‘Bad planning, luck, and finances make for good travel’



By Ajachi Chakrabarti

Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri

AT THE stroke of noon, a Buddhist monk puked on me. He offered to wipe it off with his robes, but I told him not to worry; I’d do it myself. A kind auntie gave me a rag to wipe some of it off my jeans, but then saw that said jeans were filthier than the rag. Eventually, I would make it to Panjim and a freak rain shower would wash the rest of the vomit off.

The monk’s outpouring of wisdom and breakfast had been caused by vertigo, as the rickety NWKRTC bus struggled through the beautiful Western Ghats to get from Hubli to Panjim this side of the apocalypse. I was on the bus because I had realised early morning that the train I had sprinted across nine platforms to just catch at Bengaluru was not, in fact, going to Goa. I had chanced upon this crucial piece of information as the train drew into Hubli at 6 am, and had disembarked immediately. A scenic tour of the city and its two bus stands later, thanks to a swindling autorickshaw driver, I had finally found a bus that would get me home to Goa within what little cash I had left and before 5 pm, when I had to attend a quiz, which ended up being cancelled after the quizmaster’s wife went into labour. Fifteen minutes before the bus left, a deaf-mute passenger asked me to watch his luggage and promptly disappeared, leaving me with the ethical dilemma of whether to stand guard and miss the bus or to ditch him. Just before I gave in to the second impulse and made a run for it, he reappeared, placidly retying his lungi. I grabbed him and just about got the two of us on the bus, which had thankfully been delayed by the conductor trying to decipher what a dozen Buddhist monks wanted from him. Evidently, they wanted to know if the bus went to Goa.

The train journey had not been free of incident either. After sprinting from the bus stand to the railway station (I did more running on this trip than the rest of my life put together), I had managed to somehow reach the train, which, I would find out later, went to Goa only twice a week. The general compartment nearest to me had been reserved for carrying mail, and I had to run the entire length of the departing train to jump into the other one. As expected, every possible seat was taken, and I found a few square inches on the floor between the door and the lavatory to sit and sleep on. In one of the rare stretches of sleep I managed between having to open the door for passengers to get in and out at every station, I had felt a hand digging around in my pocket. I instinctively kicked out and opened my eyes, but the pickpocket ran and was out the other door before I had managed to get to my feet. Nothing was taken — if he had managed to prise out my wallet, he’d have found a grand total of 430 and some coins, all the money I had in the world. Later a kind uncle offered a few square inches on his berth. But sleep had been impossible.

Travel has always been an adventure for me; not because I do adventurous things, but because a combination of bad planning, bad finances and plain bad luck always conspire to make getting from Point A to B an impossible ordeal. My long-suffering mother says I should be the face of Murphy’s Law, but then again, with a face that only a mother can love, I haven’t been asked to be the face of anything by anyone else. Ever. I recently missed a flight because I hadn’t seen the departure time on the ticket (bad planning, or more accurately, idiocy), didn’t have enough money to pay for another ticket (bad finances) and the flight I eventually managed to get a ticket for was three hours late (bad luck). It’s maddeningly frustrating, but with the benefit of hindsight, I’d probably not have it any other way. After all, isn’t adventure the whole point of travelling?

Ajachi Chakrabarti is 22. He is a correspondent with TEHELKA


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