Two And A Half Days

A string of sleepovers and bus travels.

Diksha Singh
7 min readDec 8, 2021

The first day, almost half a day, around 12 hours

I waited and waited for the train to arrive on time. But it didn’t. It reached 45 minutes late, pompously, as if it knew I particularly wanted to be on time this time. I was heading back to college after a vacation of two weeks. No, no, I wasn’t getting late for a class or a meeting at the college. I was getting late for an impromptu meet up with friends on the way. I wasn’t heading to college directly. I was visiting a friend the next day, and then we both would be visiting another friend to surprise her the same day. It was all planned instantly, and since it was planned spontaneously, the travel duration was limited.

I didn’t want to be late to arrive at the friend’s home because that would entail, we will visit the second friend late, and that would entail we won’t be able to hang out at a nice place for long, and that would entail I would start late for the college finally and thus reach the college at a time deemed inappropriate, inconvenient, or whatever word that explains the feeling, “this is not the right time, no questions asked”.

Thankfully the first friend had invited me for a sleepover so that I could peacefully travel back on the second day morning. I accepted graciously and a bit uncomfortably because sleepovers had never been my thing. I hadn’t done it and never thought of doing it in the past. Like it never made it to my “to-do list” of exciting ventures. But here I was, going to explore not going to places directly and having sleepovers on the way for the first time in my adult life.

The train arrived, and I bid farewell to my dear father. I boarded the train with two bags as I was returning after a festive vacation. Unfortunately, my spontaneous on the way plan had to bear the burden of two bags. I wish I could leave something behind, carry only a backpack, but no, I couldn’t. All dresses are dear to me. I had to make them reach the college back.

I settled inside the train compartment and waved “bye” to father for the last time. No matter how often I say “bye” to family, it is always a deep, sinking feeling. Like I am leaving a part of myself behind. I felt desolate for a few minutes. I remembered the pampered times at home and reminisced the quarrels and the laughter. Then I remembered I had a one-day surprise-sleepover plan to accomplish, so I prepared myself to sleep because I had to get down at 4.30 AM in the morning, at a station I had never been to before.

Sleep eluded me even though I sincerely yearned for it. I didn’t want to be tired or, worse, brought down by the terrible headache the next day. I couldn’t sleep, partly because I was travelling alone, so vigilance wouldn’t allow me to sleep without a care in the world, and somewhat because a group of jolly individuals were being noisy and inconsiderate of other passengers’ peace of mind. Deliberately, I managed at least two hours of sleep with occasional bursts of laughter, lights, and nightmares. The train was inconsiderate (like the individuals) and arrived one hour late. I got down at around 5.30 AM at a calm station.

Second Day, A complete day, All 24 hours

I still had to travel for at least 3 hours to reach my first friend’s home. I had enquired from a third friend about nearby bus stands since this was her place. She had instructed meticulously and carefully. And plans were propping up for another meet up with the third friend. For the time being, I halted the plan and decided to finish what I had started first. I thought I would plan further if I had the energy or the health.

The bus stand was a few minutes away from the railway station. I decided to walk. It was dark; the sun hadn’t blessed the world with its blazing presence yet. While walking, I looked around and feebly and unconsciously expected to find women on the road. I didn’t find one. But why was I looking for a woman or women? It wasn’t as if the men were being unhelpful or creepy. They were all walking too, some anticipating customers of rickshaw travel and some excited to probably be back home. Still, I kept looking for women.

Soon enough, I reached the bus stand and was elated to find women and more people. It is funny how strange women and strange crowds provide a sense of safety when you’re travelling alone. I boarded the first bus in a series of three to reach my friend’s place and was grateful for bus services, the third friend’s instructions, the first friend’s invite, and more women and more people around.

The bus travel was smooth and seamless, with the magnificent scenery of a rainy morning and curvy highways and mighty mountains. On either side of the bus, nature presented itself profoundly. The sky welcomed every curve on the road with multiple hues and interspersed with foggy hills and swaying trees. Even though the sight was a delight, and even though I enjoyed it throughout the time I was inside the bus, I couldn’t help but worry about the rain. If it rained the whole day, then that would entail we will have to board more public transport services to surprise the second friend, which would entail more delay, inconvenience, and discomfort.

Photo by Hussain Badshah on Unsplash

It wasn’t too late by the time I reached the first friend’s house, but it was almost noon when we left for the second friend’s house. You plan and plan and plan, but you still fail to stick to it.

The first friend and her family members, humans and dogs, welcomed me warmly. They offered me local delicacies and love cuddles, respectively. They provided me with a private space to rest and freshen up. Their innocence and hearty diligence elicited feelings of safety, security, care, and love. After deliberate attempts and a few canine love hurdles, we left to surprise the second friend on a two-wheeler for her birthday. Thankfully, it didn’t rain the whole day, and we quickly reached her place with a honey-flavoured cake. The surprise wasn’t much of a surprise as she was expecting us already and thought we were up to some surprise thing. But she was a little surprised. I confirmed it in the end.

We did get some time to chatter and munch snacks and savoured delectable desserts. The second friend’s mother remembered one of my favoured snacks and didn’t hesitate in serving me a plate full of it. We reminisced and discussed what our old classmates were doing in their lives, skilfully avoiding deep discussions of our own life trajectories. We even went out to a nearby mall and wandered amidst the high ceilings and high prices. After eating and talking and a bit of reluctant walking, we bid farewell to the second friend and started our ride back to the first friend’s house. We made promises of more travels and get-togethers, but who is to say when that will happen. Hopefully soon.

After a long, eventful day, I was finally greeted with a severe headache. I was doubtful if I should meet the third friend the next day. It was finalised that the ultimate decision would be taken in the morning. I laid down with medicine but only after long conversations of the wretched past, of unsaid complaints and compliments. The following day was as rainy as the previous one, but I confirmed that I would be visiting the last friend as well. And this is how a half-day plan was extended to a two-day plan.

Third-Day, A complete day, All 24 hours

I got the cab, and I got the buses one after the other, without any hurdles. After almost two years, I was travelling in local transport, and it seemed I hadn’t forgotten the old ways after all. I was glad about it. I reached the third friend’s house fairly early and was delighted to see her exuberant welcome. We chatted while planning for another sleepover. Two sleepovers in two districts at two different places. This impromptu trip was undoubtedly a trip of many firsts, a thing said by the first friend. By afternoon, I decided to stay for the night and leave the following morning.

Her family members kindly provided a quiet space to chatter and banter. Being a poet and a writer, her mother shared her expertise on how a specific word or a phrase hit differently in creative endeavours. The friend and I talked day and night and in the evening. We tried to untangle the past knots whilst appreciating the soothing surroundings and tried not to strangle the slight hope that was left. Meanwhile, we devoured sweets and snacks. We also laughed at our quirks and captured our weird moments instead of capturing a decent, presentable picture. The latter was planned but didn’t happen. We forgot. We planned but forgot. You plan and plan and plan, but you still fail to stick to it.

Fourth Day, A quarter-day, A little less than 6 hours

The following morning, I was tired but grateful, exhausted but happy, and finally ready to return to college. I was delighted about the many little firsts. They were tiny but indeed felt ecstatic. I was pleased about the kind and welcoming parents, their warmth and aura similar to mine. I was happy about my little experiment with the local language. I conversed in the local tongue more than I had done in the past 12 years.

Lastly, I was happy about deep conversations, a little meaningless and a lot meaningful, a little directed and a lot directionless, a little sensemaking and a lot senseless, a little camouflaging and a lot confronting, a little hindered but a lot transcending. With the happy feeling, I boarded the train to college. And this is how a half-day plan was extended to a two-and-a-half-day plan.