I’m writing this note while breastfeeding my 1-year old son, reminiscing of what have been happening since the day I found out that I was pregnant. Many things have changed. One thing remains: my passion for traveling.
This story goes back around 16 months ago. Some friends told to my face how crazy it was to travel to India while I was expecting. Yes, my husband and I understood that India is not famous for its hygiene nor its orderly. Yet, we decided to go. To be fair, I might have one of the easiest pregnancies women ever experienced. I had no morning sickness, no nausea, no vomiting, no craving. I was healthy as an athlete, I walked faster than most of the people.
Skipping the not-very-relevant parts, let’s jump to the day we departed from New Delhi to Agra. The day started nicely, our Shatabdi Express departed on time. Nightmare began on the train, when it arrived in Agra late — extremely late.
We took an autorickshaw to the Taj Mahal, bought tickets, and joined the queuing lines. Men and women were separated. While my husband had no difficulty to enter the complex, I faced a stonewall. After queuing for an hour I was denied in the entrance because I brought a bag that considered too big and a travel book is not allowed inside the Taj. I had to walked to the deposit counter a few hundred meters away. Luckily ( a Javanese is so talented in finding a tiny fracture of luck in the middle of a catastrophy) before separating, my husband gave me a few rupees. With those I paid for depositing the bag. I had to queue for the back again. Another one hour in line. I realized a potential problem when I saw that the guard had torn my ticket before the female guard disallowed me to enter. I held the ticket cautiously so that the guard wouldn’t see the tearing. I was finally in. Never that I see my husband so worried.
The day in Taj Mahal went pretty okay although we did not have too much time before the sun set down. It went pretty well expect the fact that we sort of arrested by a police officer and were interrogated in their headquarter. I will tell this part in other piece. When the sun almost down, all visitors were told to leave.
After missing a lunch, this tired pregnant woman felt like she could ea a horse. We had dinner at the small shop in front of the complex and hurried back to Agra Cant Station. The train was scheduled at 08:00 pm. It was on the second week of January, so India was freezing to death. We were hugging each other in the auto going to the train station, hoping that a first class carriage would be warm.
The train station was so full with passengers. Many of them slept on the floor, using blankets, bedcovers, sheets, to protect them from the wind. It was 4 degree Celcius. Going to the platform we realized that the wind was too strong and that all trains were delayed due to heavy fog. We were heading to the waiting room which we found out extremely full as well. Although it was as chilled as outside, we were protected from the wind. Only one seat was empty. My husband told me to sit on the chair, he was sitting in front of me on the floor. To add the misery, we both were wearing only sandals. How silly!
Time went on, no sign of our train arriving. The seat I sat on made of metal, so it makes my butt literally shivered! More and more people avoiding the chilly wind went inside the room. It was full, now it is cramped. Locals laid on the floor, using anything to keep them warm. My husband took several tours to get me hot milk. None noticed that I was pregnant due to my winter coat.
I had to use the bathroom as it was so cold. I went once, did it courageously, and then decided to hold my pee if ever I felt the desire to go again. My husband went once and told me that he rather peed on the platform than in the toilets. Apparently our bladders cooperated — or maybe it was simply frozen!
Night grew dark and we saw no lights of hope. A young man sitting next to me offered to share his blanket with me. He asked me where I’m from. Several times my husband and I switched places, so that he could feel a bit of warmth. Not too much, but a change of position give us a tiny bit of comfort. No one wanted to leave the room as it means that they gave up their seat to someone else.
Past midnight, the guard of the waiting room who was stationed in front of the room apparently could no longer stand the cold. He pulled his table and chairs inside. To our luck, he dragged his “office” next to us — and he has spare chair. This old bearded gentleman asked me to sat next to him. He even laid his dirty old blanket on my lap. A simple comfort. Now these parents-to-be were not sitting on the floor. Everybody grew weary because there was just no sign of the trains. Ours were not the worst. Longhaul trains to southern India were delayed up to 20 hours. Some foreigners in the waiting room looked like they were having the worst day in their life. We among the foreign travelers exchanged news on when the train was going to arrive — mostly not accurate.The baby inside my belly was calm enjoying the cold. Right before 6 am, the guard next to me yelled, “Shatabdi, Shatabdi!” Many foreigners arose and got out of the overpopulated room. Others stared at us enviously as they still needed to wait their trains. Some of us managed to take pictures together. We did not know each other, but we share an experience of a lifetime. A fellow traveler said that he would not believe it until he could really see the train himself.
The chug chug sound might be the loveliest sound we hear in a long time. Yes, the Shatabdi (supposedly) Express had eventually arrived. After finding our seats, everybody were just rush to the toilets that surprisingly much better than at the station. We didn’t care if the train took 7 hours to Delhi — instead of 2 hours as it should — it was way warmer. Moreover, because the waiting was over. We were on route to Delhi. One night in icy-cold, dirty, ultracramped Agra Cant Station, the price I pay to see the magnificent Taj Mahal.