Recently it was and May Day on May 1st, or whatever you call it. Facebook does not know about this so cannot remind me, but it’s exactly 10 years since my first solo travel experience to a completely new place.
I remember, that time around end of April I got my first voter Id card as well and now it’s election time so a linking event. Those days, there was no airport at the Yelanka place, the airport was on old airport road, HAL something. Things have changed dramatically since then, that time there was no OLA or Uber as well. It was a time that looks like a completely different era now, there was even Vijay Mallaya’s absolutely hot Kingfisher airlines. I was younger then, way younger, too.
The company I was working for had a policy to send its employees to Gujarat where its headquarters was. It was my time but for me, I go to Gujarat by myself, no co-employee travellers with me. That company staff, did last minute bookings so I did not get my ticket till one day before my departure. This did stress me a lot, but a few good things came out of it. One good thing was that I got a kingfisher plane ticket to Bombay from Bangalore, since the useless company ticket bookers from Gujarat did not get tickets for Air India flights or Jet Airways as they booked last minute. That morning I received my Voter ID card, for which my Dad requested the crowd in the line to have me get it first because I had a plane to caught. Then I was dropped to the airport accompanied by Mom and I was on my own, though I did not know all my colleagues back in the office got worried about my safety.
I remember the richness experienced at the Kingfisher airlines, the lady air hostess was super good looking and tall(compliment coming from a lady, then imagine how attractive they were!!)
The plane journey was a short one, but there was a tiny TV and there was the trademark headphone of Kingfisher airlines which was a very cool accessory that had ear hook and it can be pinned in both the ears. I had kept those headphones for a looong looong while as a momento that I did go on the Kingfisher airlines once a upon a time. There was great food as well, and even though I don’t recall the contents there was a chocolate fudgy cake that tasted yummy!!! On the tiny TV I was watching something epic and exciting, Virender Sehwag’s battling in a test match where he scored 200 runs or 300 runs, it was a treat. Then I reached Mumbai, I think I could view the map of it on the TV screen as well. I got down the airport and my only mission was go to Mumbai Central where my train to Gujarat would come at night to take me to Gujarat. I had loads of time.
My brother had told me that taxi drivers would swindle me, so pay lots of money and go to the station. I don’t know how, but a auto driver told he would drop me at the station for 20 bucks, and he dropped me all right at Mumbai’s local station and I did not even know this. When I did realise it, I thought it was very cool, from here I can caught a train to Mumbai Central easily. A train halted and I enquired to the guy standing out the door weather the train goes to Mumbai Central to which the guy affirmed that it does. I was getting into the train as it started and was falling off the running train, but that guy pulled me inside the train else I would have fallen down. I was slightly in schock and had feelings of some needless embarrassment and though I wanted to thank that good samaritan, words did not come out but he gestured me to relax and take a seat. And till today I regret not thanking that guy, who ever he is and weather it’s really worth or not he did save me from falling off(:
I had no idea there is a ladies and gents compartment, but the train had very less crowd and I took a seat, I kept asking a young adult tenager fellow why no one is coming to give tickets and asked him everytime each stop came weather it was Central Mumbai station….
He did not answer, in the middle I got a call from my friend colleague on where I was, I explained that though I was to caught an auto and be at Mumbai Centrail, somehow I landed at local station and was heading by subarban train to Mumbai Central, it turned out she did not understand what I said and the bosses and other colleagues scolded her, I lost network for a while after that. They were in tension because my boss lady from Gujarat, told them they should not have sent me alone to Gujarat because I did not have the maturity to travel on my own. When I later came to know about this, I quit my job(: … anyway
I reached Mumbai station and had nothing to do but bid my time waiting. My train came really late and I got into it, and I had to get down some place in Gujarat. I did not know when the station was coming, and the company lady prompted me to ask the passengers when the station was coming and when it came I got down but it was 11 at the night. When I reached, there was no pick up arranged for me, I called the ticket lady she told to take auto and come,I remarked to her, “What is this madum?”, in a frustrated tone and did as she said. I did caught an auto for 15 rs and it dropped me at the hotel. I got my keys and had a room to myself, I did not allow even the hotle service guy to come in, telling I was fine, if I needed anything will inform, just go. It’s nice somethings to be on your own in a hotle with no one to disturb you, I watched cricket again, those days there was people like Yuvi, and Dohni even my favorite Dravid and Ganguly, liked watching the game, these days it’s all cheap(personal opinion).
The next morning another lady came to share my room but fortunately she prefered staying with another friend of hers residing in another room , so I had the room all to myself. The next day, I did see other employees who came for the so called training from other regions and there was a very concerned and kind sir, atleast he was somebody who cared about you and you can speak freely to him on a personal tone. He needlessly took it into his hands to see I go back safely(very protective but his concern is very sweet).
The rest of the days, went to head office, and again another nice person who came for training made sure I am not left alone to caught auto to head to office, he took me along giving space in the auto even though he could have left me and gone. Then I had a overview of all those useless bosses and my main Bangalore Boss actually smiled seeing me, greeted me happily with a salute feeling this lady made it safely from Bangalore!! …The head boss of Gujarat there asked me about the angry remark I made to the company lady the previous day, I said at 11 at the night, I was all alone with no pick up for me!! He said Gujarat was a extremly safe place, maybe Bangalore was not safe, don’t compare Gujarat and Bangalore. I also remember, I dropped dal on my white kurta and it never left, food at their canteen was pretty good, I liked their lassi.
For leaving there was tension as well, as usual with last time ticket bookings it was hard to find tickets. The useless ticket booking lady wanted to club me with another guy to go to Mumbai from Gujarat. So, even though he got a confirmed train ticket they said they cancelled it because of me, as they did not want me travelling alone. I really get perturbed and still do when just because I am a lady or girl I was a cause a lot of tension to family and other people, in case of leaving me alone when they have to travel or having me travel alone . Earlier did have a really had a huge inferiority complex and hated being lady for a while but hell anyway back to the story, we all know India mostly is not considered safe for ladies.
I had a choice of traveling sharing a berth with male boss colleages which I refused, and so I was booked a bus ticket clubed with some fat guy to go to Mumbai from Gujarat. For some silly reason, was advised by some Gujarat office idiot to follow the fat guy and establish friendly terms so it would help me. I told, I actually prefer going back on my own, I came to gujarat by myself, however the kind sir who was concerned for me said that travelling on the train and bus is different, you don’t need to worry if you travel with a guy. There was more tension, because the plane was strating from Mumbai early in the morning, for that fat fellow it was to start at 5:30 am, for me 6 am and I told timing stuff as 10 am all wrongly seeing the ticket for which was slightly criticized by the gang there brainstorming on this travel back option. The bus from Gujarat had to reach Mumbai on time. The fat fellow lead me into the auto like a gentleman to the bus stand and we waited for the bus.
The bus did not arrive and I noticed the tension escalating for the fat co-traveller who was a cigarett smoker as well. The bus had to arrive at a time and it did not arrive for a long while, it did not help that I was lecturing the guy on not to smoke when he was thinking about caughting the flight tomorrow on time, which can only be possible if the bus came in time now. He spoke to the guy in charge who was seated in the bus shed stop and after that he called the Gujarat boss and made him to speak to the guy. They conversed in Gujarat, but it was of no avail as it did not make the bus come!!!
Then finally the bus came very late, and it did not stop at the assigned place but went far ahead and the fat guy gestured me to follow him but he could not run elegantly after the bus. By this time I was kind of enjoying the commedy, getting amused by this fat co-passenger’s movements. When we reached the bus, and showed the ticket, the bus guy said the ticket is written in Gujarat, how the hell can he understand it? 😀
So, after this confusion of understanding the seat number given in the ticket, seats were given, and to my utter discomfort it was a double decker top sleeper berth, what I call honeymoon berth so I had to sit there with that fat guy in that honeymoon berth sleeper. Well, that seating issue settled but the tension for fat fellow only grew as the bus did not start!! … There were complains of how bad the ticket bookings were done, and his disappointment that his confirmed train ticket was cancelled whatever the reason, they need not have done it and he would miss the flight tomorrow for sure. I spend my time getting down and nagging the bus driver to start the bus, there’s a plane to caught, actually 2 planes to caught!! The bus driver said he can’t help the delay, I think police officials were holding bus back and he told me to talk to them!!
So, no toilet stops are affordable also now. After a long while after midnight the bus started. We should have spent the time making a wager weather the bus would reach on time or not, but it was mostly spent in complaints. I had gone down to the driver to inform him time and again that we need to reach Mumbai on time to caught flight. I might have slept a bit, but mostly was awake yawning, sitting on the opposite direction and next side of the fat guy. When coming to think of it, I should have insisted on getting a single sleeping berth of my own, this is where feminist spirits should burst, after all we should only stand up for ourselves, if we don’t who would?
After some conversations, complaints and expressing ourselves on what we can do in the provable situation of reaching Mumbai when plane leaves, the bus did magically reach at 5 am. The bus stopped near the Mumbai airport. Another guy was getting down at this stop as well along with us. I had a mind to tip some money to the bus driver but well, already had considered that possibility discussing this with the fat guy at the journey, it was decided that it was not the right thing to do, to tip the driver for doing his duty. The poor fat fellow was destined to run again to caught his flight, he was in a hurry to caught his flight at 5:30 am, the other fellow who was walking with us guided him on the entry terminal point for the Indian Airlines. Soon, the fat guy disappeared, it was me walking with this new guy who walked me to the entry terminal of Jet Airways, he told me to take care and left.
Finally, I was on my own and can go take a peaceful leak at the toilet in the airport. From there I boarded and reached Bangalore, safely. This Made Day story is one of my most interesting stories I have narrated to many people, I thought might as well write it.
After this I never done solo travels to completely new places, maybe just recently to Goa for the Goa Bird Festival. But I have traveled to known places solo, sometimes at night. I can say there are lots of good people around, from the auto guy who drops to to Kalashipalayam particular bus brand stop when it’s raining even though he was supposed to drop you at Majestic, from the good guy who saved you from falling from running trains(: .. to the ttr who takes pity on you because you got on the wrong train and allows you to travel ticketless for a while, to people who guide you on how to reach destination and all those auto fellows who dropped you at the destination safely when you reach the CIty like at 4:30am in mornings and 10:30 pm nights. Humanity is not all that bad, good people exist and this inspires me to be good samaritan as well to help people in small ways when they need it 😀 (:
Also, ladies got to be assertive demand what is comfortable for them, be it separate bus seat if you don’t want to sit near male traveller, we must demand for toilet stop for toilet breaks, it doesn’t matter if your making a huge show(: , this is important. Anyway as far Gujarat goes I heard there plenty to eat there and there’s a wonderful wildlife sanctuary Gir, so good stuff to explore. Mumbai too, I liked the City when I recently did stay there for attending a cousin’s wedding, I am sure there are lots to explore there too.
It’s very true that when you can’t be on your own, travelling or doing something adventurous – trekking or things like that, confidence takes a beating and when you begin to do this, you become a free spirit. Girls and ladies should also do travelling, trekking and other adlerin pumping activities, it would help a lot for feeling free and being positive and escape the caged life once a while. I still hear at Cities that it is not safe for a lady to say alone, single etc , also they look at you like you need special protection when you are two ladies travelling to new place. It’s just sad. We have to completely keep affirming that we can be alone and handle any situation. Confidence, assertiveness is a must of course, it’s all worth it for a growing experience as well and to live independently and face our fears, become wiser, smarter and more open minded.