This post is Part 2 of 3 on my solo travel experience in Madhya Pradesh...and continues from here
The other friend
There’s someone else who deserves a mention in this Orccha story
Rewinding back to the previous morning when I got off at Jhansi station to get to Ganj/Friends of Orchha, I had intended on taking local transport. I'd already asked Asha for information for the same and I decided to stick to that part of the plan in spite of the train delay
|In preparation to alight the train at Jhansi railway station|
No sooner did I step out of the station, I had an autorickshaw driver approach and offer to drop me. When I mentioned I was looking for a ‘shared auto’ to the Jhansi ST bus stand, he didn’t seem to react except ask me where I would be going from there. When I mentioned Orchha, he offered to drop me there directly. I reconsidered – and as there didn’t seem to be too many passengers I wasn’t too sure how long a wait I’d have to endure until the ‘shared auto’ would then take off. I’d also have to repeat the exercise at the ST stand. And so I relented.
|Passing by Orchha railway station en route to Ganj from Jhansi|
The driver turned out to a chatty chap sharing little nuggets of wisdom from pointing out to the market place to sighing over the unemployment status in Jhansi to offering to show me around Jhansi the next day before I'd take my next train to Khajuraho.
|Catching tidbits of information |
Before I knew it, I was dropped right outside my homestay host’s doorstep. Friends of Orchha are rather well known even in Jhansi which is about 15 – 18 kilometers away from the station. At this point we exchanged mobile phone numbers.
|Yummilicious food at the Friends of Orchha homestay, Ganj|
|The view from Chaturbhuj Temple, Orccha|
|The view from Chaturbhuj Temple, Orccha|
Twist in the plot
Later that evening I realised that there would be a change in plan. I'd have to prepone my departure from Orchha, Instead of leaving at noon for Khajuraho I would now have to leave early morning. I’d learnt that my train had acquired a recent reputation of reaching Khajuraho only after midnight instead of its expected time of arrival at 7 PM.
So much for having spent all those hours over the past couple of weeks planning my itinerary to Madhya Pradesh to book the train tickets. I had to think through a way out of this; which quite frankly at that point seemed to defeat the entire purpose of knocking off travel logistics much in advance.
But that’s the beauty about travelling. Nothing’s permanent.
You only think you have it all planned and figured out.
|Homestay at dusk|
|Orchha at dusk|
The options before me however were a passenger train (without a reserved seat) that I’d have to hop on to early next morning or a bus around noon.
I was only beginning to acclimatize myself to my new environs as a solo female traveller. I could sense my apprehensions crawl back in. I eventually took the call that the train it would be. I was assured that this one ran well on time and would get me into Khajuraho by early evening.
So this change meant that I had to call my new friend - the autorickshaw driver and update him too as it meant that he wouldn’t be dropping me. Alternative arrangements were already made.
So imagine my surprise when after having woken up rather early and wolfed down a quick breakfast to ensure I’d make in time to the station, I received a call from a somewhat familiar number en route to Orchha railway station.
It was my auto driver friend!
He was calling to let me know that this train I was scheduled to take was delayed as well and that I needn’t head out to the station in a rush!
Seriously? Who does that anymore?
I was (still am) truly amazed at that gesture of his.
To what did he owe it to me anyway?
May be I’ve gotten used to the transactional nature of relationships in the city!
It’s another thing that I was already at the station – I got an early drop – when he’d called. Suddenly I found myself beginning to relax a little bit more. Experiencing the warmth of my homestay hosts was one thing; an autorickshaw driver reaching out to you simply because… was well, something else.
P.S.: New friend aka Haseeb Bhai's contact number is at the end of this post
If we’re all late then no one’s late #IndianRailLogic
And then there I was sharp at 7 AM waiting for my train only to figure out after repeated enquiries with the railway station authorities that it had been delayed. Erm, that even the auto driver had been able to tell me. But by how lonf the train had been delayed seemed to be anybody's guess! My repeated enquiries didnt seem to go down too well with the railway staff!
I spent the next three and a half hours waiting at the railway station – a modest one with barely any facility, including a waiting room; part of it was still being constructed (or may be being repaired). With of course a book to keep me company; all the while aware of being rather noticeable as a solo female traveller to the fellow passengers (mostly locals) around me.
So much for the assurance that this train ran on time!
|Orchha Railway station sometime past dawn. No train in sight|
When at last the train did come I learnt something new – it was a link passenger train. More than first half of it was an express train headed to Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. The remainder half were the passenger train coaches that were ‘linked’ to it and would continue to until a junction where the two would go then their own independent ways.
The bottomline: I therefore had to ensure I got into the right coach (lest I wanted to wind up in Allahadbad instead of Khajuraho)
As I jumped in I was hoping to be surrounded by some female company. So I was mighty relieved when only a couple of seats from the door I found a few of them.
However this, unlike the homestay in Orchha the previous day, wasn’t a place I felt ready just yet to wear my solo female travel badge on my sleeve. So in conversations with fellow travellers I disguised myself as a student!
For anyone who needs a pickup from Jhansi station to Orchha, Haseeb Bhai can be reached at 09616857200
Who's gratitude is it anyway? Read the next post