I hear India train travel can be luxurious. We never experienced that kind of travel. Luxury, to us, was the air conditioning units within the stuffy, submarine-like train cars that ferried us between New Delhi and Agra and later, between Agra and Khajuraho.

We rode both routes 3AC, meaning our doorless nooks within the cars contained three bunks facing three bunks perpendicular to two bunks running along the open passageway. When you have a choice, especially on an overnight trip, request the top bunk. You’re less likely to get jostled or pick-pocketed, and the position of your bed is not dependent on whether the other passengers want to sleep or commandeer your bunk as a communal bench.

Whereas booking travel from the New Delhi tourist office was a relative breeze, doing so from the Agra station was anything but. Instead of a tourist room, there’s a tourist window. Sometimes it’s manned. Most of the time it is not. When it is manned, the locals waiting in the other two, unmanned lines want to be in the tourist line, so they simply elbow the tourists out.

During our visit, a stampede ensued when both employees manning the locals’ lines decided to take smoke breaks simultaneously. By this time, after waiting in line for about a half hour, Him and I were positioned second in the foreigners’ line, just behind a pair of British university students on holiday. But once the dust cleared, we found ourselves by the door. The five or six local men now in front of us were simultaneously attempting to smash their paperwork at the attendant through a mouse-sized Plexiglas hole.

After spending a few months in Asia, we had come to realize just how uncommon lines are across the continent (with the exception of maybe Japan. Those Japanese peeps are so nice!). In India, lines have developed a near-mythical status – like unicorns and $1 a gallon gasoline in the U.S. The speed at which one is served in India is determined by just how badly one wants to be served i.e., the extent to which one pushes and elbows everyone who already waiting patiently in line.

And the reservation attendant honored this unspoken law of Indian society, lackadaisically accepting crumpled request forms from the most persistent, the most elbowing-esque brutes forming the mosh pit that once was our line.

“Do you not understand the concept of a line?!” I demanded of the brute now in front of me. He ignored me but furrowed his brow at Him as if to say, “Whoa, man. Rein in yo woman.”

So I wormed my way to the front in an attempt to appeal to the attendant. He ignored me too and proceeded to accept paperwork from everyone but the stunned foreigners.

This, fair reader, is where I lost it. In the field of basic common courtesy, few things bother me more than those who don’t understand or respect the concept of queuing. (Being coughed or sneezed on by a complete stranger is a close second – another Asia specialty). Crazy Bitch Her took over, and I lunged for the Plexiglas hole, plucking paperwork from the hands of all those who had raped the sanctity of our line. I tossed each sheet over my head, like parade confetti, so that the owner had to stop shoving and step away from the window to retrieve it.

I suddenly realized the stupidity of my rabid frenzy (surprisingly, this all took place before I was attacked) and fully expected someone to slap me, so I was genuinely surprised when the men seemed to acquiesce and allowed me to push the stunned British students back to the front. Him, only slightly recovered from watching his wife lose it, did his best to help me play bouncer by keeping his elbows extended and locked behind the Brits.
As we listened to the students’ conversation with the attendant, it became apparent that train tickets anywhere were scarce. Fearing we might have to repeat this experience, I began furiously filling out reservation request forms for every Northern India city I could think of. When it was our turn, we were ready.

“Jaipur?” Him asked, handing the attendant our Jaipur request form.

The attendant tapped a few keys on his keyboard. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack.







We had found our destination. Now we just had to figure out what, exactly, was in Khajuraho.


P.S. Read my blog on Agra because WP screwed up, and none of you subscribers received it (hence the “Test” email). Plus, it’s kinda long, and it took me awhile to write.