Rajasthan Part 1
Delhi – the departure – December 31, 2016
This story started at night. And what a night it was. I was dead tiered. I had not slept for the past two days. But packing can sometimes be even more important than sleep. When you’re leaving on a solo trip, especially your first, a part of you wants to pack everything. Needles? Yes. A matchbox? Maybe. Guns? Please, yes. Undergarments? Sets of five? What for? One? No! Three. No, two. You can always buy if you need more. Or borrow if you meet some really generous people (borrowing has obvious cost advantage). If you’re not mindful, you can forget countless little things. Like the hand sanitizer I ultimately forgot. Oh! Or the paper soaps I forgot. Or the paper napkins I forgot! Or the emergency medicines I forgot. Or the tie-me-down-secure-metal chains I forgot. But I’m glad I could at least make it to the train on time.
I scribbled a quick inventory. Photography gear. Check. One sweatshirt. Check. Three tees. Check. Two trousers. Check…
Two alarms went off. On the hindsight I regretted timing them in such perfect harmony. What if I had chosen to be my usual self that morning and – and shut them off? Or snoozed for hours (Snoozing two phones is always so much fun! I make perfect calculations and make them go off together even when I’m partially asleep. That’s sheer genius. And how modest of me to have never mentioned such feats before)!
Once I woke up the reality hit me. And it hit hard.
I was scared.
Planning. Dreaming. Packing. Posting on Facebook- all this was cool. But was I leaving? Like… for real? I mean… this was beyond anything I had ever experienced before. Looking back, nothing could have ever prepared me for this. This trip – no mom making a fuss about tiny details, or dad to keep things in perspective, no sis to keep me thoroughly entertained or pissed off (always both), no friends to keep me company or even acquaintances to talk about the weather. Just me and a sea of possibilities. Well.…let’s rewind a little. Why did I choose to go alone anyway? Do I have no friends? Or a girlfriend? Or even a just-friends? At least someone who-might-be-kind-enough-to-accompany? Honestly, I do know a lot of people whom I’d have loved to go with. Who, I’m sure, most likely would have agreed to tag-along. But the idea of being in a new place, alone, not-knowing a soul and the idea of going somewhere with the sole purpose of travel was so overwhelming to me that it completely overshadowed every iota of fear, doubt or desire for company. I wanted to broaden the horizon of my existence, perhaps not by daring and valiant feats such as sailing alone across the pacific, but at least by nudging it further ever so slightly by acts of little courage such as visiting a neighboring state in the same country – unaccompanied and for the first time.
There were times I wished I had someone to talk to, times when I wished I just had someone by my side quite as the morning breeze – present – but not a stranger – just someone who knew me well and understood me and yet there were times when I was happier to be alone – to be at a place where I had never been – where I had managed to arrive, live and be living without a trace of who I was – who I had always been. I realized that there are times when we have to step-outside from a life we have been living – even if it is for a day or two, or a week – and see the whole of our existence. There are times when we need to give ourselves and life a chance – to break the ice, to know each other, fall in love – whatever. And so I left – without an idea of where it would lead. I did not hope for things to turn one way or the other – for when you do something for the very first time – you don’t know what to expect. But I took the leap of faith – like so many. And if there is just one thing that I had to tell you it would be – don’t hold yourself back. I did not. Nor should you or anyone else.
So I locked the door behind me. Said a silent prayer and hit the road. The road less travelled.
I had little idea where Delhi Sarai Rohilla was. That is the station where my train was supposed to be leaving from. I live at Laxmi nagar which lies on the blue line of the Delhi metro. I read that Delhi Sarai Rohilla can be reached from both Shashtri Nagar on the Red line and Karol Bagh on the Blue line. For me Karol Bagh was easier. I was to leave on the Porbandar Express at 8:20 hours I was pretty late, given that I reached Karol Bagh at 8:00 hours. I found an e-rickshaw and jumped in. It set me back by 50 rupees. I was excited – I was smiling – stifling giggles. Anticipation purring down my veins.
It took us fifteen minutes to reach the station. If you do the math – I still had some five minutes with me to pay this guy and to find the freaking train!
The station was quite small and for good. The train was there -as if waiting just for me. I quickly boarded – found my berth – number 45, coach number S7. Luckily no one was sitting near the window- I rushed to it – threw my rucksack up on the top berth and waited for that subtle jolt of a train that tells you – the journey of a lifetime has begun.
As the train left the station – I could hear my heartbeats. If anything – this was it. My moment. This was the picturesque beginning to my journey – a wintry morning, seated by the window – dew drops on the pane and the side grill…
My happiness was short-lived as the person who had been assigned the lower berth boarded at Gurgaon – he asked me to move aside so that he could sit by the window and watch movies. Hashtag – irony. My other co-passengers were nice people. There was this couple with a child who either slept or cried and did not concern me much except for the rare occasions on which we made eye contacts he acted as if I would gulp down his ration of milk. I really wish there were some hot chicks around, especially now that I was travelling alone, but there were none. And honestly, there never have been any. I don’t know how people always find love on trains. I guess that is just movies. Anyways, there were three other people who buried themselves in different pages from the same newspaper. Borrowing has obvious cost advantages – I told you. I have never been quite the conversationalist so I enjoyed the anonymity that they offered. I wrapped a shawl around myself and dived right into the copy of Rajasthan for the Indian traveler I had bought for the trip. The shawl was meant to tone it down a little – but I ended-up looking more out-of-place. Which twenty something does that? So I went through this book. It was there that I prepared a draft itinerary in my mind. I would definitely be heading-out for the best sunset in Jaipur that very evening.
Passengers in the next compartment – a group of about six – were blasting Matargashti on their bluetooth speakers. I could feel the new year spirit hang in the air. I wanted a similar new year eve for myself – minus the friends or the booze or sex possibly. Just-friends, you know. But I was expecting at least a little oomph for myself too. Like in those chick-flicks where your BFF wishes some romance unto you.
This was also one of the reasons I was leaving. And leaving big and alone. I was bored of watching TV with my parents every year. It had been the same for me – always. It was time it changed.
I would reach Jaipur around 13:30 hours and would have pretty much the half of the day to go around the city. Yay! I had pre-booked my hotel until January 02, 2016 which meant I would have another full-day to explore Jaipur. Then I could chose to leave or stay longer. However, contrary to what I had told my family, I was planning not to return until I had been to Udaipur, Jodhpur & Jaisalmer. The rest was still undecided. I closed the book and closed my eyes for some time.
When I opened my eyes the landscape had begun to change. The green of Delhi-outskirts & Haryana had started to give way to a new terrain. Mystical. Enchanting. Beckoning. I checked my phone. I had received welcome-to-Rajasthan messages from Vodafone. Jaipur wouldn’t be far.