It was in November last year,that I’d first visited Delhi and Chandigarh. My memories are still fresh with reminiscences from the first time. This visit, however, was a totally different matter altogether, and it was just businesslike (read exams!).
I boarded the aircraft from Chennai. The trip to Delhi was a routine affair. Economy flights are cramped. To get out and to go to the loo, both people sitting next to you have to get up (if you have the side seat. I always do!). And if you’re a guy who likes to maintain a healthy homeostasis (fluid balance! Get it?), you do have to get out a number of times. Cabin crew seem so matter-of-fact nowadays. Powdered faces with wanton fleeting smiles don’t actually make you comfortable. Once I was in my seat, I wasn’t allowed to get out to get my headphones from the luggage rack. So much for Spicejet’s on-flight hospitality. I remembered warmly of my last flight on Spicejet in November. I’d even written a recommendation note as feedback about one of their air hostesses. And before you even ask, she wasn’t just pretty!! Her hospitality was excellent! 😉
Last time I’d travelled to Delhi alone. This time, however, I travelled with a friend, so it was more fun. After four hours, the plane deserted us in the inhuman Delhi heat. Though we’d decided on getting food from the airport, we couldn’t find any food outlets at the exit. Finally, we thought of getting a Metro to the Connaught Place, but finally ended up eating from a food outlet in the Metro station. Our train to Chandigarh was at 3pm, and we’d almost four hours of waiting time at the railway station, which we’d planned on spending in reading at the railway waiting room. The distinguishing feature about the AC waiting room in New Delhi railway station is that there isn’t any! Of course, there is a sign directing you to one, but after navigating the busy terminal, we saw a room which its door wide aloft (which meant no AC!). But even worse was the fact that there were at least 100 people crowded in a small room, sitting or sleeping on every square inch, nay, millimeter of space. So that was one plan dashed. We winded up sitting on a bench near the train. I read a little, but was hampered by the severe heat. At the opposite platform, we could see crowds of people pushing each other, all vying for a space on the incoming train. (See photo).
Finally it was 3pm, and time found us carrying bottles of cold water onto the UHL Janshatabdi train. The AC sitting coach was quite comfortable, except for the big (I meant obese!) Punjabi lady who got in at Kurukshetra, and argued with the TTR loudly, disturbing my studies. The coach was packed with PGI candidates (Post Graduate Institute, Chandigarh. Didn’t I tell you that the trip was for writing the entrance test for PGI?). The train was delayed by half an hour, but finally at 7pm, we hailed at Chandigarh station. With experience behind me, I confidently went to the bus terminal. But after twenty minutes or so, we couldn’t find a bus to our destination. And it was getting late. It was then that we got the help of a Good Samaritan in the form of a girl from Himachal Pradesh. She was trying to get to her hostel, which was on the way to our accommodation. The three of us took an auto to Sector 17, and she was even so helpful as to arrange a rickshaw for us too, even fixing the rates with the driver! It set me thinking that if people from H.P were so helpful, H.P should be a very interesting place indeed. She told us that she was doing her Masters in Pharmacy in Chandigarh, and offered excellent suggestions about all the interesting places to visit in Chandigarh.
After an hour, we reached our boarding at YMCA, Chandigarh. I’m a bit of a planner, hence, though the room at YMCA was one of the most coveted when it came to PG aspirants staying for ‘one-nights’, we had one of the best rooms, since I’d booked it four months in advance (on the day PGI exams were announced, to be precise). The air-conditioned room had cost Rs 1100 for two people, but it was cozy and roomy enough to house five. And since we’d come in from a Delhi that literally burned, the room was like paradise. I read for a couple of hours. It was then that we saw the news of the air-crash at Mangalore. It was shocking. It was chilling when it hit upon us that we’d been flying from Chennai to Delhi at that time, that the other flight was on its way to Mangalore. It’s never wise to read up too late on the eve of an exam, especially if one’s in a foreign place. So we slept early.
And I did wake up early too. My friend was late waking up, as usual. After a bath, we had breakfast from a nearby Dhaba. The food was delicious, and we were almost late for the exam. The exam was at 8 this time (It was at 10 last time), and we got there only by 8. I should’ve gotten there in advance, but actually we were under the mistaken impression that 8 was the time to report at, not the time of commencement of exam. A minute after I got to my place in the room, the bell stated ringing for commencement of the exam. PGI Chandigarh exam itself is tough, and time is just not enough. I rushed through the paper without confidence, and finished it without satisfaction. I hadn’t prepared well. But for the last couple of weeks, my studies were hampered by the travel from Speed. Some day I will describe in detail, about the experience at Speed Medical Centre, Chennai.
The return from Chandigarh to Delhi by bus was tedious. If it weren’t for the boys who jumped onto the bus at each junction to sell cold water, I’m sure most of us would have suffered heat-strokes. At the Inter State Bus Terminus at New Delhi, I sent off my friend in a prepaid auto, and took the Metro to Janakpuri. Though I’d stayed in Delhi for only a week last year, it was almost like I knew every place on the way. I didn’t have to ask for the way and didn’t have any problem bargaining with the cycle-rickshaw-wallas. If it weren’t for this special class of workers, travel in Delhi would have been cumbersome indeed.
After staying in Delhi for the night, I took a return flight from IGI Airport. I’d paid for economy, but got executive class by a nice turn of events. Unfortunately, I left my cellphone charger in the flight. After extreme heat in Delhi and Chennai, I returned to find Trivandrum beaming under a heavy monsoon.