posted on Friday, August 28, 2009

Route to Shimla

Got to Shimla around lunchtime after an appropriate introduction to Indian Railways punctuality. My Delhi-Kalka first leg train being almost 3 hours made me wonder if i could ever make it to my connection on the Shimla Express. At Old Delhi 'not so very upper class' lounge, among those patiently waiting for a train that we were punctually informed, seemed to be very good at gathering delay, was Vaneet. Good I started to chat to him and found out he was sharing the same journey because he ended up being my personal trouble buster for the day! He was an indian business man who lived in New York and Toronto many years before returning to Delhi few years back. He was heading near Shimla to spend few days with a relative of his who had a cottage nearby. He turned up to be the most helpful man I could hope for, somebody I would do anything to produce at will when trouble comes, and boy it always does around here!!!
He first reassured me that the Shimla Express will wait for us no matter how late we are, did he do it I wonder?
When the train from Calcutta eventually crawled into the station he showed me where my coach was and explained me how to get to my bed before going further to his first class sleeper coach. He said will catch again in the morning at the train change where he would baby sit me again. Arrived in Kalka I was more than happy to see Veneet face again waving on the platform and as it turned out I needed his help more than i thought! To my surprise there were two trains bound for Shimla waiting on two platforms next to each other. Looking at my internet ticket he realised that I had picked the wrong one; he said it was slower, seats not comfortable and no food included so he thought something had to be done fast. There was a long queue at the information and ticket counter but not for Vaneet. He just went round the back and entered from the staff door at the back, summoned train boss and station manager and with a few rupees got me upgraded to his train on the seat facing his. The train journey was very spectacular through countless tunnels, winding up steep to the 2000 meters of Shimla. Needless to say it took Vaneet little time to endear Ranjit our next train boss and from then on everything was coming in doubles! Double tea, double biscuits, coffees and 2 meal trays each. To finish up an amazing day of work, once in Shimla he instructed his driver to take us first to Shimla centre where I was dropped off in style! After many thank you he handed his business card and phone number, just in case...! Once found the hotel I crashed in exhaustion after a long awaited shower. Now sipping coffee in Barista a indian coffee chain whose motto is 'Escape to Italy', not exactly the place for an italian in India but there you go! A guy just turned up, shook my hand and sat himself down at my table as if we had always been best friends. He fired questions so fast that in a couple of minutes he knew all the essentials about my life. The converstation ended at his "let's be brothers and give each other a hug", to which I replied no thank you but nice to meet you! He took my brotherhood refusal with sportsmanship and walked off!
Tomorrow a bit of sightseeing around Shimla before heading to Manali.