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Helpless Expats and The Other Road To Agra

May 18, 2012

Champagne Safari 036

India confounded me again this week.  Her overflowing numbers of beings  in varying degrees of wealth and want are apparently all traveling.

This is known among expats as “Maid Runs Away to Native Place” month, or the first month of Indian public school vacations.  All (well, most) of Mumbai’s domestic workers have scooped up their school-aged children and traveled far and wide to wherever they call home-wherever they left to pursue better fortunes in the Maximum City.

And the once-independent expats are left helpless. Countless emails go out on the message boards, pleading for short-term household help. As if we all forgot that we used to clean our own homes in Sweden and America and London.

The few maids left in town can happily capitalize on our new-found dependencies. If I were a domestic worker- I feel as though this month I’d take on a zillion additional jobs and charge obscene rates…then chill the other 11 months of the year. (I imagine this is how calendar-store owners function, right?)

Helpless in more ways than one. Try to book a train right now, and you’re S-O-L. When 1 AC (First-class-fancy-wallah-sleeper-car) is full, one could deign to take 2AC. And you know that for a short journey, sleeper class always has more room! ( A million Purell-toting tourists just shuddered, a million real travelers just cheered). But not during Native-Visit season. Every compartment that is usually full is full (1 and 2 AC, 2 non-AC) but all of the truly accessible train compartments- ones that charge fees affordable for your X000-rupee per month maid and her children are also full. No option to jump on the waitlist and see if you’ll make it…waitlists are in the 100’s.  Hours of train travel are often the only way to reach Gujarat, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh for a domestic worker.  And they had the good sense to plan ahead.

Where does this leave me? Boxed out of every class of every train from Delhi to Agra. I have a good friend visiting from Abu Dhabi whose one request is to see the majestic Taj Mahal. I can’t deny him his “Incredible India” moment. So how do we get to Agra?

Buses are an obvious solution to the train problem. But these are largely booked too! And overall, I have to strongly recommend avoiding bus travel when possible in India. Sometimes it’s useful, or the only way….but mostly it is just unpleasant.

So HOW to get to Agra? CUE: Stroke of genius. Travel from Jaipur- the Pink City in Rajasthan. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner- probably Indians would know to look into this route. But for two years in India, it has been drilled into my head that the only way to Agra is from Delhi. But equidistant from Agra and Delhi is….Jaipur!

I’m overjoyed to have booked a train and a hotel in Jaipur I am convinced is 3x cheaper than a comparable one in Delhi. Even more overjoyed to be traveling for the weekend with one of my dearest friends from NYU. OVER-THE-MOON to be finally visiting one of the seven wonders of the world, the ultimate symbol of Love, The Taj Mahal.

Pictures to come!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2012 2:55 am

    In moments of IRCTC despair, it is advisable to be having one friend inside system who can supply ticket.

    But it looks like you figured it out anyway, so yay 🙂

  2. June 6, 2012 11:24 am

    I want such friends please! I feel like I am ALWAYS in IRCTC despair now…never planning early enough!

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