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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

A Race Against Time - a brief respite from travelogues

Our vacation in Kerala was to end with Thekkady, and we were scheduled to go our separate ways from Cochin (Ernakulam), where, at 11:30AM, Shankar had a flight booked for Bombay, and Samhith and I were to board a train for Tiruppur from Ernakulam Town, at the same time, where we were to continue our vacation with my sister-in-law. Accordingly, we started by a hired car from Thekkady at 6 AM. By 9AM, we were on the outskirts of Cochin, and when the driver informed us that we were near Kalady, we decided to take advantage of the extra time and visit the temple. We spent barely half an hour in the temple, and left reluctantly, only because we had a flight and train to catch.

We reached the airport just in time for Shankar to check in, and raced off towards Ernakulam station, which is about 45 Kms from the airport. The driver now decided to inform me that the journey would take at least an hour and a half, and that we might be late!! I blasted him, but obviously, it was to no avail, as we were, so to speak, at his mercy for the moment…..

So there we were, entering the city of Cochin at 11:30AM, with a train to catch at 11:35! We were ascending a railway over bridge, when I caught sight of a station on the right. Assuming that that was our station, I was surprised when the driver turned left. He told me that there were two stations at Ernakulam, and the town station was a little further away. To prove his point, he also stopped and asked directions from a passer by, who also pointed him towards the left. Off we went, hurtling along the roads, as time ticked along…….

With a squeal of brakes, we arrived at the station at 11:40AM. I had the cab fare ready, and handing it over, I ran for a porter while the driver got out my luggage – 2 huge bags + Samhith’s rucksack. I found one right at the entrance. “Sabari Express!” I yelled, only to be told – “Not here – Town station!!!!” OMG!! All this rush and we had to land up the wrong station, already late!

My first instinct was to shout at the driver, and I did make a start, but realized I was better off saving my energy for the rush to catch the train, if it hadn’t already left. The driver, to top it all, informed me that he did not know the short cuts to the other station, so I was better off with an auto. Seeing the logic behind this, I agreed, and got into an auto, who headed off at breakneck speed – once he heard the story, cursing my ex-driver in colorful Malayalam – the gist of which I understood to be “@#&*@ leaving a lady and kid behind like this @#*$&@;” – all the sentiments which I totally agreed with, at the moment!!

It was almost Noon when we drove up at the station, and by then I had lost all hopes of ever boarding the train. The driver seemed to have the same thought, for he stopped by a side entrance and went to look for a porter, telling me to see to the luggage. He returned almost at once, sadly informing me that the train had just left. He offered to take me to a hotel or to the bus stand, but I declined the offer, telling him that I would talk to the station master first and see what other options I had, before deciding my further course of action. So he took me to the main entrance and left me there, departing with a word to me to be careful.

By now, we were not only tired and angry, but also terribly hungry, for we hadn’t even had breakfast! Poor Samhith! And he never even complained once! My tension had communicated itself to him, and neither of us had any thoughts of food till then! The only thing on our minds was the train, and under the circumstances, our religious bringing-up rose to the fore, and came up with the name of every deity we could think of, and we had spent the last half an hour praying with all our hearts, Samhith uttering every name of the lord he could think of, too!

To get on with the story, we entered the station and kept our luggage near the ticket windows, while I started looking around for the station master’s cabin or a food stall. My attention was suddenly caught by the word ‘Trivandrum’ - an announcement was being made about a train coming from Trivandrum. I had missed the first part of the announcement, since I had been explaining things to Samhith. Anyway, just then, a train came to a halt on the same platform, and the unreserved coach followed by the guard’s cabin was right opposite me. Obeying a hunch, I went and asked a lady alighting from the train which one it was. Imagine my surprise, when she answered “Sabari Express”!!!!!!!! Even then, I did not trust my luck – I asked her if the train was indeed coming from Trivandrum and going towards Tiruppur. Only when she answered “Yes” to all my questions that I let a ray of hope enter my heart, and I quickly loaded my luggage onto the train, in the unreserved coach itself.

I then alighted again and my eyes fell on the guard conversing with a porter. I confirmed the details yet again from him, and asked him if I had time to get to my coach, which was S6. he told me that the train was due to leave any time, but spoke to the porter standing with him, and told him to help me shift my luggage to at least one of the reserved coaches, if not my own.

So there we were again, the porter, carrying the big bags, Samhith carrying his rucksack, and me carrying the rest, all running at full speed towards my coach! The porter, poor guy, was an aged man, whom I would never have hired under normal circumstances, and I really felt bad seeing him run with the luggage. To top it all, there were 3 general compartments, followed by the ladies, then 4 AC coaches, and then the sleeper coaches began from S13! We managed to reach S9 before we were totally out of breath (we had run along 13 coaches!!!) and I decided to get into the train there itself! I opened my purse to pay the porter, and found I was out of change! All I had were notes of Rs.500/-! Just then, another porter arrived on the scene, and offered me change, which I gratefully accepted. Just as I paid the porter, our train began to leave….. It was then 12:20PM!!!!!

We then dragged our luggage across 4 more coaches (the pantry car came in between too), taking one at a time. On the way, we saw the TC, and I took the further opportunity to confirm that we were on the right train – Thank God! We were!!!! We finally settled down in our seats at 12:45 PM! More than an hour later than intended, but what a relief it was!

We had missed breakfast, and the train lunch was unpalatable, so we subsisted on snacks and juices from all the stations where the train stopped, till we reached Tiruppur the same evening, right on time, as if the train had never been late!

Shankar’s flight was to have left at 11:30, and he was to have reached home for a late lunch and be off to work, but as it turned out, his flight was delayed by 5 hours, and he reached home for a late dinner, long after we had reached Tiruppur!

A memorable journey, wouldn’t you say???


  1. Thats a very interesting story. Seemed like going through a climax scene. Lucky that you managed to catch the train :)

  2. Thanks Arun,
    yes, it really was harrowing for us....not knowing if we would manage to catch the train at all...

  3. I'm here from Arun's blog. That's a well narrated tale of your race against time that kept me occupied till the last word. Keep writing.:)

  4. One of those days that feel exciting in the retrospect? But what an ordeal to through.

  5. @Celine - thanks a lot...

    @Mridula - yes, looking back, it was fun, but i never want to go through that again!!

  6. You could've easily caught the train at Aluva.

  7. @ slogan Murugan.. you are absolutely right, but i had no idea that there was a halt there... or even that it was nearer..

  8. WOW...that was a suspense filled thriller Anu. Nice to know you made the train finally.

  9. Your travel journal is getting very interesting. Gripping till last line.

  10. Oh my god! That's too much excitement for one post! Glad you all made it back safe!

  11. Wow, that sure sounds like a harrowing experience!! :)

  12. Anu !! This is really so an amazing and a fantastic Journey !! I Rnjoyed this Post..Thanks for sharin..Also I Have Started My Own Website And Would Like You To Have A Look At It.I Would Love To Have Your Comments On That Also.Unseen Rajasthan


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