The flight landed at the New Delhi airport at 1 AM and I had no further bookings - was still debating: Uttarakhand or Ladakh!
The outside of the Airport is not exactly warm nor exactly chilly, June has just arrived - I grab a Red Bull from a sleepy looking guy at one among the several food counters; ‘cause I know I have to sustain a long sleepless night. I browse on my new touch screen phone - the LG GT505 and make some inquiries about the multiple Delhi railway stations (everything in Delhi is in multiples). I start chatting to an auto rickshaw driver who compelling spins a yarn – but he’s a sweet middle-aged person – speaks with me for a while - tells me why I must go to the farther off railway station and checks and confirms over his mobile that I will get the Dehradun Shatabdi at around 7 AM. As I am speaking a red AC bus arrives, the conductor calling out – I confirm with the auto driver, apologize to him that I cannot take the auto and jump into the bus - the charges are one fifth that of the rick.
These AC buses ply back and forth from the airport to the bus stand/New Delhi railway station. I reach the railway station in 20 minutes. I start asking around for the railway station and meet two more men of roughly my age or slightly younger – they are coincidentally from Bangalore and are headed to Agra. The semi-dark lanes have a few shops open. A couple of men ask me if I would like to hire a taxi, I sit and chat for a while and then let them know I will head for the railway station.
Once I am in, I loiter around for a while, find the over bridge and at its other end reach the ticket counter which is outside the station. Near the counter I chat with the ticket brokers who are desperate to get some cash from me – am waiting for tickets for the Dehradun Shatabdi to Haridwar about which I had checked on the net earlier.
There is this broker with one hand missing, he is the most active of the lot and subtly conveys to me that without their help I will fail to get a ticket booked to my place of choice. Other brokers come and go – this man persists and smiles every often as I keep repeating I am not interested and he says: "Try kar leejiye".
Hundreds of people are sleeping in the open passenger entry area before the platforms. A scene you normally don’t see unless you go at that unearthly hour - twitching, tired bodies now resting. At around 3 AM I feel a bit drowsy, I go buy a magazine and some eatables to keep awake.
I hang on as they tell me that the ticket counter opens at 4 AM, and it does but the train’s details are not available until 5 AM. Filling up the form and after submitting it, the bespectacled person at the counter checks on his terminal and lets me know that only 2 seats are available and that too till Meerut – he advices I take the ticket, later I could speak to the ticket checker and adjust. I do as he suggests!
Then I wait for the train until 7 AM. I board the train not sure what I will do after Meerut… Meerut is 72 kilometers from Delhi and Haridwar another 140 plus kilometers.