It’s an honest mistake to make. How many cities could be named Bokaro in India? The answer, of course, is more than one and here’s the story (and if you’re curious, within 43km there are three different cities that start with the word Bokaro).
As an Indian you have to reserve train tickets far in advance if you want a ticket, or pay a hefty premium to get a last minute ticket. If you’re a foreigner you can go to the station and try to get a ticket via a quota reserved for foreign tourists. I have never tried the foreigner option, thus I have booked all my train travel several weeks in advance.
For whatever reason, I was having a hard time booking my train ticket to Bokaro Steel City, the town very close to the ashram where I’ll spend a week. I asked my friend in Delhi to help. Very quickly she sent me a ticket. Great!
I boarded the train in Calcutta and set off to visit an ashram for the first time. I was following the journey on my phone’s GPS and all of a sudden I realized we had gone from being east of Bokaro Steel City to now being West of Bokaro Steel City and the train didn’t head south the way it was supposed to. I saw that there was another city called Bokaro Thermal and then looked at my ticket.
Wrong city. I got my belongings and decided to get off at the next station. It was 9pm so it wasn’t too late, but it was kind of late. I figured I could catch a train from there back toward where I was supposed to be.
Luckily, as I stood waiting for the train to stop to get off, a guy was there smoking. He knew I was a foreigner and asked quizzically if I was getting off at the next stop. I explained what happened and I became his new client. His occupation? Apparently he’s a problem solver!
He is from Bokaro Thermal, but he has worked in the U.S. and right now lives in Australia. He was coming home to visit family and because his mom is sick.
His first recommendation was to head 2 hours back in the opposite direction to a town full of hotels. From there I could catch a bus in the morning to Bokaro Steel City. I just wasn’t crazy about heading two hours in the opposite direction.
He talked to the train ticket checker to ask for his advice and to see if any trains went from Bokaro Thermal to Bokaro Seel City. Unfortunately, no. I would have to take a train to Chandrapura and then change there. But this late at night trains might be few and far between, or non-existent. Plus, they both said this was no place for a foreigner to be at night.
My problem solver then got on his phone. He said maybe his friend could drive me and I would just pay for gas. That would be totally fair. But his friend didn’t have a car anymore. Another solution presented itself. He didn’t know, but a guest house had recently opened in town open to the general public (others were just open to people going to the thermal plant or for government officials). For 500 Rupees/$9 I could spend the night and then catch a bus the following morning to Chandrapura, where I could then catch a train to Bokaro Steel City and then get to my final destination Pundag, near the ashram.
A funny thing happened though. When we got to the guest house, it turns out the father of the guy running it is a member of the ashram I am going to. Very convenient! He was able to tell me exactly how to get there.
I guess it all seems like this worked out conveniently. I wouldn’t say I was afraid, but when I got off the train in Bokaro Thermal, it was a very different India than I’ve seen so far. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I was stared at by everyone there, way more intensely than I was in Delhi. I had the problem solver with me, but if I were on my own trying to figure things out it wouldn’t have been enjoyable. I’m sure everything would have worked out, but Karunesh, my problem solver, helped me so much.
As we took a rickshaw to the guest house, I thanked him profusely. He said not to worry, that I was his guest and he apologized that he couldn’t house me himself. I called him crazy and thanked him some more.
I don’t know why I keep finding angels when things go wrong, but I’m so grateful for them and their guidance to get me where I need to be.