Stranger on a Train

India – June 2012

It was not supposed to be an overnight train. The distance from Agra to Jaipur is not too far, relatively speaking, and the train was scheduled to get us there before dinner. After waiting two hours on a hot platform with no seating for the train to arrive, it heads off in the wrong direction. We stop after an hour in order for an engine to be replaced, which is another two-hour wait. When all is said and done, we’ll arrive in Jaipur at 1am.

When we board the train, it’s rather full but the small group we’re traveling with find space. We’re in a sleeper car with three-tier beds and most find places to sleep, though I decide to sit up and keep an eye on our bags as I don’t like the look of one passenger in our car, who seems to be eyeing us very carefully. Besides, I never sleep on trains or buses, so it’s not like I’m going to lose sleep.

During the slow, hot ride I shut my eyes from time to time and always open them to find the same passenger looking at me. I glance his way and then look back to our bags. Everyone in my group is now asleep, including our guide. He didn’t tell us how long of a ride it would be, so I have no idea how far we are from our destination.

Several hours pass before the guy I’ve been keeping my eye on gets up for his stop. In English he asks if I’m heading to Jaipur. “Yes,” I reply. “It’s the next stop,” he informs me, “and they don’t stop for long.” I thank him, sorry to have mistrusted him, and awaken our guide. I let him know what I have learned, and he looks at me as if I’m crazy. He then pops off the train to see what stop we’re at and returns in a bit of a panic, realizing I’m correct.

I help him rouse our group as we only have a few minutes till Jaipur. Everyone rushes to wake up and gather their things. It’s a mad dash in the middle of the night but we get everyone up and off at the right stop. “How’d you know Jaipur was the next stop?” our guide asks as we head to our hotel. “Lucky guess,” I say, silently thanking the stranger I misjudged.

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