Juanito’s Travels 50-Yr-Backpacker – 1995 New Delhi to Jaipur, India on a train to meet Steve, or whatever his name was, the Aussie guy, Pt20

Map in hand, I headed to New Delhi railway station. I had plenty of time, the train didn’t even leave for another 2 1/2 hours or something, I felt super organised.

From the map it looked like I probably;y just needed to walk a kilometre or two, so after getting there I thought I’d just be able to relax and have some more dhal, and perhaps a mango lassi and another chai, perhaps my fourth or fifth for the day, as I waited.

I couldn’t quite figure out the direction of the map so I asked a gentleman with another fine moustache for some help.

“Excuse me sir, I was wondering if you may help me find the railway station.”

He stopped and asked, “Indeed, where are you going to?”

“Jaipur” I said. “According to the map the station should be around here somewhere”.

“Jaipur? I travelled there many times. This is not the station you want, the train leaves from a station across town.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Totally certain. I travelled to Jaipur by train many years. Every month I would go there, the train departs from old Delhi station. It is across town.”

“Oh! How long does it take to get there?”

“Maybe 40 or 50 minutes. When does your train leave?”

“In around 2 hours, so I better get over there.”

“That should be fine.”

“Thank you”, I said.

“You’re welcome, enjoy your time in Jaipur, the pink city, it is very beautiful”.

He waved me down an auto rickshaw (the smoky ones with kerosene or petrol power) and explained to the driver where I was going, after some negotiation he agreed on a price for me and I thanked him again and headed off.

Oh well, I thought, I’d still have enough time for a dhal and chapatis when I got to the station and checked my bags in and in about an hour I had arrived. I wandered casually onto the station and looked around for my train, clutching my train ticket for the travel agent at the fancy hotel. There were not too many English speakers around but after 10-15 minutes of searching I found a train conductor who spoke English and showed him my ticket.

The train conductor looked at my ticket and looked at me, and rocked his head from side to side in the familiar Indian way and said, “This train is not for foreigners, you need to go to New Delhi station. This is old Delhi station. Why did you come here?”

My face went pale, I replied “I was walking to New Delhi station and I asked someone for directions and he said he always took the rain from this station, not the one I was walking to.”

As usual a couple of interested crowd members gathered around to watch the confused foreigner who had gotten lost. It was like watching reality TV I guess. The train conductor shook his head and clicked his tongue and said, “this train is just an Indian train. The train taking tourists leaves from New Delhi station. What time is your train”.

I told him that it was now about 1 hour away.

“Hurry!” he declared, “if you go now you might make it!”. A rickshaw driver was somehow privy to this conversation and motioned me to jump on his rickshaw. I stood by it for a few seconds and haggled over the price to the station. You didn’t want to sit down until you’d negotiated a price, otherwise you may end up paying anything. The negotiations were rather rushed, the rickshaw driver was getting almost as nervous as I that I would miss the train. He agreed on a price and I dived on and he tore through the streets at record speed.

The rickshaw driver could have easily been a stunt driver for a James Bond film, he weaved around cows, people, narrowly missed trucks and did everything short of using wooden planks to jump over the crowd. He was an absolute legend. I just sat back waiting for us to hit something, my life was in the hands of Ganesh, any other god who’d wager for it. I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch – I haven’t mentioned that before so I may not have had a Mickey Mouse watch with me, but I did own one at some stage and I did need a way of telling time before having an iPhone so it’s quite possible I did have Mickey on my wrist.

The train was due to depart in about 20 minutes. I had no idea of whether we were getting closer but I feel like we didn’t stop for anything.

“You’re doing really well!” I yelled over the noise of the engine. I wasn’t sure we’d make it in time, but ten minutes later we were there. As we approached I carefully counted out the amount of rupees we’d agreed upon and then added about a dollar’s worth more. He deserved whatever little extra I could give.

I jumped off the rickshaw as it slowed, handed him the cash, he went to give me some change, and I was like keep the change please, and I put my palms together in reverence at his super-human rickshaw driving abilities. I ran into the station, frantically asking whoever I could get the attention of for the directions to the platform I ran along, and several train conductors stood together around a clipboard. They saw me coming and motioned for me to come towards them. I ran over to them, panting.

As I approached the man in charge of the clipboard yelled to me, “Mr Royston”. Royston was my middle name so I knew it must be me. “Yes!” I yelled back as I got nearer.

“Hurry”, the train is about to depart.

“Sorry, I’m so late, I was told to go to old Delhi station. So I had to rush back here.”

“What sort of person would tell you to go to old Delhi?”

I reached the train conductors and handed the man with the clipboard the ticket, he looked at it and then said, “this is your carriage, hurry!” he shook his head “why would someone tell you to go to old Delhi, that is a local train, not the tourist train”, he was in disbelief as to how someone could have done such a thing. I could see it was a genuine mistake, but now I never trust directions. Google maps is the only one you can rely on, the rest is mere suggestions.

I jumped on the train, a few moments later it was pulling out of the station. I looked out of the window at the train conductors, there seems a sense of pride on their faces that they’d got the tourist on board. Nowadays I’d put a clapping emoji on a picture of them and post their picture on instagram, back then I just slumped in my seat and let the adrenaline subside as I watched them disappear as the train pulled away from the station.


I had a sleeper carriage, first class A/C – it was still only $5 or $6 and had saved me another night’s accommodation. It was around a 7-8 journey, so I’d get some rest, before arriving early in the morning. I was sharing the berth, if that’s what you call them, or was it just a carriage, with two other men.

We got to talking a bit. One of the guys was a British Indian businessman on a trip over and the other a local businessman who didn’t speak any English. So the British guy translated for us. I don’t remember much of what we chatted about, perhaps where we were from, what we do. I remember the British guy saying the other businessman was very surprised when he told him that they had to clean their own houses in Britain. “What, no servants?” the guy had said, and we laughed a bit before I said I better get some sleep.

A few hours later we pulled into a station. I was still a bit peckish and asked whether there was a chance of getting something to eat. Of course there were people selling wares on the platform and I think I managed to get something to eat, and also a chai in a clay cup. The train stopped for a few minutes, enough time to drink the chai. I asked the British guy what I should do with the empty clay cup and he said, “just throw it onto the platform, they will collect them and make more” and chuckled a little. He was a jolly man.

So I wound back my arm like I used to when playing baseball at high school and pitched the clay cup onto the platform, narrowly missing the head of the conductor and others around before smashing into small bits on the platform.

“Sorry!” I yelled. The British man chuckled again. “You don’t know your own strength”, he gently lobbed his empty cup onto the platform.

There was the usual array of kids, families, women with children, dogs, cows and the like around. A man watched as his young daughter peed on the tracks away a bit. The air was still very warm, almost without a hint of chill. I went back and rested some more.