Travelling is liberating they say. As I sit here in an unreserved seat for more than 16 hours, going to Indore from Pune, the whole process of how I ended up here has got me thinking about myself and all the decisions that have played a role.

Life is pretty much like a train journey and majority of us are here with an unreserved ticket. While the ‘privileged’ and the ‘sorted’ lot gets to travel in peace and comfort, they are the ones who have had a plan since the beginning or even managed to squeeze in last minute using some ‘jugaad’ (tatkal reservations). They enjoy the privileges of sitting or sleeping comfortably in their pre-allocated seats, be it Air Conditioned or not. Their peace of mind is still debatable. Why?

Have you noticed people who are never happy with their co-passengers, or that grumpy lady who will keep complaining about how the toilet stink is making her go crazy. Then there are those restless people who keep checking on their luggage every half an hour, not to forget the ones carrying excess baggage who will either be too protective of it or simply ignorant of what lies around where. I can’t say what’s more annoying than the other.

Coming back to my general compartment and the people I’m traveling with, in unreserved quota, I am compelled to think how I landed up here. The last-minute travel plan meant that I had to rely on tatkal bookings. Sitting with my laptop promptly a day before my travel date, at exactly 11 am, I realized it’s hard to find the right combination of luck, internet connection and patience. As I anxiously started my ticket booking process with poor connectivity and a ‘please wait’ message popping on my screen continuously, I saw my fate getting sealed against me, by 11.10 am.

Every other time I have traveled without reservation, I was alone. But this time I had two more girls (my colleagues) with me, who had never been in such a situation before and were not excited about it either even after my several attempts to make it sound adventurous. Their worry reminded me of the way life gives you responsibilities even when you don’t ask for it. I had to ensure their comfort and safety.

The only explainable reason for the rush was Diwali. Everyone around were trying to get home and here I was trying to get back to my workplace. I knew what I was getting myself and others into. As I reached just 20 minutes before the scheduled train departure, I got the hunch that I’m late. Especially for someone who is traveling with no reservation. I walked past the other compartments and I could sense the wicked accomplishment in them. A sleepless night with cramped neck, back and a cranky mood followed by a day of field work. After managing to get an uncle get down from the upper berth, I squeezed myself up and sat there gleaming. I felt like the privileged ones from amongst the unreserved people due to my semi-permanent position I secured.


That “Yay! We got a seat” happy moment

I started off by saying traveling can be liberating. This is because the journey gives you time to think. About the journey, the destination, the travelers and also the efforts you put in.

  • How much are we all ready to sacrifice or suffer just because getting to the destination is important?
  • And most importantly are our destinations where we really want to reach?
  • Why would we risk getting to the destination so desperately even if we have no ticket?
  • What is it that drives us?
  • Why is the destination so important?

I wondered this about a few people I could see from where I was sitting. Tried to converse with few to understand this better. Majority of them said they were going home for Diwali and that they are carrying sweets, new dresses and lots of stories for their family. And here I was getting back to Indore with a whole new set of plans in mind that will help our organization WISE strengthen its operations.

Traveling without a ticket is something I would have never done if I had not joined the fellowship. I never would have pushed myself and tested how much am I capable to endure. How would I react when I’m forced to adjust my seat with 5 other strangers.

I sat there and recollected one of my earlier train travel incidents which I would like to share. Again it was an unreserved ticket with over 16 hours of journey. Traveling alone I realized it would be better to secure a seat for myself in the ladies compartment. Only to realize everyone other than women had occupied the compartment. As I tried to voice, I realized that I have no support and I felt it would be a bad idea to do so because the men might retort rashly. I felt alone. As the train approached stations more women got in and started complaining. That’s when I realized that I am no longer alone. The unsaid unity got the women the required push and we ended up calling the railway police and complained about the situation. Resulting in railway police intervention at the next station and men being asked to leave. Few of us locked the door from inside which resulted in a peaceful sleep.

I use this example even now during the training or whenever I have gone to form a new self-help group in my field location. The incident taught me the strength in unity through a practical example. This is exactly what we aim to make the Didis in my field work understand – as we work on gender and empowerment through women collectives like SHGs and Federations. WISE is trying to replicate the rural SHG-Federation model of Chaitanya from Maharashtra in the city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

The aforementioned Pune visit was actually an exposure visit for the same purpose. The main challenge according to me was the fact that we are entering into proper city limits. An area we probably have not tried before. The challenges are immense, no doubt. It would require a lot of sweat and blood to be shed to get this done. Being asked to lead this task during my fellowship makes it scarier than ever! As I sit at the window contemplating everything that can go wrong in this, the sunrise outside gives me the hope that after all things do workout no matter how hard they may seem. The sun will always rise no matter what…

“There are multiple sides to all of us. Who we are – and who we might be if we follow our dreams.” – Miley Cyrus.

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