Ok so here’s the explanation of the photo we took with the Punjabi Police…
Beth and I took a 15 hour night train from Jodhpur to Jalandhar, taking us far enough north to meet a driver who would take us to Amritsar and Dharamsala. Thankfully, we were in 2AC class, which meant the windows closed, there were only 2 bunks on each wall instead of 3, and sheets, blankets, and pillows are provided. Best of all, no one wanders through these cars trying to camp out on your seat!
While I wasn’t feeling fresh as a daisy, I was feeling pretty good at the end of the train ride… but I definitely wasn’t ready for what was to come.
As the train pulled in to Jalandhar station, we started to hear the noise. When we got off, we saw that the bridge to cross to the exit was a mob scene. Beth said, “I think that ‘brace yourself’ is the appropriate comment here?”
We managed to weave our way through the crowd, and sighed with relief as we walked down the stairs on the other side, believing we’d made it through and were about to meet our driver at the exit of the train station. We were wrong.
As we turned the corner to the exit, we started to feel the vibrations of loud music, which took me back to my Stages days (Stages being a bar in Kingston, Ontario, my university town). Then we looked out the windows… and saw the biggest crowd we had seen in India yet. Everyone was dancing, singing, and chanting with gusto. There were so many people, we had no idea how we would ever find our driver.
We must have been standing there with our mouths gaping open, because a police officer approached us and asked if we needed any help. He led us outside to a group of police officers, and we struggled to explain our situation. At first they were trying to find us a taxi, but finally understood we were trying to find a driver that was pre-arranged. One of them called the travel agency for us, and managed to figure out the driver was going to be late. They led us out of the train station, and to a restaurant.
We expected them to leave us at this point, but they seemed to have decided that helping us was important police business, so they kindly hung around and bought us some tea.
The whole way to the restaurant I had been fighting back tears. I was tired, I was overwhelmed, and I was feeling lost. After a few minutes sitting in the restaurant, I burst into tears. One of the police officers said to Beth, “please tell her not to cry, I don’t like it” (it was making him sad.) They were so confused about why I was crying, and I assured them that without their help there would have been more tears.
In an effort to stop the crying, one of the officers pulled out his smartphone and started showing me videos of his international Tae Kwon Do competitions. The other officer started showing Beth pictures of his family. This launched a “show and tell” period of showing each other pictures of our homes, families, and checking each other out on Facebook (we are now Facebook friends!)
We sat there with them for a little over 2 hours, and were incredibly grateful for their help. While there were times I was feeling uncomfortable (like when I started to wonder if they had actually called our driver), I think my nerves were running at an all time high and I was considering far too many worst-case-scenarios. When we finally found our driver, confirmed he was the right driver, and were on the road to Amritsar, I cried again, probably from pure exhaustion and hunger (I was too on edge to eat anything at the restaurant).
In hindsight, I’m pretty proud of myself for making it this far without having a meltdown. India is a challenging country to travel in, particularly for women, as the attention can wear you down. When this is combined with the traffic, noises, intensely flavoured food, and all around different customs and lifestyle, it can be a recipe for a meltdown. Not to mention the adjustment to a nomadic lifestyle, as the longest we’ve stayed anywhere so far is two nights.
Since Jalandhar, I’ve gotten back on track and am once again having an amazing time. I learned from the one bad day, and was grateful that I had Beth’s shoulder to cry on.