Accidental Trainhopping

“You are traveling on an invalid ticket,” our English-speaking fellow passenger explains on behalf of the ticket checker. “Actually, this is a crime in India.”

Eileen reserved our train tickets from Jaipur to Udaipur online through a service called 12Go. It transpires that although 12Go did buy an Indian Rail ticket on our behalf, the ticket they bought was not the advertised 26th of September, but actually the 26th of June, the date of purchase.

Luckily, I have the privilege of sanguinity. These tickets — a seven hour journey all the way up in the air conditioned, seated class cost $11 apiece. I don’t think we’ll be arrested for an honest mistake (not even our mistake!) — so the worst case I can imagine is getting kicked off the train.

Even in that case, we’re moving steadily closer to our destination, and I already looked at the Uber cost for the same long journey; it’s just under Rs 9,000: $112. Not exactly cheap, but an acceptable cost to get where we need to go. And a driver on the street would likely be cheaper.

The ticket taker was quiet, amused. He walked away while our fellow passenger was still explaining: “A new ticket, with fees for breaking the law, is two thousand, two thousand, two thousand.” That’s two thousand for each of us.

We’re not sure whether we have that much cash on hand, but I think so. We start pooling our 500 rupee notes, each one a $6.25 bill too big for street vendors and tuk tuk drivers to break.

Meanwhile, the ride is pleasant. The AC has kicked in, and the flat land glides smoothly past the window. White egrets perch atop green trees with bundles of hay piled vertically around the trunks.

The ticket taker returns to discuss our situation with our fellow passenger, then leaves.

Our new friend comes over and offers to buy us tickets online that will start from an upcoming station. The ticket taker, it seems, doesn’t want to deal with our situation, and for now there are enough seats to go around. We’ll all just agree that really, we got on the train in Anjer. We’ll reimburse our friend in cash; he’ll deal with the Indian Rail website that doesn’t take American credit cards.

For 600 rupees apiece, and through the kindness — or forbearance — of two strangers, the problem is solved.

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Kelsey Breseman

An adventurer, woodland creature, and engineer. Currently working on data ownership models, environmental accountability, and intentional community.