When I was packing my bags for Leh Trip. My 1.10 years old daughter was curiously observing me. She kept asking me questions like, where are you going, why are you going, why are you going alone etc.
I told her many things about The Himalayas like the Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world. Mountains are beautiful & Daddy love to travel in mountains. I told her that there is a beautiful place named Ladakh in these mountains. I promised her that I will take her to Ladakh when she grows up.
Finally, On D-day when I was stuffing my bags in the car.
She was crying like...
“mudhe bhi lalllakh jana hai”…”mudje bhi himala dekhana hai”. ( I want to go to Ladakh, I want to see the Himalayas)
I went to her, kissed her and said...
“ha beta tuze bhi ‘Himala’ dikhaunga. ( Yes, I"ll take you to Ladakh someday)
This was a promise made to a 1.11 years old kid.
My Leh trip was successful.
We were watching my Leh trip’s photograph, & my wife asked...
“aap toh ghum ke aye (You did your trip), what about us?”.
Now, remember, this is a dangerous situation. You have to answer this question, you have to answer this question positively. You cannot say... “ sochenge”. You call yourself a traveler and your answer should be “ha chalo”, with a specific location. If you fail at this critical situation, your future travels will have no future.
“ thick hai ! chalo Manali ghum ke aye” (let's go to Manali).
I explained to her that we can have a short trip to Manali by Railway- Volvo. She was worried about our 2-year old daughter. I asked her not to worry and assured that I’ll take care of everything.
We informed Ziva (oops, her name is Ziva) that we are going to Manali.
"No!!mudhe to lalllakh jana hai(I want to go to Ladakh)….mudhe to himala dekhana hai”(I want to see The Himalayas).Even after three months, she remembered that promise.
I explained to her that Manali is another beautiful place in the Himalayas. She was convinced.
Ziva was 2.1 years old during January 2017. It was a perfect age to introduce the Himalayas to her.
Now it was my duty to plan this trip & make all the arrangements. My wife is a professor at a University, so we had to wait for University’s summer vacation. Her vacation was starting from 1st May 2017. I booked train tickets for A’bad – Delhi –A’bad & booked Volvo for Delhi –Manali- Delhi. For stay arrangement, I called up Kapil Thakur (owner of The Clifftop Cottage Palchan). He said... “aap sirf Manali Pahoch jao, baki mai sab dekh lunga”. (You just reach Manali.)
So, during March 2017, everything was arranged.
There was only one issue. Our train tickets, A’bad to Delhi was not confirmed. I booked these tickets during March month for the journey on 1st May 2017, two months in advance. In my opinion, 3WL(waiting list) was not a big issue. Normally it gets confirmed but I was not aware that railway booking in May is never a normal scenario.
I downloaded two or three apps for PNR check. I used to check PNR after every two days. My Delhi to A’bad tickets was confirmed but the status of our A’bad to Delhi journey was not moving at all. It was just 3 WL, tickets were booked on 01 March 2017 for the Journey of 01 May 2017 and till 20Apr2017 it was in waiting list.
I was worried, I tried to search and book other options for our A'bad to Delhi journey but most of the Railway experts (there are forums to discuss booking status) advised me not to go for alternative booking for another mode of transportation. They assured me that 3WL is nothing and will get confirmed.I was not familiar with railway bookings. I studied entire process of this railway booking, waiting list and RAC(Reservation Against Cancellation) mechanism. I must say, it’s complicated but well-designed. I understood everything about different status like GNWL, RLWL RQWL, RLGN. My tickets were in RLWL category, which means Remote location Waiting list. In a normal scenario, RLWL gets confirmed on journey date. Railway publishes final status of seats before 4 hours of train’s scheduled departure from source station.
On 1st May 2017 train's time was 1715 from A’bad and at 0915 on my journey date, I came to know that it wasn't a normal scenario.
Question: How did I come to know that it wasn’t a normal scenario?
Answer: Final list of booking status was published and my tickets weren’t confirmed.
Question: Why wasn’t it a normal scenario?
Answer: Almost all the schools and colleges vacations were started. Most of the people planned and booked their travels in well advance.
Our bags were packed, our Volvo was booked, hotels were booked, Kapil even booked a motorcycle and a taxi for us in Manali but our tickets to Delhi was not confirmed.
The fun part was, my wife, couldn’t blame me that... “sab kuch advance mai plan kyu nahi kiya,”. (Why didn't you plan everything in advance?)She knew that everything was planned in advance.
It was my turn to blame her (usually you never get a chance to do that) that ...“ you are from the education sector, why didn’t u inform me that entire India’s vacation started from 30 April?”
Apart from that blame game, in which first time I had an upper hand. We had one more question.
What to do? Postpone our trip???
No! Postponing the trip wasn't an option.
May's first week was the only available window for us. As per my knowledge, after May's first week, all these famous locations like Manali get overcrowded. We had to reach Delhi, that too before 1700 next day, to catch Volvo to Manali.
I asked my wife, to remain ready with everything, we"ll have to leave Anand on short notice. I was on a mission. A mission to take wife and kid to Delhi comfortably.
I self-driven on numerous occasions to Delhi by my car (A Santro). During May 2017, I was about to sell it & go for a new car. My Santro was a 13-years-old vehicle and I couldn't take the risk to drive by an old car with my 2.5 years old daughter on board. I toyed with the idea of taking Dad's Swift Dzire. I kept it as the last option.
I got my laptop out, and checked everything, MakeMyTrip to Redbus.in. My first priority was a flight to Delhi. Almost all the flights were booked. All the buses ( including Volvos) for A'bad to Delhi were booked. I was talking to myself, If we were going by bus, it must be a 2*2 and Ziva must have a separate seat. I was getting frustrated and then I got a call.
I love Jaipur, not just because it is a historical city but I have some amazing friends in Jaipur. During my all Anand to Delhi drives, it was an unwritten rule for me to stop for a night at Jaipur. This rule was set by my Jaipur based friends.
And on that day (01 May 2017) at 1100, I got a call from one of my Jaipur based friends. He knew about my trip to Manali. He called me to ask timings of my train to Delhi, so he could come to Jaipur station to meet me and my family. I told him that my train tickets to Delhi are not confirmed and I am trying to search other options to travel to Delhi. He said... "wait, I "ll call u back" and disconnected the phone.
After 20 minutes he called back and asked me to write down his instructions.
"there is a bus A'bad to Jaipur from A'bad at 1600. It's Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation(RSRTC) bus, a nice Sleeper coach. It will take 12 hours to reach Jaipur...Jaipur AA ja (Reach Jaipur)"
He gave me RSRTC's A'bad office number and website.
What after Jaipur? It was an irrelevant question.
I called up RSTRC A'bad office.
They confirmed that there was a bus, not a sleeper but a 2*2 Volvo.
WOW! Chalega ... (Not an Issue)
I asked..." do they have three seats available?"