading the newspaper, having breakfast etc.
After a while another ticket checker arrives and I regain my composure then I go on to narrate the facts glibly – he says he would definitely look into it and vanishes – no other ticket checkers come after that and I give up on worrying. Ticketless has also vanished in the meanwhile, after a while.
I reach Haridwar at about noon while chatting for the last hour of the train travel with a serene and chatty but wise, old man with an ivory white, flowing beard; from Baroda. He is from a yoga ashram there and has extensive knowledge of Reiki and pranic – energy healing! I listen to him sceptically, some of his scientific explanations are quite plausible I must add though!
The Haridwar station is very small, I come out of the station premises and there are so many cycle rickshaws waiting in a queue along the road. The rickshaw wallah takes me to a pricey hotel first which I immediately come out of and then we settle for another one. On its board is written in Bengali script: হোটেল আরতি (Hotel Arati).