On our arrival at Nagpur airport, we took a cab to the staion for our train to Bhopal. Trains have been running late due to fog, our MP NGO partners had informed us. And so they would be taking a bus instead.
We had more than an hour to spare before the train arrived. I looked up the reservation charts to find I was still WL1 which in effect meant, I had to no ticket and no right to board the train. My boss however had a confirmed berth. And she said we'd share. Half a berth is better than no berth for an overnight journey. Yes. Only we were travelling by 3rd A/C and my boss had a confirmed upper birth. That close to the ceiling and both of us sharing? We'll ask some one on a lower berth to change places, she said.
The train arrived only an hour and half late. I boarded the train on a general ticket. Our coupe was all men and one mother with an infant. We asked if one good soul would change place with us. No one refused outright. Its just that they didnot look at us or reply distinctly. Mumbled and looked away. The TT said I could pay the difference and share the upper berth but he couldnt give me another berth simply because there was not a single empty one on the entire train. Ogotta, upper berth.
I stood around glaring at everyone, gnashing my teeth while my super efficient, super energetic boss swung into action. She went up first and spread the beddings. Next she asked me to hand her the laptop, LCD, our biggish handbags, assorted shawls and sweaters etc and as I watched astonished, she made space and sort of curved into a comma and asked to climb up. Which I did. The alternative was to stand in the dark coach for 8 hours.
We were just striking enormously acrobatic poses on the narrow berth one feet from the ceiling when the chappie on the lower berth (the other LB was occupied by the mother and baby) got up and said, "Aap kaisey aisey jayenge?" At this the others too stirred. "Aap please niche aa jaiye aur main UB le loonga".
The others arose and helped us bring down all our stuff one by one. Their collective guilt now had a reprieve thanks to this guy. We repeated the entire process on the LB and it did take us some amount of arranging and re-arranging before we could settle down and eventually fall asleep.
We reached Bhopal relatively refreshed thanks to the chap and I know I should have been more grateful. He was fast asleep as we left and I hadn't thanked him when I had a chance to. Instead I had said, "if only you had the bright idea of changing places 15 minutes earlier"...