After getting a detailed description on how to get a ticket to Goa from my host father I think it’s going to be a relatively easy process…I arrive at the station around 7am and the place is already bustling with thousands of people in transit. I know I have to keep a close eye on my things here.
I find a sign saying “tickets here” and patiently wait in line for 20 minutes only to discover that I’ve waited in the wrong queue. These are the short distance trains, the long distance trains are on the other side of the station, logical right? After a bit of bumping around I find the long distance ticket booths jam-packed with hundreds of people waiting, chatting and shuffling large bags around. This was where I really started to realise just how many million live and move through India every single day. I double-check with a few locals that I’m in the right line and patiently wait a second time.
I get a text from my sisters friend Karina, a local living there trying to organise a time to meet for dinner. As I glimpse down at my phone an opportunistic man tries to jump in front of me. Thankfully almost all the men around me burst out yelling and hustling the line jumper out. Not doing that again I think to myself. We all slowly edge closer and about half way in I remember that I mightn’t have enough cash on me! Shit. I ask a few locals if it’s ok to use card at the ticket booth. They chuckle at my question and politely tell me I’ll need cash. I leave the line, find the ATM around the corner, get my cash and politely lineup again. I consciously decide not to get angry or frustrated, “I’m just going to enjoy the authentic Indian experience” I say to myself in a soothing tone.
45 minutes pass and I finally arrive at the ticket booth only for the officer to decide to go on a 15 minute lunch break! WTF!?
Women weave themselves in amongst the men trying to sweet talk others into buying them a ticket. It works for a while but some of the men get angry and decide to tell the ladies at full volume how incorrect it is of them to be doing so. Finally the officer returns and opens the booth. I try to be quick and efficient, “One ticket to Goa please”.
“Sorry sir, I can’t serve you” he replies.
“What!? Why can’t you serve me?” I say.
“This line is not for you. You need to go upstairs to the tourist line”. he says, already becoming impatient.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!? Are you saying that you don’t have the facilities to do what they are going to do upstairs in front of you?” I say.
“Sorry sir, NEXT!” he says whilst dismissing me.
I quickly get bumped out of the way and the next person places their order. I feel cheated and betrayed! All that waiting to be told that I should go upstairs!? What is this madness?
I hesitantly go upstairs only to find a spacious air-conditioned room with a strange little booth and a private bench that says “FOREIGN TOURIST ONLY”. I wait around 2 minutes to discover a nice young lady greeting me. “Hello sir, how may I help you?”
“Err is this thing for real?” I ask.
“Yes sir, in India guest is god, we want you to have a pleasant stay whilst visiting” she smiles.
“Yeah but I almost feel rude for taking this line while I know hundreds of others are waiting downstairs” I say.
“We are happy to give you priority sir” she says.
I had had enough by this point and just decide to drop it there, get the ticket and go. This was by far one of the most culturally challenging ticket experiences of my life!
This video outlines the first couple days on the journey.