Inspired by Meera ji’s train journey to Bombay, I felt like sharing my experience, too.

Well, I have travelled to a few countries all alone but never got a chance to make a solo train trip. The train is my favourite mode of transportation as I have height- and seasickness.

I had to leave for Brussels (travelled alone) and was informed that I need to travel to Odisha in a few days as my would-be husband wanted me to see his native village. (My parents had no idea about our dating thing and due to my hectic travel schedule all over India every month, they never doubted the reason for travelling to Odisha) :)😄

But they were concerned about my solo travel. I assured them, if I could travel abroad, can manage for sure in India. Luckily, due to my father’s teachings, I am rarely scared of humans, except for a few creepy ones.😣

So I cut short my Brussels trip and landed early morning in Delhi; and that afternoon I had to board my train. Now when I saw my train ticket, I realised I had been allotted a side upper birth in the second class AC compartment of the Bhubaneshwar-Shatabdi train. I was upset, but with no option at hand, I decided that if the side lower birth was allotted to a young person, I will exchange.

Fortunately, I reached quite before my time (a perk of being a daughter of a punctual air force man🤭 ) and was looking at the notice board for travellers’ details. And wow! The lower berth was allotted to a young Odiya boy of around 28 years.

I was elated and happily went inside the bogie and took the lower birth, taking for granted that the young man will not mind exchanging the berth. ;)😆

After a while, I see a tall, dark, handsome, a bit chubby boy searching frantically for his seat. The moment he saw I had occupied his seat, he simply gave a smile and said politely, “This is my berth.”

“I know, but you see I am not comfortable on the upper birth as I can’t stretch my leg properly so would you mind exchanging,” I asked.

He looked at me and said yeah why not. I could sense his shock at my lame excuse as he was almost 6 ft and instead of a genuine request, I had actually settled myself so well on that berth.

Anyway, the journey started and my arrival time was around 11 am, next day. This boy didn’t bother me at all and I was happy with my food, books and those cute curtains, which gives much-needed privacy from fellow passengers.

The night went well. He wished me good night.

The next morning, after breakfast he asked, “Can I please come and sit near one window?”

I didn’t mind because in 2 hours time I will be reaching my destination. He came down, sat in front of me. He was looking at the view outside and I was into my books.

He broke the ice, “I am Ashutosh, and you?”

I said, “Shalini.” 

He said, “Nice meeting you.” I said, “I don’t know you still you helped me in this berth thing, thanks.” He smiled. I was again into my book.

This time, he initiated talk a bit more. I kept my book aside and paid attention thinking it’s a matter of time, so I can bear his talks.

He started with what he does and where is he going and his salary, family, beliefs, his expectation from a wife and all these things.

I was intrigued, why is he talking about all this. Suddenly the train came to a halt. Typical Indian railways scenario. It stops anywhere it wants but what got me bothered was that despite being a Shatabdi Express it didn’t move an inch for one hour. It was almost 9 am.

Then I checked with one ticket collector and he said some major train accident has happened and this will take time. Now instead of reaching Bhubaneshwar by 11 am, I had to spend more hours in this train compartment.

To make the matter worse, the train did not have enough supply of food and water for the whole day as it was an unexpected delay.

Finally, I gave up and decided to flow with the flow instead of panicking. Called my hubby and said you go back to the hotel, who was waiting to receive me at the station. I will let you know once the train will move.

So, I and Ashutosh and few old men sitting on the other berths started talking. I realised that I was the only girl in those 18 seats in my vicinity. However, things were going fine.

I too told Ashutosh about my work and travel. It was around 2 pm in the afternoon, I felt hungry and the train pantry had no food. Fortunately this boy was carrying some extra paranthas and lots of snacks.

I also told him that I am going to see the mother of my future husband who is also an Oriya. He was pleasantly surprised and wished me luck. He offered some snacks, though mom had advised never to eat anything offered by strangers, I happily took the packet of snack.

Suddenly he came a bit closer and said: “Will you marry me?”

My chips were all over his face and I laughed so hard. Those old men looked at me in shock.  

I said, “Are you crazy, I just told you I am going to meet my would-be husband and I am committed.”

He shyly said, “That’s what I liked about you and if his mother rejects you, please remember I will be waiting for you ever.”

I smiled at his innocence and he didn’t appear to be a threat. I asked him to calm down and asked politely, “Do you go on proposing marriage to girls like this on train trips?”

He said, “No, I have never proposed to anyone like this before in less than 24 hours of knowing someone. But I found you to be perfect for me.”

I poked him a bit more to know the truth that why did he propose to me.

“I saw you as independent, responsible, confident, knowledgeable, committed in love. I enjoyed the way you know about global issues and talk with conviction how these countries will create a new world order and especially the kind of books you read.”

Whatttt books?

He said yeah I never saw any girl reading such kinds of book and the two books you are reading impressed me. I was reading  Mossad, and the other one was Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja on Cambodia.

I lovingly laughed at his honesty and said alright if he rejects I will let you know.😄

Thereafter, the journey was smooth (no-no the train didn’t move) as I was comfortably talking and smiling with all these men around. I didn’t for a moment feel unsafe. It was grace.

Finally, the train moved and around 6 in the evening we reached Bhubaneshwar. Ashutosh asked me for my number. I politely refused then agreed to share my email id on his insistence.

We bid goodbye. I got down at the station, met my hubby and told him that your mother better accepts me or else see there (pointing finger in the direction of Ashutosh), that man is gonna be your tough competitor.😍

Hubby smiled just he does, like a saint, you can’t make out the meaning behind that smile. 🙄

Well, that boy kept in touch with me for a long time and became a nice friend till he got married one day and shared his wife’s pic saying I found a replica of yours.

The motive of sharing this story is that day I realised that for few people beauty doesn’t matter much in marriage. Men like women who are intelligent, independent and can hold a conversation with grace.

I personally believe that physical beauty might attract you sooner but it vanishes sooner, too. Because if not accompanied by intelligence, it will not be able to keep you interested for long as there will be nothing new to it.

However, an intelligent person would amaze you, attract you every day. Be it while discussing ideas or solving day to day problems or anything else.

Also later I found a study that said modern men increasingly appreciate women for their brains rather than their looks or skills in the kitchen.

(Sometimes I wish I should have married a non-oriya, at least I wouldn’t be in the kitchen the whole day : )😄

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Shalini Pandey

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